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The challenges faced by whistleblowers in the workplace

"Blowing the whistle" on workplace behaviors such as illegal investments or falsifying earnings can be an intimidating undertaking. In fact, there may be large numbers of potential whistleblowers spread across many industries, but only a few will shine light onto unethical behaviors.

The reality is that whistleblowers face many thorny issues and are understandably afraid to share what they have witnessed at work. Here is a look at some common challenges and how you can address them.

Company retaliation: A common fear is that the company will seek revenge on whistleblowers in some way -- like demoting them, harassing them or firing them. Retaliation against whistleblowers is illegal, but it does happen. A lawyer can help advocate for you if you find yourself in this situation. You do not have to go through this alone, and you could be eligible to collect punitive damages and other fees.

Your gender: Female whistleblowers tend to experience more repercussions than male whistleblowers do. A high-up male whistleblower may even receive praise for reporting wrongdoings, while a similarly positioned woman might lose her job. If you are a woman thinking about whistleblowing, it may be even more important to obtain legal advice before doing anything.

Repercussions for the company: Perhaps some managers in your company are engaging in shady practices, but the company still does good work as a whole. You believe in its mission and do not want to break the public's trust in the business. However, these misdeeds are likely to come to light at some point. Better that it happens sooner rather than later before the behavior becomes worse and causes more damage.

Your employability: At some point, you may decide to seek work elsewhere, or maybe you have already left your job. You are worried that your reputation as a whistleblower will make other companies reluctant to hire you. It can help to shift your perspective a little. You are an ethical, observant and savvy employee. Feel confident in your honesty and commitment to doing the right thing.

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