OPINION | Where to draw the line between whistleblowing, being a tattletale

Whistleblowing occurs when an individual provides authorized information that they reasonably believe to be confirmation of wrongdoing. It is important to stay organized and ethical in your work place, even if doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Miki Akiyama | Sun News Daily

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When I was in elementary school, telling your teacher something another student did made you a tattletale. But as an adult in the workforce, reporting something your coworker did makes you a whistleblower.

A whistleblower is defined as somebody who reveals private or classified information about an organization usually related to misconduct.

Whistleblowing has a time and a place and is incredibly important, whether it’s reporting something minor a coworker did or something illegal a company did.

There are two types of whistleblowers. The first is internal, where a report is filed to a higher authority within the workplace. The second is external, where a report is filed and taken to an outside source, most often a news source or the authorities.

Whistleblowers are protected by law, and by reporting a crime, you volunteer information that can be used in court or investigations.

Utah Tech University students also have a free resource to anonymously report anything unethical or illegal called the Silent Whistleblower Hotline.

The purpose is to report any type of misuse or theft of funds/equipment, blatant noncompliance with Utah Tech police, or if a UT employee is engaged in illegal or unethical conduct on campus.

There are many ways to file a report for students. Some of them include the University Police, the Ombuds or human resources.

Students should utilize this resource if they feel they have something to report. It’s important for students to report anything unethical they may see while working on campus.

The only time I would not use this resource is to report something petty a coworker did—don’t be that person. But whistleblowing can be rewarding and important in situations where the person is conducting in an unethical and illegal manner.

In a recent article, NBC News covered a story on a woman who won $40 million in settlements for reporting a $500 million tax fraud at her company, and it became one of the largest fraud settlements ever.

In the story, she said, “I’ve got three kids, and I tell them, ‘Doing the right thing is the right thing, no matter what the outcome is.’”

In this case, reporting this fraud won her life-changing money.

The other types of whistleblower cases are rarely talked about but are the most common. These cases pose an ethical question: are you morally obligated to report a crime your coworker committed?

A very close friend of mine recently filed a report for multiple wrong-doings his coworker did. He reported that his coworker destroyed company property, acted carelessly without consequences and even threatened him and his coworkers.

In this instance, reporting these actions was necessary, and he felt he had a moral obligation not only to protect himself but also his coworkers.

While this is an extreme example, it still shows that whistleblowing is important in many cases.

However, in many cases, it can be unnecessary and over the top to report something minor a coworker did. For instance, if a coworker stole a cup of coffee or food while they were working, reporting something like that is over the top.

It’s ridiculous to report something so minor that everyone does. But drawing the line at when to report is the dilemma many people struggle with.

Whistleblowing has a time and a place, whether it’s something minor or something massive. If somebody feels they have a moral obligation to report something, they probably should. It just comes down to moral beliefs and whether or not the whistleblower feels they are doing the right thing.