Courage in the Workplace – US Mining Industry being called to account
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This week bought more visibility to whistleblowing when a miner in Kentucky, USA won a federal victory reinstating his job.  Charles Scott Howard, a well known whistleblower, had previously been fired because, his company claimed, he was no longer fit to work.  However, this was following a litany of complaints about safety issues over a number of years including a video at a public hearing.

Such activism had bought a number of risks to Howard including being dismissed twice, an unexplained head injury, being blacklisted and punished.  However, Howard is determined to end his working days working for his current employer.  Check out http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/05/charles-scott-howard_n_3017913.html for more information on Howard.

While Howard does not fit many peoples traditional view of a whistleblower, his company does represent a sector (Mining) that is more likely than most to see whistleblowers.

Based on the research we have done (and continue to do), we have identified a series of factors that make whistleblowing more likely in certain industries and organizations.  These factors make up our ‘Industry Whistleblowing Index’.

Conversely, we have also identified a range of overlapping factors which go to make up our ‘Organisational Courage Index’.

Firstly, society plays a critical role in assessing which Industries are highly to experience high levels of whistleblowing.  For example, Industries with a high Whistleblowing Index tend to be based in or have their head office in societies where;

- there is a clear distinction between the state and the individual i.e. the role of the state is relatively well defined

- there is a strong reliance on the law to resolve disputes (rather than reliance on fate or respected elders)

- there is a strong sense of shared societal values 

- explicit legislation exists, especially if such legislation rewards whistleblowing

- an individual’s rights are seen as important as the communities needs.

In addition, there are a number of Industry specific factors that will lead to certain Industries experiencing high levels of whistleblowing.  These include industries where;

- there is a high degree of regulation and industry oversight provided by politicians or regulators, especially where such industry oversight is expressed in terms of externally proscribed targets or measures

- there is a strong shared sense of moral purpose or moral obligation e.g. patient safety in the healthcare industry or worker safety in mining

- employees have traditionally been treated as resources and not capital.  This is often seen in industries with high levels of unionisation i.e. reflecting that employees seek union protection from uncaring managers

- technical managers are common i.e. managers are appointed and promoted for their technical expertise rather than their managerial expertise

- managers have a high level of ability to reward or punish employees with few organizational checks and balances.

Is it any wonder that we have see whistleblowing is more common in industries such as healthcare, financial services and extraction industries; and in countries such as the US and the UK?