A Review of Lars Lindblom’s Article
Potential Interest & Intent
Anyone who has ever been torn between loyalty to their job and their loyalty to say an individual or to the general public can relate the moral dilemma presented in the decision to become a whistleblower. Linblom eloquently sews to together the philosophy of John Rauls with the idea of social contract and social obligation in order to show whistleblowing as an act of free speech. In so doing Lindblom has given a more critical view of whistleblowing beyond the black and white comparative of ‘whistleblowing and organizational loyalty’ or ‘is whistleblowing harmful to oranzational culture’.
In this different view of whistleblowing, the concept is moved into a realm of social obligation (duty) that is permitted through free speech. In this new view, Linblom articulates the idea of duty and free speech overrides any loyalties or duties to organizational loyalty. Linbolm basis this argument on the concept that social duty overrides any organizational loyalty based on utilitarian measures of harms.
Important Points & Arguments
There are several points of interest in this article. The key concepts that support the idea of whistleblowing being a social duty permitted through free speech include free speech as a tool to derive truth, social obligation, and the measure of harms for a potential act of whistleblowing.
More often free speech is considered in a colloquial manner that individuals have the right to speak their minds. In a more philosophic definition free speech can be seen as the right of an individual to express themselves and their beliefs. In a democratic system of law this right has been considered crucial to the discovery of truth and is therefore protected in the bill of rights. However, the law has made decisions that limit this right when they interfere or cause harm to society. This idea is vital to understanding Lindblom’s argument because free speech viewed as a protector to the person’s right to whistle blow. There are two sides to this argument, first that free speech enables a person to morally whistleblow in order for the discovery of truth and second, freedom of speech overrides organizational loyalty on the grounds that when it is employed for the purpose of whistleblowing it protects society and fulfills an individual’s duty to protect society. The idea that free speech protects the discovery of truth is clearly expressed by Linbolm when she states, “…without free speech citizens will be hampered in evaluating the actions of the political bodies in charge, and they will have difficulties in finding out what solutions are available and the likely effects of these solutions.” Thus in a very obvious manner, free speech protects argument which in a democratic society is the means by which truth is discovered. Therefore, whistleblowing is permissible and should be protected by virtue of its nature to present a moral or illegal argument. Linbolm also expresses the idea that whistleblowing protects society and fulfils an individual’s duty to protect society. He eloquently affirms the strength of this argument when he states, “The citizens of a democracy cannot choose to abolish the general suffrage or restrict freedom of expression without abolishing democracy with it.” In this point, one can ascertain logically that whenever a person that lives within democracy chooses to restrict the freedom of expression they are, in so doing corrupting or violating the tenets of democracy. This is important on the basis that whistleblowing is in fact a form of freedom of expression and thus is a part of the democratic process. Because free speech is considered a tool to discover truth, whistleblowing there for overrides any concerns for organizational loyalty.
From the idea that freedom of speech is an overriding attribute to organizational loyalty, Lindblom’s second major point and that it is fundamental tool of democratic society, social obligation, is viewed as a means of upholding free speech. Lindblom presents this idea as a person has a social obligation to whistleblow since the measure of harm to society outweighs concerns to an organization. Since an organization is a part of society then the organization’s concerns are second to the concerns of society. From this logic, one can deduce that whistleblowing is not part of an ethical dilemma but is instead a necessary action of a person.
Relationship to business ethics and social responsibility.
Serving as a basis for defining business ethics and the direction of social responsibility for corporations and managers, this article provides a reasonable proof for the necessity and protection of whistle blowers. This article shows managers that corporations and mangers have an obligation and duty to act in a manner that is ethically and socially responsible. There are many laws and policies that serve to prove this position. All of these laws fall under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. A federal agency violates the Whistleblower Protection Act if it takes or fails to ignore information or act on information that personnel have provided that is evidence of a violation of a law, regulation, gross mismanagement, gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety. This law has been modeled by most states to protect individuals who report crimes such sexual harassment, negligence, or unlawful acts of organizations or their management.
Lindbolm’s article highlights how society believes that whistleblowers have the obligation and duty to society to report unlawful or harmful acts. From this article one is provided with the philosophic backdrop to business law and to individual decision models for deciding how and when to whistleblow. The most important aspect of the article that is reflected in law is the obligation of the individual to be a whistleblower in a situation that necessitates it.
Lindbolm gives the reader a philosophic basis for decision making process. Managers can reflect upon when being asked or when asking an employee to commit an illegal or socially irresponsible act. With the ethical knowledge from this article managers can realize the importance of whistleblowing and its relationship to socially responsible behavior. In the same respect, employees along with mangers can realize that they need to whistleblow as part of their individual social obligation. Importantly, whistleblowers should realize that their actions are socially correct and have legal and philosophic foundations.
Lindblom, L. Dissolving the Moral Dilemma of Whistleblowing. J Bus Ethics 76, 413–426 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-006-9291-2