Ethical dilemma: should I blow the whistle?

Any thoughts or opinions would be very much appreciated.

A few days ago I saw an article in the paper that included quotes from my old boss (related threads here and here), which brought a lot of things back. To summarize, I had a horrible experience with a bullying, harassing boss and didn’t report it out of fear of reprisal. Now, however, I’ve been promoted at my new position and have good job security – everything has finally become official, and I’m a salaried member of management. Of course, I will probably start searching for a job to move up at some point, but it is not urgent and I won’t begin serious looking for at least six months to a year when I have more experience.

I had always intended to do something about my old boss’ ways. To be honest, I should have done something a long time ago. I really don’t want to get too involved, but I feel I should let somebody know in case other people are being harassed now (I know that, previously, when I had given notice that other people confided in me that they hated the job and wished that they could quit because of the supervisor). Yet, I don’t know about the current situation and don’t want to dredge up things if they’ve passed or cause this person grief if they have changed (admittedly not likely).

I also am concerned, given how embittered and cruel the person was at my position, that she might just be mentally unstable enough to search me out and try to get revenge in some way. Granted, not likely, but still a fear.

As I can see it, there are these options:

1.) Do nothing. The least amount of risk, but of course, bad deeds go unpunished. Granted the amount of time since the incidents (two years), perhaps this is the best course.
2.) Send an anonymous letter to the HR department alerting them that they should look into the situation. I have no idea if this would even be considered by management given that it is a government agency (they do HR for the entire city government). If anyone has feedback, that would be helpful. At this point, little risk as it has been two years since this occurred.
3.) Send a signed letter and request anonymity when the situation is brought up to the individual. Again, I have no idea if this request would be granted. Would such concerns automatically become part of the public record?
4.) Send a signed letter and agree to get involved with the process if needs be. I really don’t want to do this, but if this would be the only legally feasible way to represent myself, I would consider it.

I will note that at this point I do not wish to get legal representation. For one thing, I am not seeking damages or a legal suit and do not want, and likely could not afford, to incur the costs of a lawyer. I simply want to do the ethical thing and possibly alert the city to a potential suit in future. What do you think?

If you are going to do anything about it, have the balls to back up your words face to face with your old boss. It may not come to that, but be sure you can if it does. You also might want to refuse speaking to the old boss unless a HR person is present if the crap really hits the fan. There is no sense wasting anyone’s time with trying to be anonymous.

Since it’s been two years, I’d let it pass. You’re going to look like some sort of loon who holds a grudge. The time to complain was when the incidents happened, especially since the first thing anyone is going to say is “why didn’t you report it, then?” Even the truth is going to discredit you.

The worst thing you can do it send an anonymous letter. It’s not going to get any action (no one trusts anonymous letters) and, if your name comes out, you’re going to look awfully bady.

If you really want to go through with it, contact HR and tell them what was going on. You can ask for anonymity and see if they’re willing to do something. As for anonymity, see what HR plans to do. They should be willing to protect your identity if they’re just investigating, but would probably have to name you if you make a formal complaint.

Well, I don’t have any balls at all, being female, for one!

Secondly, I really have no intention of confronting this individual or seeing them again at all. What would this possibly help? Again, I do not wish to turn this into any type of suit – I was only concerned that others might be going through the same thing and for the city to possibly have more oversight into her management of the department. Confronting her would turn the whole situation into a personal dispute and I don’t see the benefit of that.

RealityChuck, it’s a good point that the time has passed. However, I didn’t report it at the time because a) I was afraid of reprisal due to having to release my work history and her name/contact information to other employers and b) I did not want to continue working there to have it mediated so I had no incentive to come forward given the risk at the time. I am unfamiliar with similar situations, having never worked in HR. If it is extremely uncommon to come forward so far after the fact, I suppose that’s a valid criticism and perhaps I shouldn’t say anything at this point.

Yet another downside to anonymous letters to HR: If they do investigate and determine that he was in the wrong, they may also come down on the people who knew about it but did nothing (e.g., you).