A Global Approach to Public Interest Disclosure
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A Global Approach to Public Interest Disclosure

What Can We Learn from Existing Whistleblowing Legislation and Research?

Edited by David B. Lewis

This timely and important book assesses the impact of legislation on public interest disclosures internationally, as well as setting an agenda for future research on whistleblowing.
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Chapter 6: When do Observers of Organizational Wrongdoing Step Up? Recent US Research on the Factors Associated with Whistleblowing

Marcia P. Miceli and Janet P. Near


Professors Marcia P. Miceli and Janet P. Near1 Whistleblowing – organization members’ disclosure of perceived organizational wrongdoing to parties thought to be able to stop it – frequently is in the headlines (Frey, 2002). During 1989–95, 30 major newspapers published over 1000 articles on the uncovering of wrongdoing (Brewer, 1996). Since then, countless others have appeared, often describing negative consequences of organizational wrongdoing. For example, annual costs of corruption – just one type of organizational wrongdoing – have been estimated at $1 trillion (The World Bank, 2004). More importantly, wrongdoing often jeopardizes the safety, health, and well-being of organization members, customers, and entire societies. Because large organizations are so complex, current or former workers are the best source of information about wrongdoing (Miethe, 1999). In a PriceWaterhouseCoopers survey of more than 5000 corporations worldwide, whistleblowers were viewed as the most effective means for the initial detection of corporate fraud – better even than internal auditors and law enforcement (Government Accountability Project, 2009). Therefore, societies must better understand what happens when organizational members encounter possible wrongdoing and find mechanisms for encouraging whistleblowing. After nearly 30 years of empirical research about whistleblowing, we have learned quite a lot about why people blow the whistle when they encounter wrongdoing. Many research findings are counterintuitive to the common wisdom propagated in the popular press, perpetuating a mythology that can be problematic for scholars, practitioners and policy-makers who want to reduce wrongdoing and encourage valid whistleblowing. They include: 74 Observers of organizational wrongdoing 75 1. 2. 3. 4. 5....

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