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Reportedly a suspected source of the ABC “hot mic” video leak to Operation Veritas has been found and fired — by CBS. Recall that Amy Robach was caught on tape at ABC complaining about the higher-ups burying the Epstein story she had that has now come out in other media. After an investigation, ABC focused on a former staffer who had moved on to CBS. CBS was informed and the suspected leaker has been fired.
I am glad that we are hearing about some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that shows unsavory conduct by those who curate the information we are supposed to know. But I am ambivalent about the “whistleblower protection” concept writ large. CBS was not wrong to fire an individual of demonstrated untrustworthiness even as we benefit from the actions of that individual. We want and need whistleblowers, but — and this is a big “but” — when people act on principle, they also need to understand that their employment may be terminated.
This may seem like a harsh judgement. But think about your working life — the water cooler, the gab sessions, the intemperate moments — and think of how that might be portrayed in second- and third-hand accounts. I have been a worker and a boss. When I was a worker, all the solutions seemed simple; when I was a boss, a lot less so. Every workplace that functions and works to the profit of the enterprise is a trust society in microcosm. When that trust is broken — regardless of the reason or justification — the enterprise is broken. And trust cannot be restored with the continued presence of the trust breaker.
There are enterprises where, as a society, we are pleased with that outcome: the Mafia, the Ponzi scheme, etc. But that is not the majority of our activities. A major component of Soviet society’s lack of productivity was fear. That is not a society in which we want to live.
I have no problem with whistleblowers being terminated. Depending on the significance and truth of the allegations, whistleblowers should be compensated for the job they have sacrificed on behalf of the rest of us. Keeping them in the organization is a “no go.” Promoting them within the organization is even worse.
But let’s also be clear: you are not a whistleblower if you are peddling second-hand accounts. Got that, Adam Schiff and the IG for the Intelligence Community? You are a gossip.
I get that circumstances arise at times that, if not reported, make you an accessory to a crime. That is a tough spot to be in. I was in that spot once. I was invited into a meeting where people were hand-wringing over whether to report time-card fraud (of monies charged to the federal government under a contract) because there was fear the theft would undermine an unpopular accounting policy that management was trying to implement. I simply told them that they had a choice: either they would report it or I would. I wasn’t going to be an accessory after the fact. Happily, that was a clear cut case. Not every situation is. Life is not fair. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and tough decisions have to be made.
It doesn’t change the fact that doing the right thing still means accepting less than optimal outcomes personally. As mentioned above, people who lose their jobs doing the right thing should be compensated. But making them make that choice and risk not being compensated is also needed to ensure that people do not break trust without just cause.Published in