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 9: Motivations for whistleblowing: Personal, private and public interests

Peter Roberts


In the popular understanding of whistleblowing, motivation is a key component of the narrative. The stereotypical whistleblower is a person who is motivated by a strong belief that wrongdoing has occurred and that it needs to be corrected. However, the precise role that motivation plays in the whistleblowing process is more complex. Motivation, for the purposes of this chapter, is dealt with as the driving force which causes employees to come forward and report wrongdoing. The definition of whistleblowing is one that has been commonly used in the research literature: ‘the disclosure by organization members (former or current) of illegal, immoral, or illegitimate practices under the control of their employers, to persons or organizations that may be able to effect action’ (Near and Miceli 1985: 4). This chapter investigates where motivation is located within the whistleblowing research landscape and attempts a typology of motivation as it relates to whistleblowing. The broad categorization of motivation for whistleblowing into altruistic and self-interest reasons is proposed as a mechanism for describing and analyzing these motivations, notwithstanding that there is overlap between these categories and whistleblowers can simultaneously express motivations in both categories. Altruistic motivations for whistleblowing are further analyzed and described, with the observation that whistleblowers motivated for altruistic reasons frequently use the nature of the issue being reported as a proxy for their motivation. Bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment, are commonly reported in the category of whistleblowers motivated by self-interest.

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