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When should I blow the whistle?

If you have seen, heard or suspect wrongdoing in your workplace, or know of a series risk of accidence ‘waiting to happen’, you may be considering blowing the whistle. Whilst you may initially feel uncomfortable or apprehensive, whistleblowing is an important part of ensuring organisations function safely and successfully. It may be helpful to think of the positive impact you may have by raising your concern, for example, your firm may be at risk of financial and/or reputational damage if the wrongdoing goes unreported, or you may be preventing serious harm being done to colleagues, clients or the environment.

Here are some things you might want to consider when a potential whistleblowing situation does arise.

  • Be clear about the facts of the issue, write them down and add to that list as events unfold.
  • Consider the situation from different perspectives. Could there be another legitimate reason for the events you’ve encountered? Are any grey areas material to what has happened, or peripheral?
  • Be objective and clear minded when recording what you’ve encountered. Stand back from the immediacy of events and take careful stock of what has been going on.
  • Carefully weigh up how serious those events have been and whether there might be a simple way of resolving the situation.
  • Ask yourself whether what you have encountered represents a breach or potential breach of the law and/or regulation. Be clear about which law and/or regulation has been breached or could potentially be breached.
  • Compare what you’ve encountered with the commitments set out in the code of ethics of your firm and of the CII. Be clear about which ethical commitments are being undermined or could potentially be undermined.
  • Take stock of any involvement you may have had in the situation and how your own interests may be influencing your present thoughts. If your involvement is more than peripheral, or if you are the only person being impacted, should you be thinking of raising a grievance rather than blowing the whistle?
  • Consider discussing the situation with a trusted colleague or good friend. A second opinion is invariably reassuring and can sometimes frame a situation in new ways.
  • Look up your organisations whistleblowing policy. Does it offer guidance about next steps or where you should report your concern?