Dear Corporate Governess
I have a feeling some senior executives are involved in something unethical—possibly even illegal. If I speak up, I will almost certainly be fired, which I can't afford. What should I do?
—Jason N., Ottawa
Your first option is to keep your mouth shut. Unlike the U.S., Canada has no legislation protecting whistle-blowers. Certain laws do shield you from reprisal—for instance, if you're making a complaint under the Human Rights Code or Health and Safety Act. And if you accuse the CEO of embezzlement and the company fires you rather than investigating, you might be entitled to compensation under "bad faith" rules. But you'd still be fired.
If you do speak up, Toronto employment lawyer Stuart Rudner urges you to be absolutely sure something funny is going on. "You've got to provide enough information for an investigation to be meaningful," he says. Approach a top executive you still trust and offer to assist in the investigation. There's still no guarantee you'll keep your job, though.
The safest way to blow the whistle, says Rudner, is to do it anonymously, with as much supporting material as possible—though that's getting more difficult to obtain surreptitiously in today's digital world. (Can you even make photocopies anymore?) Be careful.
Dear Corporate Governess
I've been offered an executive promotion, but I've got small kids, and I'm not sure I'm prepared for even longer hours and more travel. Any advice?
—Isabella T., Toronto
When is the right time? When the babes are out of diapers? In grade school? Off to college? If you really want this, you can make it work. You'll need a solid support system, including first-line child care. Having a saintly partner helps, but a live-in nanny is a good alternative.
Pamela Jeffrey, founder of the Women's Executive Network, launched her first company when her boys were six months and two years. Her advice: Treat yourself well to avoid burnout. She credits exercise with giving her the energy to cope with entrepreneurship and momhood. And outsource the chores you hate—Jeffrey orders her groceries online, buying her a few extra hours each week. She also suggests seeking out mentors (both men and women, inside and outside your organization) and joining a network of female professionals to commiserate/network with. Don't push it too far with nighttime engagements, though, lest your nanny—or partner—quit.
My biggest concern is that if you turn this opportunity down, your company might pass you by the next time. Worse, you'll always have that nagging, What if?