As an employee, individual and citizen of this country we are faced with this dichotomy every day of our lives.

As an employee, you may find yourself at a barbecue when someone turns around and asks you what it is like working for your organisation? Now do you tell the truth – after all transparency and the truth are vital today or do you give the traditional corporate talking head version: “We are a company of integrity, a company of beer and roses?”

As a citizen the South African government expects you to be a proud citizen, an ambassador of this country but on the other hand you experience and deal with crime and corruption every day. Must you therefore be loyal and not speak the truth?

The media is castigated for speaking the truth or apparently only giving their version- for not reporting enough on the good news. Again, truth versus loyalty! How do we balance this in our organisations?

In other organisations, serious witch hunts are undertaken when a mysterious e-mail surfaces highlighting contentious issues and incidents. Again, what do organisations want? Truth or Loyalty?

As an employee what should you do about issues in your organisation? Speak up and get “bombed?” Speak up and be castigated as an “impimpi?” (A spy) Phone a friend in the media? BCC the wrong person? Leave it until it destroys your organisation’s good name? Apply for protection under some act that deals with protective disclosure?

Here are a few questions you should ask in this context and ideas that you can use:

  • What is the state of upwards flow of communication in your organisation? Is the process working well?
  • Are you relying on tools such as anonymous hotlines and other forms of media? Who measures their effectiveness and efficiency? Does your hotline to which people can call in or ask a question work? Can I phone it without fear of negative repercussions? Do you have in place a cross-functional panel which can respond and provide recommended alternates if needed?
  • Do you have an active suggestion scheme operating in your organisation? Ideas are the lifeblood of innovation.
  • Take a close look at the Occupational Health & Safety Act and its communication system. It is a tried and tested system that works well under the right conditions. Can you learn from it?
  • Examine statistics such as exit interviews, internal audit reports, safety records, etc.