Whistleblowing, a recently added subject in organizational behavior literatures, is one of the most effective ways to detect and prevent corruption and other malpractice. Whistleblowers’ disclosures have exposed wrongdoing and fraud, helped save millions in public funds, avoid disasters for health, the environment.

What is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing is the act of the employee to report illegal, unethical, suspicious or not correct behaviors within an organization to individuals or entities—the organization itself, the relevant authorities, or the public—believed to be able to effect action (Transparency International Opens in new window).

In Aktan’s study (2006:3), the concept of whistleblowing is defined as

informing internal and external authorities that have the power and authority to solve the problems by white collar workers (employees or stakeholders) to ensure that illegal and unethical behaviors and actions within an organization do not harm other people or institutions within and/or outside the organization.(Aktan, 2006:3).

Concept of Whistleblowing in the Literature

The concept of whistleblowing has also been expressed as “Organizational Misconduct/Wrongdoings” and “Principled Organizational Dissent” in the literature (Aktan, 2006:3).

Whistleblowing has recently been seen in organizations as a subject that requires a systematic study that attracts the attention of the authorities and the public (Near and Miceli, 1985:14).

Both organization and government policy-makers are greatly interested in the successful implementation of legal and organizational systems to promote the reporting of illegal or unethical behaviors.

The concept of whistleblowing which began to take place in the literature in the 1990s started to be used with the whistling of British policemen to warn criminals.

The concept of whistleblowing has also been used in organizations along with the announcement of illegal practices and the disallowance of non-disclosure of those who carry out such practices in many companies.

The terms organizational wrongdoing, organizational misconduct, malpractice and wrongdoing are widely used to explain the concept of whistleblowing (Yarmaci, 2018:65-66).

Whistleblowing is expressed as “the disclosure of illegal, unethical or illegitimate practices under the control of employers by members of the organization (former or present) to persons or organizations that may affect the action” (Near and Miceli, 1985:4).

Ellison (1982a:23) likened civil disobedience, an action that a person performs for moral reasons, to whistleblowing in his study. According to Bouville (2008: 579), whistleblowing is explained as

reporting information that an employee (or former employee) believes to be unethical or illegal behavior to the senior management (internal whistle-blowing) or the external authority or the public (external whistle-blowing).

In addition, whistleblowing is understood as a form of worker resistance, in order to control the worker (Rothschild and Miethe, 1999:124).

Identifying Suspicious Behaviors

The employee must firstly recognize an illegal and unethical activity or behavior within the organization in order to initiate whistleblowing. It is important that employee examine this wrongful behavior or malpractice in detail and share it with other employees for more information.

The employee may choose to perform the act of whistleblowing based on the data s/he has collected. However, the employee may sometimes prefer to remain silent due to her/his commitment to the organization.

Another reason for keeping silent is that there is the possibility of the employees of the organization to react to and retaliate against whistleblower Opens in new window (Dworkin and Baucus, 1998: 1282). As a result, the concept of whistleblowing revealed three different possibilities in organizations. These include:

  1. termination or continuation of malpractice;
  2. policy change or lack of policy change and
  3. retaliation, reward or response to the whistleblower (Miceli et al., 1992) (cited in Hersch, 2002:251).

There are various categories of whistleblowing in the literature, briefly described as follows:

  1. Identified Whistleblowing

Identified whistleblowing means reporting unlawful or unethical behavior observed by the employee using her/her real name (or personally identifiable information) (Park et al., 2008:930).

  1. Anonymous Whistleblowing

Anonymous whistleblowing is one expressed as reporting wrongdoing observed by the employee not giving any information about his/her identity (Park et al., 2008:930).

Another anonymous whistleblowing practice is also that the employee does not hesitate to disclose his/her identity (or name) to the relevant authorities while engaging in whistleblowing, because the authorities are principled to keep the whistleblower’s identity confidential (Aktan, 2006:4).

Anonymous whistleblowing significantly reduces the likelihood of retaliation, so whistleblowers may not want to give their names. However, the effectiveness and reliability of the reported information also decrease (Callahan and Dworkin, 1994: 168).

  1. Formal Whistleblowing

Formal whistleblowing is an institutional form of reporting wrongdoings by following standard communication lines or a formal organizational procedure (Park et al., 2008:930).

  1. Informal Whistleblowin

Informal whistleblowing means reporting wrongdoing observed by the employee with the ones personally close to oneself or the trusted ones with whom one is closed to share information (Park et al., 2008:930).

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