International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research
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International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research

Edited by A. J. Brown, David Lewis, Richard E. Moberly and Wim Vandekerckhove

In the modern age of institutions, whistleblowing is now established as one of the most important processes – if not the single most important process – by which governments and corporations are kept accountable to the societies they are meant to serve. This essential Handbook provides researchers and policy makers from around the world with a comprehensive overview of the state of our knowledge regarding this vital process. In addition to drawing from the last 30 years of progressively more systematic research into whistleblowing, it also provides cutting-edge analysis of the conceptual and practical challenges that researchers will want to confront in the next decade.
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Chapter 4: Wrongdoing: Definitions, identification and categorizations

Marit Skivenes and Sissel C. Trygstad


This chapter discusses the many aspects and dimensions of organizational wrongdoing that underpin and give rise to whistleblowing processes. Our aim is to examine the conceptual understanding of acts of wrongdoing and the factors that may influence perceptions of the distinction between acts of wrongdoing and non-wrongdoing by organization members: employees, managers, board members, workers and so forth. For simplicity, we include in the term ‘wrongdoing’ concepts such as ‘misconduct’, and behavior, whether it be ‘illegal’, ‘illegitimate’ or ‘immoral’. Consider the following situation: an employee observes what she believes is the harassment of another employee. Should she report this event? This depends on the context of the organization, society, sector, industry and country in which the worker is embedded. It is impossible to identify all conceivable organizational wrongdoings, but we can attempt to identify the main structural dimensions and factors that determine whether an action within an organization is considered ‘wrongdoing’ with regard to a potential whistleblowing process. There is a set of variables at the individual and contextual levels that may impact considerations of whether an event involves wrongdoing, what can rightfully be reported and what is protected. Such variables include legislation, the labor market model and country context, local and global norms, the type of organization, the role and obligations of organizational members and so forth. All legislation that sets standards for illegal and legal actions is important to the definition and understanding of wrongdoing in an organization.

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