Many Thanks to Peter Neville Lewis and his South African colleague, Wendy Addison, Founder of Speak Out – Speak Up for the powerful words below. I have reproduced this from his wonderful blog which I recommend:
Wendy was the whistle blowing Corporate Treasurer at Leisure Net, a major corporate accounting scandal in South Africa, back in 2000, which eventually landed the director participants in prison.
However the threats made against her, for her actions, were so severe that she had to leave SA and now lives in London.
“Murder will out”, as Shakespeare has it, and when it is revealed that organisations may not only have committed misdeeds, but attempted to suppress them over time, the damage to reputation, credibility and more hard-nosed measures of business success can be enormous.
In today’s ‘gotcha’ culture no tryst is sure to remain secret, no racial slur goes unrecorded, no corporate wrongdoing can be safely buried forever in a company’s locked filing cabinets.. Today anyone with a mobile phone and access to a computer has the power to bring down a billion pound corporation or even a government.
Legislation alone cannot make organizations open and healthy. Only the character and will of those who run them and participate in them can do that. If a culture of collusion exists instead of a culture of candour, participants will find ways around the rules, new or old, however stringent. However, embedding the values of Trust, Candour and Transparency in an organisation’s culture is like having hundreds of internal auditors out there in every function of the company and will automatically lead to staff speaking out against wrongdoing.
A PwC survey of 5,400 companies in 40 countries found that 40 per cent were victims of serious economic crimes, averaging over £3 million in losses. Employees exposed 43 per cent of these – more than corporate security, internal audits and law enforcement combined. Empowered, ethical employees are a wise executive’s best resource.
Siemens’ executives, post bribery scandal, said:
“It’s easy to write policies but you need to get to the hearts and minds of the people”.
In our lives and at work, conspiracies of silence are enormously damaging and all but universal: the office bully no one confronts; the sexual abuse people turn a blind eye to, the budget games where people skew numbers and exaggerate expectations; the board of directors that tacitly suppresses dissent.
The artful denial of a problem will not produce conviction. Results can only be brought about when we find the moral courage to commit to speaking out.
No news is NOT good news and Silence is NOT golden – we need to find our voices and Speak Out and Speak Up.