But as Senator Grassley has pointed out in the video’s description–“the essence of whistle-blowing is reporting problems outside of an employees chain of command.” In other words, reporting problems to external oversight authorities like Congress is an important and protected action in exposing shortcomings and addressing potentially serious issues.
The Congressional Research Service provides an overview of The Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) of 1989–basically, as I understand it, WPA protects federal whistleblowers who report gross agency misconduct (e.g. mismanagement, waste, and abuse) and prohibits threatening or taking retaliatory personnel action. Moreover, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) was introduced in 2009 to broaden the protections to, I believe, more violations except minor or inadvertent, but this has not yet been passed. Further, the Office of Special Counsel investigates whistleblower complaints.
Unfortunately, as pointed out in The American Thinker, employees have taken the message as “a warning to keep their mouths shut,” especially after agents exposed the Fast and Furious failed gun-running operation to Congress in 2011.
An agent quoted in The Washington Guardian states: “The message was unmistakable. Keep your head down and the only way you can report wrongdoing is by going to your chain of command. It was chilling, Orwellian and intimidating. What are you supposed to do if your chain of command is the one you think is involved in the wrongdoing? That was why OSC and IGs were created.”
Whether one works in the government or the private sector, actions that are taken as bullying is problematic, not only from the perspective of morale but also in terms of productivity, as pointed out in an article in SelfGrowth called Leadership: Are You a Bully Leader?
“Bully leadership is sharp, authoritative, angry, and feels uncomfortable to those in contact with it…the bully leader bark out orders, threatens consequences and use strong, harsh statements…” as many have clearly come away from with this video.
In a dysfunctional organization where employees are bullied and threatened, the results are devastating to employees and to the vital mission they serve:
– Stifling productivity–employees do not give their all–they “do what needs to be done and that is all. They don’t go above and beyond,” so productivity declines precipitously.
– Stomping out ideas–since the bully leader “needs to be the one with the great ideas,” employees don’t share their input–they know to keep it to themselves.
– Squashing effectiveness–bully leaders want to control everything and “lack trust in other people,” the result is a negative (and perhaps even a hostile) work environment where motivation, quality, and effectiveness are decimated.
It leads me to wonder, can those who lead by fear become more inspiring figures who empower employees and engender communication, trust, and fairness?
Obviously, changing a dysfunctional organizational culture is probably one of the hardest things to do, because the most fundamental everyday norms and “values” that the organization runs on must be overhauled.
However, it can be done, if top leadership on down is sincere and committed to change. The goals should include things like effective collaboration, delegation, empowerment, and recognition and reward.
This post shouldn’t be seen as a referendum on any one organization, but rather a way forward for all organizations that seek to raise the bar on performance and morale.