Why I blew the whistle

When Genevieve Boast found that stock was going missing at the company where she worked, she faced a difficult decision.

As a teenager I got caught up¬†in drugs, and at the age of 17,¬†I was jailed for shoplifting. A¬†police officer came into my¬†cell and just said one thing, ‚ÄėGen, you¬†are worth so much more than this.‚Äô
Then he left. To this day I don’t know his name. But his remark turned my life around.

I fell into a job at a logistics company in Sheffield, where I was at university. It was a warehouse, so it was pretty much all guys. It was run on fear and the dictatorial management style of the people at the top. But anybody who had a spark, passion and enthusiasm got promoted very quickly.

Within a year, at the age of 21, I was running a team of 17 people, all older than me, not having a clue about leadership, but finding my way having jumped into the deep end. My team was responsible for all of the stock that belonged to our customer, the biggest satellite television network in the UK.

About a year into this I started¬†to discover that where it was saying¬†on the system we should have lots¬†of boxes of satellite dishes, there¬†were just big gaping empty holes. So I¬†started asking questions. I was told by¬†the warehouse, ‚ÄėOh it‚Äôs just a system¬†problem, don‚Äôt look at it.‚Äô But it was¬†my job to look at it. So, I started asking¬†questions higher up. They said, ‚ÄėOh,¬†no, just don‚Äôt look at it, it‚Äôs an audit¬†fault.‚Äô

But the more I looked into it, the more I found these boxes were showing up in places where they shouldn’t be. Over a couple of months, I found that the company had lost, stolen, misappropriated about £1 million worth of our customer’s stock. I was scared. I knew what the right thing to do was. But I agonized over it for about three days.

The stories I created in my head,¬†from the basis of fear, overruled that¬†quiet voice of my intuition. I made¬†up every story in the book: you‚Äôll¬†lose your job, no one will give you a¬†reference, you‚Äôll have no credibility,¬†you‚Äôll have to go back to digging in the¬†field and make no money (I used to be¬†an archaeologist)‚Ķ On the morning¬†of the fourth day I walked back into¬†the office, took my phone and locked¬†myself in the computer server cabinet.¬†I called my friend at our customer,¬†and said, ‚ÄėI‚Äôve got something to tell¬†you.‚Äô And I did. There was silence at¬†the end of the phone. Then he said,
‚ÄėWow, Gen, thank you so much. I‚Äôll try¬†and protect you.‚Äô And I was thinking,¬†‚ÄėThanks‚Ķ but you‚Äôre not going to be¬†able to protect me.‚Äô

I‚Äôd been asking questions for¬†months. Everybody knew it had to be¬†me. My life at work became a living¬†hell. Every meeting was painful. I¬†thought, ‚ÄėOkay, so now I‚Äôm faced with¬†another decision.‚Äô I called up my friend¬†at our customer and I said, ‚ÄėLook,¬†mate, I‚Äôm going. I can‚Äôt stand this any¬†more.‚Äô He said, ‚ÄėDon‚Äôt move, someone¬†will call you back in half an hour.‚Äô

In half an hour the newly¬†appointed Head of Supply Chain at¬†the customer rang me. He said, ‚ÄėGen,¬†I‚Äôm so impressed with what you did, I¬†want to create a job for you with us.‚Äô

That opened the door to my¬†career in the media. For the next¬†seven years I had several different¬†jobs there. The positive ripples of¬†that into my career spread wider and¬†wider ‚Äď and I ended up marrying the¬†person who had given me that first¬†job. I cannot believe the magic that¬†has happened in my life as a result of¬†that one decision to stay in integrity.

This article is abridged from Michael Smith’s new book Great Company, published by Initiatives of Change, 2015. ISBN 978-1-85239-047-1. Copies can be ordered at £10.00, including p&p, from Initiatives of Change, on 020 7798 6000.

Photo credit: CAUX-IofC Foundation

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