In the first decades of the Internet the form of public sphere and sharing, above all, has changed. Politics, economy and our leisure time look completely different today. Although enterprises exploit in all areas the opportunities of the Information Technology, solutions for an internal culture of self-criticism are not yet sufficiently in place. Traditional hierarchies are just as provocative as centralistic nations. The official routine is not sufficient, in order to guarantee compliance. Information follows its own rules and finds its way into the public. Companies cannot afford any longer to practice business at the edge or even behind legality. To understand the price of a leakage, we have to wait until we will see the costs of the current crisis at Volkswagen. In any case it will cost billions Euros. Instead of pushing the Whistleblower into the arms of the broad public sphere, it would be better to open internal channels that permit the staff to fulfill their need and to whistle internally.
The board and the executives must understand that the early uncovering of illegal activities ensures the viability of the enterprise. It is not a matter of betrayal, disloyalty or unfaithfulness to reveal or publish scandals by so-called whistleblowers, but a mechanism of the self-preservation. Nobody stands above or outside of the law. Unfortunately bosses perceive it differently. Whistleblowers are considered as traitors. The efforts of the enterprise are limited to the effectively published implementation of an internal revision. Their task is to discover flaws and to suggest improvement measures. Why not establishing an internal whistleblower system that allows all employees to communicate their observations anonymously, without being afraid of personal consequences? For this purpose it can be helpful to consider the following aspects.
- Holistic focus
There should be an internal understanding of the enterprise as a whole that stigmatizes departmental egoisms and personal agendas that create disadvantages for the enterprise.
- Principle of subsidiarity
Well delimited authorities distribute responsibilities across organizations. In the end the board is no longer automatically liable for failure on a lower level, but the actual responsible people. This is particularly valid for the report of serious offenses.
- Publish company values
Laws apply for all employees and executives the same way as for every other citizen. The internal publication of the obligation to comply with laws within the corporate values is important in order to eliminate the impression of the employees that they are in a lawless area.
- Error culture
Information that is received through an internal registration office should not be automatically basis for sanctions, but the starting point for eliminating drawbacks.
Illegal behavior should be treated internally in such a way as in the rest of the society. Not each case results in a legal case. Arbitration bodies allow learning from errors and facilitate an adjustment, without the need to unreasonably sanction the failure. In some cases it is inevitable to report certain people to official instances, since you make yourself guilty due to connivance.
- Sense of injustice
A new task for legal or the newly created compliance departments will be the education of the right understanding of the employees. Only with this sense of injustice, together with the internal procedure for whistleblowers, the enterprise can hope for better compliance of the employees.
- Internal whistling
Difficulties happen frequently at the individual workplaces. Employees can trigger corrections of erroneous trends for the advantage of the enterprise and thus for the own well-being. In some cases the difficulties become only visible from a holistic perspective. Then also executives have to participate.
The conception that large organizations are lawless areas is over, at the latest since the introduction of compliance departments. Whether an enterprise gets a sense of justice by employing former FBI officials may be a matter of calming of relations with US-authorities. However, compliance begins in the mind of each employee. In order to prevent inner conflicts of the employees, it is surely smarter to let them whistle internally.
Bottom line: Nobody stands above the law. And laws that must be obeyed can be found in all areas of the enterprise. An internal system for reporting illegal practices is better than pushing the employees into the public. The damage is then much larger. For this reason enterprises should let their staff whistle internally.