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Podcast Episodes

What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

386. Why Workplace Whistleblowing is So Rare w/ Nuala Walsh (Refreshed Episode)

In this episode of The Brainy Business podcast, Nuala Walsh, CEO of Mind Equity Consulting, shares her extensive experience in advising on behavior change, culture, and communications for various organizations, including World Athletics and the Football Association. With a background in behavioral science and a focus on gender equality and diversity, Nuala provides valuable insights into the challenges of whistleblowing in the workplace. 

She emphasizes the reluctance of employees to report misconduct, highlighting the high costs involved, such as job loss and harassment. Nuala’s research underscores the ineffectiveness of zero-tolerance policies and the need for organizations to create supportive environments where speaking up is encouraged and safe. Her discussion with host Melina Palmer delves into the significance of courage-based stories in inspiring employees to speak up and the importance of creating a culture of psychological safety. Nuala’s expertise and practical insights make this episode essential for ethics and compliance professionals, offering strategies to foster a culture of ethical behavior and address whistleblowing challenges effectively.

In this episode:

  • Uncovering Workplace Whistleblowing Challenges: Learn to navigate and overcome the complexities of workplace whistleblowing for a culture of integrity.
  • Embracing Cognitive Diversity in Decision-Making: Harness the power of diverse perspectives to enhance the quality of organizational decisions and problem-solving.
  • Fostering Psychological Safety: Cultivate an environment where employees feel safe to express themselves and contribute to innovative solutions.
  • Celebrating Courageous Actions in Organizations: Recognize and reward acts of courage that drive positive change and ethical conduct within the workplace.
  • Addressing Barriers to Reporting Misconduct: Equip yourself with strategies to effectively identify and dismantle obstacles to reporting misconduct in the workplace.
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IN A RUSH?

HERE'S A 2 MINUTE TIP.

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SHOW NOTES:

00:00:00 – Introduction
Melina Palmer introduces the episode about whistleblowing at work and the reasons why so few people actually blow the whistle, even when they intend to or know something is wrong.

00:02:24 – Nuala Walsh’s Work in Behavioral Science
Nuala shares her extensive experience in behavioral science, her roles in advising on behavior change, brand and reputation, culture and communications for private sector organizations, and her involvement in gender-based initiatives.

00:08:03 – Getting Involved in D&I
Nuala discusses her involvement with UN Women, World Athletics, and the Football Association, highlighting the challenges she observed in the male-dominated corporate world and her transition into the gender agenda and diversity and inclusion initiatives.

00:11:01 – Overcoming Familiarity Bias in Hiring
Nuala emphasizes the importance of cognitive diversity in board appointments, shares her experience with unconscious bias in executive search hires, and suggests listening to recruitment agencies to achieve diverse hiring at the top level.

00:15:32 – Overcoming Biases in Decision Making
Nuala emphasizes the importance of companies listening to independent groups to avoid falling prey to their own biases when making final decisions for roles.

00:16:09 – The Impact of Bias on Decision Making
The discussion delves into different biases such as confirmation bias, familiarity bias, status quo bias, and loss aversion, and their influence on decision-making processes.

00:17:14 – Encouraging Whistleblowing
Nuala discusses her research on whistleblowing and the challenges employees face in speaking up when they witness wrongdoing. She highlights the need for companies to encourage employees to speak up and the potential consequences whistleblowers may face.

00:18:32 – The Bystander Effect
Nuala shares her fascination with the bystander effect and its application to whistleblowing. She discusses the reluctance of bystanders to take action and the factors influencing their behavior in such situations.

00:20:38 – Balancing Encouragement and Risk
Nuala reflects on the conflicting emotions of encouraging people to speak up while acknowledging the potential risks they may face. She highlights the need for companies to adopt a more integrated and holistic approach to addressing the issue of whistleblowing.

00:30:15 – Recognizing Courage in Whistleblowers
Nuala discusses the act of whistleblowing as an act of courage and shares her insights on communicating courage-based stories. She highlights the story of Harry Markopoupoulos and his attempts to expose Bernie Madoff’s fraudulent activities.

00:31:35 – Embracing Outgroup Members as Heroes
Nuala emphasizes the importance of sharing inspirational stories of whistleblowers, including those who are not well-known. She discusses the significance of portraying individuals like Harry Markopoupoulos, who was an outgroup member, as heroes.

00:32:45 – Shifting the Dial on Whistleblowing
Nuala stresses the value of internal whistleblowers who have prevented disasters within their organizations. She suggests celebrating and sharing their stories to promote a positive shift in the culture of whistleblowing within companies.

00:33:30 – The Challenge of Measuring Whistleblowing Culture
Nuala addresses the limitations of tracking whistleblowing culture solely through surveys. She highlights the need for evidence-based tracking and metrics to effectively measure the impact of storytelling on promoting ethical behavior within organizations.

00:37:40 – Intention vs. Action in Whistleblowing
Melina reflects on the discrepancy between intentions and actions in whistleblowing. She discusses how the passage of time can impact individuals’ willingness to speak up and draws parallels to Dolly Chug’s insights on the perception of past and future events.

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