What Can We Learn from Existing Whistleblowing Legislation and Research?
Edited by David B. Lewis
Chapter 9: ‘Whistle While You Work’: Lessons to be Learned from the Pan-Australian Research
Professor Paul Mazerolle and Dr Peter Cassematis INTRODUCTION Whistleblowers occupy a conflicted place in both organizations and popular culture. On the one hand, some whistleblowers are hailed in the media and popular culture as fundamental saviours of organizational integrity and are often depicted as lone wolves standing against an amoral cast of organizational scallywags. In this scenario, whistleblowers are motivated by interests of fairness, justice and ethics. Such depictions of whistleblowers as moral crusaders are well represented in movies such as The Insider and Silkwood. In contrast, a routine discussion with public sector managers can paint a fundamentally different picture of the typical employee who blows the whistle. Phrases such as troublemaker, zealot, out of touch and underperforming are not uncommon descriptors provided by managers. How could such opposing descriptions of whistleblowers exist? Absent reliable and valid empirical data on the prevalence, incidence and related characteristics of whistleblowing incidents across public sector organizations, one must rely upon anecdotes and speculation, thus leading to such widely varying perceptions. Increasing concern over the need to better understand the nature and extent of public sector whistleblowing as well as identifying key learnings are some of the motivating factors behind the planning and development of a large-scale study into public sector whistleblowing in Australia. Whilst this study is significant for many reasons, in the current context it provides an opportunity to examine and assess how whistleblowers in the public sector differ from other employees who have similarly observed wrongdoing yet chose not to report....
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