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Whistle Blowing Dilemma

DAMAYANTHI was a model employee, the personification of virtue. Pure as the driven snow, her impeccable character was so well known that people flocked from far and near to see her. And then it happened - the devil dropped the dilemma into Shangri-la - in the form of a new Boss, Nala Kumaran Sambasivan Iyer. If you assume that Nala was the villain of the piece, you're wrong again. He was one of those rare wonderful bosses, easy to work with, appreciative and almost perfect. Now, before you switch off thinking this is a fairy-tale, let me assure you it is not. You see, I said `almost' - that little word that leaves one with a niggling doubt about what is unsaid. For Nala had a flaw in his character - he had a predilection for the good life. A dyed-in-the-wool sybarite, his salary barely sustained his dreams, let alone his life-style. He was therefore forced to divert some funds from here (the office), there (the clients) and everywhere (bribes) - into his personal coffer. He artfully dodged the booby traps set by the audit team, and would've pulled it off, but for Damayanthi. In her quiet, conscientious way, she unearthed the scam that rocked her conscience - bringing her face to face with the biggest dilemma that confronts most conscientious workers - to blow or not to blow, the proverbial whistle.

Why on earth is it difficult?

I'm sure you wonder why there is a dilemma at all when the scales are so obviously tilted against Nala. But then, you don't know the whole story. For you see, this was Damayanthi's first job. Though she wasn't the most ideal candidate, Nala saw the potential in her and fanned the flame of her confidence to life. He gave her the vital breaks to prove her mettle and mentored her whenever she needed. He ensured that she was visible, and was never overlooked during those compensation review times. She had a lot to be grateful to Nala for, and she just couldn't get herself to blow the whistle.

So, where do you think it leaves her?

Damayanthi could not get herself to kill her mentor's career; then again her conscience wouldn't leave her in peace. It reminded her that silence was abetment, and that she would be an accessory even if she looked the other way. She had to do something. But what?

Damayanthi isn't alone. There are many of us who have faced similar situations, where there are no easy choices available. Let's look at the some of the options available to Ms. D. Since there are no right or wrong answers here, The reader, will have to decide which might be the best course to follow.

She could complain anonymously. This would have assuaged her soul and brought the perpetrator to book. (Many companies have drop boxes, where employees could put letters addressed to the authorities. Some even appoint an Ombudsman, who is the sole point of management contact with the employee, thereby doing away with fears of victimisation. Some software giants in India adopt this practice)

Another option would be to alert the top-management of the fraud. This, however, would mean that her mentor would go to jail. This is the last thing she'd want being as she is so grateful to the person that taught her everything and striking the last nail into his coffin would be the most difficult thing for her to do.

She could take the matter in her own hands, which might result in an unpleasant scene. If she confronts Nala with the evidence she has, he might be shamed into correcting his ways (unlikely) or quit his job (possible). And then, there is always the third possibility that he might make the rest of her career in that company miserable, or take her to task for her behaviour and find fault whenever he can.

The most difficult choice for the righteous Damayanthi would be to turn a blind eye to the whole problem and act as if it did not exist. But this attitude would irk her, as she would continue working closely with a person whom she has ceased to respect. This could result in quitting a job she likes; at the very least it will affect the quality of her work.

Nala and Damayanthi embody characters that bring alive a very pertinent issue that challenges today's corporate world. If one has no moral scruples, then the issue is simplified to a large extent. One could just turn a blind eye to all the untoward happenings at work. Unfortunately, it is often not that simple, for aren't we all a bit like Damayanthi, grappling with problems for which there are no logical or straightforward answers?

APARNA KATHRIKAYAN

aa@cnkonline.com

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