One has only to listen to today’s national news to understand the role that whistleblowing can play at the political level. To be sure, the act of whistleblowing can offer positive consequences, including peace of mind to the whistleblower, empowerment of fellow employees towards honesty and integrity, and in some cases, considerable financial remuneration.
However, the act of whistleblowing can also have negative consequences at the corporate level, and the whistleblower may find that their morally and ethically appropriate act can negatively impact both their current and future employment.
Prospective whistleblowers should be aware of these potential downsides:
• You may be labeled within your industry as a whistleblower. Many prospective employers will value your integrity, but others might fear it, jeopardizing your future employment.
• Your professional and personal relationships may suffer. Once you’ve accused your employer of wrongdoing, people will take sides — and you may be distraught to learn that some of your colleagues whom you regarded as friends no longer fall into that category. Your actions may also take a toll on your personal life: family members may feel like they’ve been drawn into your act of whistleblowing and may ultimately face some of the same mental and financial pressures that you feel.
• You might encounter corporate retaliation. Your punishment for speaking out may include job termination. It could also be more indirect, such as a change in job duties or reassignment to a distant office.
• You may experience financial hardship while your whistleblowing case is under assessment. Your ability to find new employment quickly could be affected, and attorney fees could be considerable. Your financial burden would likely become that of your family as well.
If you are feeling the negative effects of whistleblowing, what is the best way to proceed?
An appropriate first step would be to identify and confirm any negative fallout from the whistleblowing action. Consider having a reference check(s) conducted to reveal what your former employer is actually saying about you. Utilize a professional reference-checking firm such as Allison & Taylor to identify if you references are as supportive as you need them to be. If they are not, be aware that services such as a Cease & Desist letter can be used to better ensure that unfavorable references will not offer damaging commentary to your future employment prospects.