|Few whistleblowers foresee their initial
disclosures as bridge-burning. And, indeed,
most internal feedback does not lead to retaliation,
under any practical study. Yet retaliation
does happen, probably against about a third
of federal employees who reveal significant
fraud, waste or mismanagement of government
resources. Most of these victims considered
themselves loyal civil servants, at least
at first. Sometimes supervisory and coworker
pressure has the effect managers intend--silence
resumes until the system blows. When retaliation
escalates, un-listened-to disclosures mount--in
volume, quantity and audience--as the working
environment becomes more hostile for all,
not just whistleblowers. Chilling supplants
First Amendment-approved discussions.
A hostile work environment affects coworkers
witnessing the retaliation, as well as the
victim employee/ ex-whistleblowers. To the
extent coworkers identify with the victim,
they can take a "there but for the grace
of God go I" attitude and avoid future
dissent themselves, as well as disassociating
from the whistleblower. However, this chills
the necessary free flow of ideas within the
organization. As speech withers, morale plummets.
Personnel (a/k/a human resources) officials
usually support managers over employees.
Some even do their best to implement a manager's
order to get rid of the troublemaker, advising
isolating and defaming the employee-witness
rather then complying with anti-retaliation
laws. So long as upper level managers and
judges consider retaliation merely hardball,
illegal retaliation will flourish. Condoning
hostile work environments so long as the
victim employee signs an agreement abandoning
recourse to the courts or law enforcement,
or takes a disability retirement encourages
disrespect for the very laws the Executive
Branch is supposed to enforce.
Retaliation, like blackmail, coerces (or
at least encourages) silence. Even ethically
challenged managers rarely ask star employees
to commit questionable or illegal practices.
Instead, employees asked or told to act either
contrary to the law or in gray areas are
usually either blind to the moral issues
involved or vulnerable to graymail (or worse).
Fear of job loss or public exposure of some
shame or vulnerability can lead government
employees to cover-up questionable practices.
Good government suffers. Then, citizens and