Voice and Whistleblowing in Organizations

Voice and Whistleblowing in Organizations

Overcoming Fear, Fostering Courage and Unleashing Candour

New Horizons in Management series

Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper

This book examines the decision to speak out in organizations or to keep silent, the roles of fear and courage, and why increasing valid information and truth is central to individual and organizational health. Employees in organizations face countless daily situations in which they make a choice to speak up, exercise voice, or remain silent. Too many choose to remain silent. Others only tell supervisors what they want to hear, becoming ‘yes’ men and women. Expressing one’s voice increases individual health and well-being and enhances learning, quality and timeliness of decision making, work engagement, and ultimately team and organizational success. This volume, containing chapters by international researchers, examines the causes and consequences of exercising voice and ways individuals and organizations can support voice in the workplace.

Chapter 4: Stakeholder voice, corporate dysfunction and change: an organizational learning perspective

William D. Schneper, David A. Wernick and Mary Ann Von Glinow

Subjects: business and management, human resource management, organisational behaviour


In recent years, stakeholder theory (Freeman, 1984) has taken center stage in research on organizations and society (Laplume et al., 2008). According to Freeman’s (1984: 46) classic definition, stakeholders are “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objectives”. One of the primary insights of stakeholder theory is that the business corporation can be meaningfully understood by examining its relationships with the various parties that have a stake in the firm’s activities and outcomes (Parmar et al., 2010). The idea of the stake holder is also intimately linked to Hirschman’s (1970) conception of voice, which represents one of the most basic ways stakeholders can exert influence. Hirschman (1970: 30) defined voice as “any attempt at all to change rather than escape from an objectionable state of affairs.” More recently, Detert and Burris (2007) described voice as “the discretionary provision of information intended to improve organizational functioning to someone inside an organization with the perceived authority to act.”

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