Voice and Whistleblowing in Organizations
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Voice and Whistleblowing in Organizations

Overcoming Fear, Fostering Courage and Unleashing Candour

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.
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Chapter 14: Fostering courage in individuals: basic directions and cautions

Overcoming Fear, Fostering Courage and Unleashing Candour

Cynthia Pury


About ten years ago, I was asked to teach a seminar on “Fear and Horror”. Wanting to end the class on a hopeful note, I assembled readings on ways to overcome irrational fear when risks are overestimated, ways to make the environment safer when risks are high and properly estimated, and ways to cope courageously when risks are high but cannot be reduced. The first task was simple: psychology and other behavioral sciences have excelled at producing interventions to treat anxiety disorders. Cognitive behavioral approaches in particular appear to constitute an effective treatment to reduce excessive fear and avoidance (e.g., Olatunji et al., 2010). The second task, describing ways in which society and organizations can reduce actual risks faced by individuals, was a bit broader. The depth of research depends a great deal on which particular risk is being addressed; however, entire governmental agencies are devoted to studying and reducing risk in certain areas of life (e.g., the US National Transportation Safety Board, the US Food and Drug Administration, etc.). But what about courage? To my surprise, psychology and other behavioral sciences had almost nothing to say about how someone might increase their courage. Indeed, they had very little to say about courage at all.

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