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 10: Whistleblowers and suffering

Rodney Smith


Suffering has long preoccupied practitioners, commentators and academics concerned with whistleblowing. Advocacy groups and professional associations have pressed for whistleblower suffering to be recognized and addressed (Borrie 1996; Vandekerckhove and Lewis 2012). Whistleblowing laws typically include provisions that outlaw mistreatment of whistleblowers and offer redress for those whistleblowers who do suffer (Miceli and Near 1992: ch. 6; Brown, Latimer, McMillan and Wheeler 2008). These provisions are elaborated throughout numerous organizational policies, procedures and codes of ethics in both the public and private sectors (see Lewis 2006; Hassink et al. 2007; Brown and Olsen 2008b; Moberly and Wylie 2011). Despite these efforts to prevent whistleblower suffering, a very common view among academics and other public commentators is that whistleblowers will typically lose much in their commitment to reporting wrongdoing. Their careers, incomes, health, homes and relationships are all likely to be negatively affected. One scholar summarizes their fate as follows: ‘Reviled by management and shunned by co-workers, whistleblowers face a lonely existence’ (Culp 1995: 112–13). For another, whistleblowers ‘risk obliteration’ (Alford 2001: 4).The association between whistleblowers and suffering is so strong among some commentators that they see them as inseparable. William De Maria (1994: 12), for example, has argued that ‘one must actually suffer reprisal to earn the title whistleblower’. The ‘non-suffering’ whistleblower is ‘a contradiction in terms’ (De Maria 1999: 25). In other cases, researchers acknowledge that some whistleblowers do not suffer, but they focus exclusively on those that do (see, for example, Martin and Rifkin 2004: 227; Mansbach 2011: 14–15).

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