- If I leave without reporting the unethical behaviour, would I be able to sleep at night knowing the potential consequences of the unethical behaviour if it were to prevail?
- If I leave without reporting the unethical behaviour, is there a possibility that my decision to not address the unethical behaviour may come back to haunt me later? Would future inquiries reveal my silence in an unfavourable light?
- If I leave without reporting the unethical behaviour, do I breach my professional code of ethics?
What about a scenario where you have reported the unethical behaviour and now find yourself being victimised; do you leave? Here are some questions you could consider:
- What is the likelihood that the perpetrators may be forced to exit? If they are being brought to justice, the victimisation is likely to stop. Would you be exiting prematurely?
- If you exit prematurely, is there a likelihood that your exit may create an opportunity for the perpetrators to reverse the situation back into their favour?
- How likely is it that the leadership in the organisation will deal with the victimisation, and protect you if necessary?
- Is it possible that you may be reading victimisation, when that is not what is playing out? Sometimes we become oversensitive and see ghosts that are not really there.
- How likely is it that your life may be in danger, or that your reputation and career may be destroyed through a character assassination campaign? You are the only one who can assess whether you are in self-preservation mode or whether you are in fact in real danger.
A good friend of mine told me once that his father-in-law gave him this valuable advice: When you see a snake in the garden, kill it. When you find yourself in a snake pit, get out. When an organisation is steeped in corruption that goes right to the top, you need to consider very carefully how you will deal with the situation. Many a whistle blower did not survive a rash approach to exposing the corruption. See my video on “Blowing the whistle safely”. We may not have the luxury of keeping quiet, but it is important that we think through our strategy very carefully. Sometimes it is better to exit the organisation and create a safe distance before reporting the unethical behaviour. What about a scenario where they strike first, for example you suddenly find yourself in a position where you are accused of unethical behaviour? You may suddenly find your name in the newspapers after the allegations have been leaked to the media or a media statement has been issued by the organisation. There may also be an internal announcement or people told to not talk to you. This is not an uncommon tactic of people who want to discredit you and get rid of you. This is one of the worst type of scenarios any professional may find himself in. Some of the things you should consider include:
- Just resigning may make you look guilty.
- Do not allow it to become personal in your mind. This is not about you; it is about the people who find your presence inconvenient because they are on the wrong side of ethics. The minute you make it personal in your head, part of the battle is lost.
- Work with someone who can help you keep your head in the game. Preferably someone who understands situations like these and is skilled in whistle blower support. It is easy to become emotional at the thought of your name being dragged through the mud and lose focus in the process. When you respond in anger, part of the battle is lost. When we’re emotional, we tend to forget important facts.
- Get legal advice. They are likely to engage their legal counsel. Don’t underestimate the legal process. It may cost you in legal fees, but it is better than the cost of losing and walking around with the guilty label on your forehead for the rest of your life. A good lawyer can help you navigate through the landmines.
- Prepare yourself for a long haul. Many of these cases are not resolved in a few days. You may even end up in court.
They may end up offering you a settlement amount to get rid of you, if it becomes clear that they won’t be able to win the case, if it were to end up in court. Should you accept it? It depends on the circumstances and what is at stake. But do remember that if it were to end up in court, it may become a dragged-out process that eats up all your energy during that time. You need to weigh up your options and see whether it will be worth it to keep fighting. If you do end up with a settlement agreement, your lawyer can help you ensure that it is favourable, but also include your legal fees incurred and a correction of perceptions created in the media. Do expect that some doubt may linger in some people’s minds, but don’t let that govern your life. Keep your head up high and own your story.