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How to Blow the Whistle

April 2, 2012
Related Topics: Retaliation, Miscellaneous Legal Issues, Wrongful Discharge, Legal
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Educators and advocacy groups are working with college students to help them learn how to voice their concerns about workplace ethics violations and misconduct before they develop into full-blown whistle-blower complaints.

One key resource is the Giving Voice to Values curriculum, created by Mary Gentile, who is now a research scholar at Babson College in Babson Park, Massachusetts.

First introduced in MBA programs and now expanding to law schools, medical schools and even corporations, the curriculum is intended to "enable people to raise issues constructively" in the workplace, Gentile says.

In most cases, employees know the right thing to do morally or ethically, but aren't sure how to discuss it. "The primary reason people don't speak up is fear of retaliation and fear of futility," she says.

Giving Voice to Values allows students and employees to act out scenarios so they'll know how to respond and keep their emotions under control when questionable situations crop up.

The training will help teach an employee how to respond if a manager pushes to fudge the numbers. "It's about practice; it's about rehearsal," Gentile says.

The curriculum is available for free, and at least 150 business schools and other organizations on six continents are using it.

The not-for-profit Government Accountability Project, based in Washington, D.C., is taking a somewhat different approach with its American Whistleblower Tour: Essential Voices for Accountability, which launched in the fall.

The tour takes whistle-blowers to colleges around the country to recount their experiences with the aim of educating "the next generation of workers about the important role whistle-blowers play," says Dana Gold, a senior fellow and organizer of the tour.

"It's really important to raise concerns, but do it in a way that is wise and safe," Gold says.

The Government Accountability Project is currently working on a curriculum and case studies that it hopes can be introduced into college classrooms this fall.

While the tour's focus is at the college level, organizations need to understand that with beefed-up whistle-blower laws, "it's a changing world," Gold says. "Companies have to think in more sophisticated ways. They need to value workers and see them as partners."

Susan Ladika is a freelance writer based in Tampa, Florida. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

Workforce Management, April 2012, p. 28, 30 -- Subscribe Now!

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