The Dissenting Voice: Key Factors, Professional Risks & Value Add
- Dave Rebbitt (Voice Construction)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- April 2013
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 58 - 61
- 2013. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 1 in the last 30 days
- 35 since 2007
- Show more detail
The most famous recent corporate whistle-blower is Sherron Watkins, who blew the whistle on Enron (Bernstein Liebhard LLP). Like most corporate scandals, that case involved money. Whistleblowing is defined as "an act of voluntary disclosure of inappropriate behavior or decisions to persons in positions of authority in the organization" (Sexty, 2011, p. 126). Whistle blowing in a corporate environment is simply the final step-an extension of principal dissent.
Principled dissent is constructive criticism or the effort by individuals to protest and/or to change the organizational status quo because of their conscientious objection to current policy or practice (Shahinpoor & Matt, 2007). Safety professionals will ?nd themselves in this position at some point in their careers, some more often than others. SH&E managers cannot rely on dissent or whistle blowing, but many work toward a culture where open disclosure of concerns is encouraged and be-comes the norm (Vinten, 2000).
Some believe that corporate whistle blowing is rare (Miceli, Near & Dworkin, 2008) and usually has some sort of spectacular result. So why should SH&E professionals worry about this, especially since whistle blowing typically revolves around ac-counting or finance (e.g., Enron, WorldCom) (Farrell, 2008). Congress’s response to these scandals was the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (Priest & Kaplan, 2003) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, 2010). It is a financial fix for a financial problem.
If whistle blowing is a final expression of dissent, how can it be rare? Principled dissent is, in fact, common and prevalent in organizations that do not tolerate dissent well. Such organizations are often likely to have poor safety performance. However, companies can use dissenting voices to improve workplace safety, empower employees and strengthen organizational culture. So why don't more do so?
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