So You Think Your Boss Is Breaking The Law

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals Article
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

In the movies, if someone suspects their boss is breaking the law, the conclusion to the story is pretty standard. The employee – sometimes after a crisis of confidence – reports their boss and ultimately triumphs. They stand at the end credits, a paragon of virtue and Doing The Right Thing.

The real world is very different.

If you suspect that your boss is breaking the law, handling the problem is not quite as simple as you might think. Your career is on the line; the personal finances of your family are on the line. Those facts alone are enough to make someone hesitate and wonder what they should do.

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you think your boss, or the larger company, is doing something illegal, you have a number of options before you.

1 Ignore It

Upside: If you ignore the issue, you’re not going to get into any trouble — or potentially lose your job — due to reporting it. Ignorance is bliss, so you might decide it’s easier to just pretend you’re still ignorant of what’s happening. The choice to ignore the issue is a powerful one, but it might be the one that works best for you and your personal situation.

Downside: You could be affected by what they are doing. Let’s say you are a taxi driver and you learn that risks are being taken with the vehicle fleet maintenance, documents forged, cars that aren’t safe to drive being let out onto the road. Your silence could ultimately result in you having to seek out an attorney that has experience in treating auto and work-related injuries because you become a direct victim of their negligence. This kind of situation can happen in all fields; with white collar crime, you could even be implicated as an accessory, for example. If you think the idea of whistleblowing could damage your career, then you need to think through the potential consequences of suffering for their malpractice.

2 Report Them Anonymously

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals Article
Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Upside: Though we know many famous whistleblowers, there are plenty of anonymous whistleblowers who still managed to make a change to company practices. This helps you to feel safe in the job without fear of reprisals, while still ensuring that changes are made due to your report. You can be completely honest with anonymous complaints because they can’t be traced to you, allowing you to be sure all the right areas are investigated.

Downside: You do have to consider what will happen if your complaint is followed up on by law enforcement or local government. If the entire company is engaged in illegal acts, you could easily find yourself without a job. Before you report, it’s wise to examine your career options and ensure you have a plan B if the company should close. It’s also worth remembering that no anonymity is one hundred percent complete all the time; there’s always a chance – however improbable – that your boss will find out it was you who made the report. You have to be certain of your facts before you make any report to an authority, so don’t make a guess: you have to be sure.

3 Confront Them

Upside: This is the most direct approach and thus can herald the best results. There is always a chance there is an innocent explanation for what you think you have witnessed. This option gives you the chance to find out the full story before rushing to any judgement. There is also the fact that your observations could serve as a wakeup call. Illegal or other nefarious activity is meant to be secret; if you have noticed, it might be a sign to your boss or the company that they are losing control of their secrecy. This, in turn, could make them examine their motives, and potentially change their ways.

Downside: It might end badly; you could be fired, or even pressed into being complicit in the illegal activity on pain of losing your job. This could put you in an extremely difficult situation, meaning you have to choose between what’s “right” and what is best for you and your family. It’s a good idea to make sure you have another option for employment, just in case your intervention is not welcomed.

There’s no doubt that discovering your boss or company is engaged in illegal or negligent business practices is troubling. Ultimately, you have to make a decision that is best for you; hopefully the options above will have given you something to ponder.

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