Get screwed far, far, more often than not.
From Whistle-blowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power and Beautiful Souls (which i am currently reading):
According to those two books, if you witness something, even if you have the company dead to rights, you have a .17% chance of being successful, (1.3% chance since '02). Aren't these some lotto games and slot machines with better odds? And that doesn't include all that happens in the mean time: loss of job, wages, homes, stress on the family, being ostracized and blackballed. That's just scratching the surface of some of the research, it's just a generally bad situation all around for whistle-blowers, many developing alcoholism and depression after the event.Since the Federal Whistle-blower Protection Act of 1989, there have been around 10,000 Whistle-blower cases that have gone to court. The Whistle-blower was successful 4 times*.
2002-2008, There were 1273 cases , and the gov't ruled in favor of the Whistle-blower just 17 times. It is note worthy that the Whistle-blower Protection Act was somewhat strengthened in the wake of Enron and Worldcom. An additional 841 cases were dismissed on minor technicalities or because the employees worked at private subsidiaries of publicly traded companies the Dept of Labor decided were not covered by that statute.
*As of 2001, when that book first appeared.
A true Democracy requires dissent, yet studies have shown American workers generally dislike troublemakers and rabblerousers, but the general population also doesn't respect those that "go along to get along" particularly in the wake of a scandal. So what is a person to do? I bet we'd all say on this board that we would "do the right thing". But in real life, i bet not. Now knowing the costs, what real incentive is there for the ordinary Joe to whistle-blow?