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Prepare for the realities of being a whistleblower

The law tries to encourage ordinary citizens to take a stand against waste, fraud and misconduct in business through monetary incentives for whistleblowers — and the laws that protect them from retaliation are stronger than they have ever been in the past.

Yet, many whistleblowers aren’t prepared for the realities of life after they expose corruption. Whistleblowing is a heroic act — but the men and women who do it can better protect themselves from negative repercussions with some advance planning before they do it. Here are some important things to remember:

You may be due a reward, but it will take a while

The rewards for exposing fraud in business are based largely on how much a company is sanctioned — which can be millions. However, it takes a long time before an investigation is complete and even longer to settle the court cases involved. Whistleblowers need to anticipate some financially rocky times during that period.

You may lose your job (even though whistleblower retaliation is illegal) and have to pursue a lawsuit. Even if you don’t lose your job, you may decide you are too uncomfortable remaining in your position to continue. It may be necessary to transition to another field if employers in your current field are wary of hiring you.

While these are not insurmountable challenges, it pays to be thinking — in advance — of where you want to go in the immediate future if staying where you are isn’t an option.

You may need additional emotional support

It can be disheartening to see co-workers you have known for years walk the other way when they see you. It happens, though, because they may resent what you have “done to the company” and unfairly blame you for the company’s self-created problem. Or, they may be afraid of retaliation just for being your friend.

You may also be the victim of attempts to discredit you and depict you as a “crackpot” or crank.

It’s wise to build up a strong support system outside of work. Your attorney, certainly, will help. You can also look to a therapist, relatives and good friends outside of the industry. Focus on the positive messages they give you about what you are doing — not your detractors.

Most whistleblowers are acting on their conscious, but that’s easier to do when you’re prepared.

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