The June 18 Federal Eye blog excerpt, “Surveys show fear of retaliation keeps would-be whistleblowers from speaking up,” reinforced what we know from research on private-sector behavior: If we want to reduce scandals and workplace misconduct, we must protect whistleblowers against retaliation.
Surveys by the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board mirror the Ethics Resource Center’s most recent National Business Ethics Survey, which found that about one-third of workers who witness misconduct do not report it. As noted in the 2013 NBES report: “High retaliation rates discourage reporting and make it harder for organizations to identify and root out bad behavior.”
Internal vigilance by motivated employees is one of the best safeguards against wrongdoing. Ethics programs that encourage workers to step forward are common in the private sector but not in the government. If we want government workers to speak up, we need to create a culture in which blowing the whistle is expected and rewarded.
Patricia J. Harned, Arlington
The writer is president of the Ethics Resource Center.