|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 employees, at least at first.
Sometimes supervisory and coworker pressure
does work--silence resumes until the system
blows. When retaliation escalates, un-listened-to
disclosures mount--in volume, quantity and
Retaliation by definition creates a hostile
work environment. This affects coworkers
witnessing the retaliation, as well as the
victim employee. 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 (human resource) officials usually
support managers over employees. Some even
do their best to implement a manager's order
to get rid of the trouble-maker, 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
(perfectly acceptable so long as the victim
employee signs an agreement abandoning recourse
to the courts or law enforcement), retaliation
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 grey areas are
usually either blind to the moral issues
involved or vulnerable to greymail (or worse).
Fear of job loss or public exposure of some
shame or vulnerability can lead government
employeees to cover-up questionable practices.
Good government suffers. Then, citizens and