The Theranos scandal has been in and out of the news. In a nutshell, the blood testing company with what was touted as an innovative approach to diagnostics has been accused of delivering far less accurate results than it promised.
The scandal came to light when a then-anonymous whistleblower contacted the New York state health lab alleging the company had cheated on it proficiency testing. He also spoke to the Wall Street Journal, which wrote extensively about the issue.
Now, the Journal has shared who the whistleblower is and his saga. His name is Tyler Schulz. He is a former member of the firm’s production team, and remarkably the grandson of one of the company’s directors: George Schulz. The very same George Schulz who served in the Cabinets of Presidents Nixon and Reagan.
Tyler Schulz tried reporting internally. He had contacted the CEO with his concerns and received a very dismissive and insulting response from the company’s president. Immediately after quitting, he told his grandfather what he knew, and was met with skepticism. His own grandfather couldn’t believe him.
What the tale demonstrates is how hard and thankless is the lot of a whistleblower, even one who reported an issue internally. No one wants to believe him or her. It’s hard for people to realize that they are at best wrong, or have been lying to themselves, or that the people they have trusted were not worthy of that trust.
Coming forward when seeing something wrong takes great bravery because it’s not just about going against the status quo. It’s about asking others to question their very sense of self, their judgment about business and their ability to pick people to trust.
That’s a very big thing to ask. No one likes to admit that they’re wrong. Just think back to the last time you were driving and your significant other shouted, “Watch out for that car.” Chances are your first words, even after you swerved or slammed on the brakes was, “I saw it,” not “Thanks.”
Giving credit to others and admitting your errors requires great humility, a noble virtue that may be the hardest one to live up to.
So much so, that even your own grandfather may not be willing to believe you.
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