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To Speak or Not to Speak: Employee Perspectives on Whistleblowing [2024 Survey]

We recently surveyed 3,000 employees to ask a hypothetical question:

“Would you put your career on the line, facing possible legal consequences, to call out malpractice in your organization?”

The state by state breakdown is illustrated below:

Created by Federal-Lawyer • Viewlarger version

Key Findings:

  • Split Opinion on Whistleblowing: 50% of employees surveyed would risk their careers to expose malpractice, while 50% would not.
  • Regional Variations: Willingness to whistleblow varied by state, with Arkansas having the highest rate at 83% and Idaho the lowest at 30%.
  • Legal Entitlements Awareness: Over half of the respondents (51%) are unaware of their legal rights as whistleblowers.
  • Silent Witnessing: Nearly one in five employees (19%) have observed unethical or illegal activities at work but chose not to report them.
  • Perceived Inadequacy of Employer Support: 30% of employees believe their company’s system for managing misconduct reports is insufficient.
  • Low Trust in Workplace Protection: Employees rated their trust in their company to protect whistleblowers at an average of only 4 out of 10.
  • Demand for Corporate Transparency: A vast majority (91%) of survey participants assert that companies should enhance transparency and support for whistleblowers.

Implications of the Study:

  • Cultural and Societal Influence: Our study highlights the significant impact of cultural and regional differences on employees’ willingness to expose wrongdoing. Perhaps this underlines the need for tailored approaches in ethics and compliance programs across different geographic areas.
  • Gap in Legal Support Awareness: Despite the availability of whistleblower lawyers who specialize in protecting and advising individuals who expose wrongdoing, our survey indicates a significant gap in employees’ awareness of their legal entitlements and the existence of such legal support. This suggests that whistleblower attorneys and legal resources, while crucial, may be underutilized due to a lack of awareness among potential whistleblowers. Strengthening outreach and education about the availability of legal support and the protections it offers could bridge this gap, encouraging more employees to come forward with confidence when they encounter unethical or illegal activities within their organizations.
  • Support Deficit: The considerable number of employees who witness but choose not to report malpractice highlights a dual challenge: the prevalence of fear that deters whistleblowing and the perceived inadequacy of employer support systems. This situation underscores the urgent need for organizations to reassess their workplace culture and misconduct management practices. By creating a safer reporting environment and increasing trust through improved transparency and effective communication, companies can encourage ethical behavior and ensure that potential ethical breaches are addressed promptly and thoroughly.
  • Corporate Responsibility: The overwhelming demand for increased corporate transparency and support for whistleblowers reflects a societal expectation for ethical business practices. Companies are urged to proactively adopt stronger whistleblower protections and to foster an organizational culture that values integrity and transparency.
  • Potential for Systemic Change: The mixed outcomes of whistleblowing efforts, as indicated by our study, highlight the complexity of achieving systemic change. While whistleblowing is crucial for exposing wrongdoing, it also points to the need for systemic solutions that address the root causes of unethical behavior in organizations.

Methodology

Online panel survey of 3,000 adults based on age, gender, and geography. Internal data sources are used to obtain population data sets. We used a two-step process to ensure representativeness through stratified sampling and post-stratification weighting.

Respondents are carefully chosen from a geographically representative online panel of double opt-in members. This selection is further tailored to meet the precise criteria required for each unique survey. Throughout the survey, we design questions to carefully screen and authenticate respondents, guaranteeing the alignment of the survey with the ideal participants.

To ensure the integrity of our data collection, we employ an array of data quality methods. Alongside conventional measures like digital fingerprinting, bot checks, geo-verification, and speeding detection, etc. each response undergoes a thorough review by a dedicated team member to ensure quality and contextual accuracy. Our commitment extends to open-ended responses, subjecting them to scrutiny for gibberish answers and plagiarism detection.

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