1.1.3. Factors affecting decision for whistleblowing
There are several factors that can probably impact whistleblowers’ decision to expose a misconduct in an organisation. As the whistleblower closely monitors certain wrongdoings, he/she must ascertain if the immoral or illegitimate activity conflicts with their personal values or acceptable norms of the organisation. It is important to note that, dispute is likely to occur in an effort to establish legitimacy of the activity. While some members of the organisation might condone a particular activity, others are likely to feel differently. Motivation, circumstances and power relations are some of the key factors to be considered.
Motivation: The chances of securing a positive outcome after reporting a misconduct will play a dominant motivational factor. An observer of wrongdoing who anticipate retaliation from the management is less likely to blow the whistle about illegal or immoral activities in an organisation. However, it can be argued that an observer with strong ethical or moral value will disregard the consequence of blowing the whistle about a misconduct as they are more likely to downplay the likelihood of retaliation from the management. Positive resolution of the complaint by the organisation will also determine if the accused person(s) is completely restrained from attacking the observer at any time.
Circumstances about the activity: An organizations inability to take action on cases observed and reported by a member or a connected outsider normally results in whistleblowing. In some situations, the observer of an immoral or illegal activity might want to gain support from other influential observers in the organisation thereby making himself/herself vulnerable to manipulations. When this happens, the witness loses his/her confidence/power to take individual actions that can address the alleged misconduct. More so, observers who lack knowledge of the right complaint procedure might be reluctant to report illegal or immoral activities. The level of trust that changes when a worker is branded a “whistleblower” within an organization, as well as the negative experience of other whistleblowers can also be a determining factor for reporting a misconduct.
Power relations: The degree of dependence between the whistleblower and his/her employer can be a pivotal factor in reporting a misconduct. For example, the ability to change behaviour or the resistance to the change. The frequency of whistleblowing activities can be ascribed to an availability of alternative employment. In other words, employees are less likely to report wrongdoings if they fear dismissal, especially in a career environment where there aren’t enough employment opportunities. Therefore, from the whistleblower perspective, the possibility of getting an alternative job is crucial in an employee’s decision to report a misconduct. In this situation, it can be assumed that younger employees without career ambition within the organisation are more likely to blow the whistle whereas older employees whom might have invested considerable number of years in the organisation with anticipation of retirement rewards are less likely to engage in whistleblowing activities.
Social and financial support: Observers have the tendency to blow the whistle on immoral and illegal activities if they can gain social and financial assistance from family or friend out of organisational environment. Insulating emotional support from family or friend therefore decreases whistleblowers’ reliance on the organisation. Likewise, professional groups that normally advocate for whistleblowing are more likely to gain encouragement and support from their professional bodies if they decide to report a misconduct. Unemployment amongst employees of professional bodies is generally lower than non-professional agencies, moreover, professional bodies have more reliable financial options.
Cultural traits: Certain amount of cultural characteristic can hinder observers of wrongdoings from making a disclosure. An observer of wrongdoing who has a trait of interpersonal relationship might find whistleblowing as unacceptable conduct from colleagues. Since personal loyalty is considered the bedrock of employer and employees’ relationship, whistleblowers are viewed as traitors and some employers take offence in such actions. Also, wider social setting can play a factor in whistleblowing, for example, collectivist culture rooted in Confucian value tends to have negative perception of whistleblowing. Therefore, the propensity to blow the whistle on employers and colleagues.
Ethics: It is paramount to assess the ethical value of whistleblowing as a prerequisite to determining whether to report a misconduct by former or current employer–or not. The severity of the wrongdoing plays pivotal influence in an individual’s ethical judgment. One can rightly conclude that the more unethical and the higher the level of seriousness of the wrongdoing observed, the more likelihood a judgment is tilted to favour ethical values of whistleblowing.
In conclusion, individuals can decide to forget blowing the whistle after conducting a cost-benefit analysis (such as retaliation) if the perpetrator of the wrongdoing is high-ranking in the organisation. Also, if the organisation in question does not cater for dissent or make any provision to protect employees in such circumstance, many observers will most likely overlook wrongdoings.
*Irobiko Chimezie Kingsley