Paul Simon could have been singing about most people's attitude toward corporate mischief.
There's been some strange goin's on
And some folks have come and gone
Like the elevator man don't work no more
I heard a racket in the hall
And I thought I heard a call
But I never opened up my door
It's just apartment house sense
It's like apartment rents
Remember: one man's ceiling is another man's floor!
one man's ceiling is another man's floor! There Goes Rhymin' Simon, 1973
If you knew your boss was having an affair with a co-worker and expensing trips and meals that were not so legitimate expenses, would you report it ? Would you gossip about it? Or would you keep your mouth shut and just hope for the best. Most of us decide to leave well enough alone. And its no wonder. As USA TODAY reporter Jayne O'Donnell explores in Whistle-blowers form a breed apart , the life of a whistle-blower is a lonely one.
Ed Bricker, one of the first nuclear industry whistle-blowers, has nearly made a career out of whistle-blowing. Bricker, 49, says he has faced retaliation since he went undercover for Congress in the 1980s to expose health hazards at a nuclear plant in Hanford, Wash. His crusade has had unwelcome consequences.
Bricker's daughter Debbie Deerwester, now 25, remembers when she and fellow sixth-graders were asked to explain their parents' careers. She said her father was a whistle-blower at Hanford.
"One boy interrupted and said, 'Whistle-blowers are tattletales!' " she said. "I was devastated, because I was proud of what my dad stood for and thought that everyone else saw it the same way."
While corporate whistle- blowers seem to be propelled by "high" values, they are often stomped on by fellow workers.
While a few whistle-blowers gain celebrity status and fortune, many worry if they will ever again be "employable."
While people say they are outraged by corporate scandals, they seem equally as outraged at the people who dare to expose a company's dirty laundry.
A lot of corporate dirty laundry is never exposed because freedom of speech does not extend to talking about your employer. In most businesses, talking to the press without the permission of the company is a fireable offense. While corporations certainly have a right to ensure that competitive information such as product development and strategic plans remain confidential, should confidentiality extend to cultural norms?
Is it in the best interests of society that bad behavior in corporations is protected from the glaring view of the media? It's one thing if the business is privately held. But when a business' stock is publicly traded, shouldn't the business' culture be an open-record for investors to assess?
Perhaps, if corporations knew that their cultures would be open to the media's scrutiny, there would be fewer scandals to report and less of a need to have whistle-blowers.
It's like picking your nose. What you do when no one is watching is very different than what you do when you are out in public. .
Post edited 8/09/07.