Whistleblowing Process

It is considered as a critical issue to design, implement and manage the process of whistleblowing Opens in new window in organizations (McGregor, Robinson and Stuebs, 2014:36). There are different views on how employees can report unlawful and unethical situations in their organizations (Near and Miceli, 1985).

The people who will initiate the processes of whistleblowing in organizations are the employees who will perform whistleblowing. Therefore, these people are expressed as actor, i.e. “Whistleblower” during the process (Yarmaci, 2018:76).

The actor or whistleblower, has a huge role in order to initiate the process of whistleblowing. The process of whistleblowing is explained with three different approaches below.

Near and Miceli’s Approach

Near and Miceli (1985:4-5) stated the process of whistleblowing consists of four stages. The first two of these stages include the whistleblower’s decisions and the other two stages are about the decisions of the organization.

  • For the first stage, the whistleblower has to decide whether the action s/he observes is illegal, immoral, illegitimate or unlawful.
  • For the second stage, the whistleblower also must decide whether or not and whom to report wrongdoing.
  • The third stage includes the organization’s decision on how to act against the unlawful action reported to it.
  • The fourth stage consists of the organization’s decision on how to treat the whistleblower.

This last stage may be related to ignoring or silencing the report of the whistleblower (Dasgupta and Kesharwani, 2010:59), but it also may occur with offering legal assurance to the whistleblower and addressing the event through other practices.

Park et al.’s Approach

Park, Blenkinsopp, Oktem and Omurgonulsen (2008:930) have explained that the act of whistleblowing Opens in new window is a three-step process. Each stage of the process takes place as a result of two different decisions of the whistleblower Opens in new window. This offers eight different ways to the whistleblower.

  • The first stage is about which of the formal or informal channels of malpractices in the organization will be used. Whistleblower may follow standard communication lines and formal organizational protocols, and informally report unethical action to a close friend or a trusted superior.
  • The second stage requires the whistleblower to make a decision about whether to disclose her/his identity. At this stage, whistleblower may perform unlawful behaviors using his/her real name (or in any other form that will give his/her personally identifiable information) as “explicit whistleblowing”, and prefer to anonymously provide information keeping his/her own identity confidential as “implicit whistleblowing” (Aktan, 2006:4).
  • The third and last stage of the process includes the whistleblower’s decision on whether to use internal or external channels to report (Park, Rehg and Lee (2005, 398). Whistleblower may choose to report to individuals within the organization, regardless of whether or not the relevant person is officially responsible for, and to report wrongdoing to external institutions s/he believes they have necessary power (Park et al. 2008:930).

Henik’s Approach

Henik (2008:112-113) explains the process of whistleblowing in five stages. Henik evaluated the status of the organization as a whole and put forward the decision steps of the organization.

  • These steps initially begin with the occurrence of any unlawful and unethical event, and at the time when whistleblower perceives it as a problem.
  • Then, whistleblower needs to determinate how to take an action in relation to the activity s/he decides it is a problematic.
  • The third step is that the whistleblower takes action against the current situation and the event is reported.
  • The next step is the decision about how the organization will react (take serious or ignore) to reporting wrongdoing.
  • The fifth and last step involves the evaluation of the whistleblower according to the response of the organization.

This evaluation also sheds light on how the person who reports wrongdoing will act when faced with similar events in the future.

This is because the evaluated whistleblowing behaviors can encourage the employees for future reports. However, the reports that are ignored or neglected may also increase unlawful and unethical behaviors, and make the employees insensitive to reporting these behaviors.

Outcomes of Whistleblowing

It is expected that a whistleblowing process initiates a legal struggle (starting a prosecution) against unethical behaviors in the organization, and creates changes to improve past and incorrect/missing organizational policies and practices.

It is possible to increase the positive outcomes with the actions, which aim to terminate existing unethical behaviors, as well as the measures to prevent the whistleblowers from being subjected to retaliation (Apaza and Change, 2011:115). Yildiz and Tani (2018:62) have evaluated the results of the act of whistleblowing in terms of employee, organization and society.

Individual Outcomes of Whistleblowing

The individual outcomes of the act of whistleblowing Opens in new window are perceived as more negative. Whistleblowers Opens in new window are not always seen as heroes within the organization, but are perceived as unfaithful, traitor or dissatisfied.

Therefore, this action that changes employee behaviors in the organization can also cause deterioration of relations between whistleblower and colleagues in particular (Yildiz and Tani, 2018:59).

Whistleblowers are exposed to discriminatory behavior and maltreatment within the organization as well as threats, blackmail (Aydin, 2003:87), dismissal, retaliation (Mansbach, 2011:14). On the other hand,

  • there is a risk of financial insecurity,
  • loss of prestige in the eyes of colleagues and superiors,
  • end of friendship,
  • psychological tension,
  • social exclusion,
  • loss of trust of family and loved ones (Jenson, 1987:325).

Even it is encountered with situation in where people are described as agents when it comes to external whistleblowing (Larmar, 1992:125). It is observed that those who prefer to quit because of such pressures are considered as unreliable people by having difficulty in finding references in new job applications (Jensen, 1987:325).

Organizational Outcomes of Whistleblowing

When we look at the organizational outcomes of the whistleblowing, both positive and negative outcomes are observed. One of the most important points for organizations is the non-normalization of unethical behaviors.

Whistleblowing behavior can be seen as a savior in cases where ethical behaviors increase by moving away from the essence of societies and organizations. This is because such reports provide disclosure of employees who harm the organization and can prevent organizational corruption (Yildiz and Tani, 2018:62).

It is seen that whistleblowing behavior in organizations can bring important improvements for the ethical culture of organizations in the long term (Colquitt, Lepine, Wesson, & Gellatly et al., 2015:217). Whistleblowing tendencies cause organizations to exhibit positive attitudes, while the adoption of the ethical climate created by employee and managers may contribute to the success of organizations (Cetinel and Taslak, 2018:80), and increase their competitiveness (Alper, 2018:259).

On the other hand, the publicization of unlawful and unethical behavior within the organization creates losses in the employee capital, i.e., financial losses, and may turn into problems that will cause the organization to lose its image and prestige in the presence of the public (Yildiz and Tani, 2018:62).

Because of these negative outcomes, many organizations prefer internal channels in whistleblowing behaviors and try to take measures without harming their images (Yarmaci, 2018:93).

Social Outcomes of Whistleblowing

The issue of whether whistleblowing behavior is an organizational loyalty or betrayal is mainly manifested itself in social outcomes. This dilemma particularly points out that whistleblowing Opens in new window is an act of loyalty with social outcomes. Although the individual or organization experiences more the negative aspects of this action, it has more positive social aspects.

Whistleblowing behaviors lead to positive outcomes in preventing corruption and wrongdoing in the presence of the society, disclosing the criminals to the public and making improvements in public health, budget and rights (Yildiz and Tani, 2018:62).

It is seen that whistleblowing behavior is mostly experienced in the USA. The most important reason for this is that organizations develop a system to support these behaviors, the state protects whistleblowers and encourages whistleblowing with the laws, as well as the value that social culture gives to whistleblowing behavior (Johnson, 2003:4).

Accordingly, it can be foreseen to be effective that organizational policies and practices are increased and the government gives assurance with legislative regulations in order to increase the positive outcomes of whistleblowing behaviors in organizations.

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