Last summer I spoke with a man I’ve known since my teens who became a nuclear physicist. It was chilling for me to hear about how he left his job as the head of a nuclear power plant because of the disregard for safety. “I couldn’t change it and I didn’t want my name on it”, he explained.
That comment has new significance in the light of recent events. One of the experts I’ve heard interviewed about the ongoing crisis in Japan not only quit his company, he went public about the danger.
It’s one level of integrity to discover a danger, injustice or error and choose not to participate at cost to ourselves. It’s another level to tell the world. It’s not easy to be a whistle-blower. Some whistle-blowers find themselves whistling in the dark. Sometimes, if we wait until the world is ready to hear what we know, we can be more effective. Speaking STRONG requires continual judgment calls.
Whatever decision we make, it’s important that we be completely honest with one person about our decision to speak out or not speak out. Ourselves.
I discuss that in skill-set #6 in my book Speak STRONG. Establish standards for honesty. One guideline is to pick battles big enough to matter and small enough to win. I’d say nuclear power plant safety issues are big enough to matter – wouldn’t you? And in light of recent events, i think more people are ready to listen.