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 8: Reporting versus inaction: How much is there, what explains the differences and what to measure

Jane Olsen


Informed by the important but occasional cases that grab the attention of the media, whistleblowing is often painted as rare – and the employee who does so as extraordinary. This chapter seeks to more fully describe the level of whistleblowing in response to observed wrongdoing in organizations. Drawing on empirical research, it shows the customary notion that whistleblowing is a rare activity to be largely untrue. In doing so, it confirms research demonstrating the importance of whistleblowing and the critical role it has played worldwide in exposing wrongdoing in or by organizations. As explained in Chapter 1, reporting by employees – often in the best position to observe, witness or otherwise know what is occurring in organizations – is often the most common way in which wrongdoing is brought to light (e.g., ACFE 2012; Brown, Mazurski and Olsen 2008; KPMG 2010; Miethe 1999). This chapter begins by synthesizing what we know from the considerable array of international literature concerning how much whistleblowing occurs. It overviews the research methods used to estimate the level of reporting by employees, as well as their limitations. The chapter seeks to reconcile findings and provide a better context for these estimates, derived from large-scale surveys of employees about the proportion of employees who say they have observed wrongdoing and the proportion of those observers who indicate they went on to blow the whistle.

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