Janet P. Near and Marcia P. Miceli

in Management

ISBN: 9780199846740
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:


Whistle-blowers have been widely discussed in the popular press and by scholars in a variety of academic fields. This article cannot cover all books and articles on the topic. Instead, it highlights articles that focus primarily on whistle-blowing and are published in scholarly journals in the social sciences, management, and law. Not included are articles offering broader theory and empirical research that may be related to whistle-blowing and to related behaviors, such as organizational citizenship, various types of ethical or unethical behavior, corporate social responsibility, or voice behaviors other than whistle-blowing. As described in some of the cited research, there are usually multiple steps involved in whistle-blowing. An employee observes what he or she considers to be wrongdoing in his or her organization, he or she reports it to someone, and the organization responds, perhaps followed by additional responses from the employee and the organization. Researchers have debated the definition of whistle-blowing, but most empirical research has defined whistle-blowing as 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, p. 4; cited under Conceptual or Review Articles on Antecedents). Philosophers, business scholars, social scientists, and legal scholars have explored the topic, producing an eclectic mix of sources. First identified are books that range from discussions of results of empirical research to more qualitative or anecdotal analyses of whistle-blowers’ experiences. Next, articles are listed that review the literature or provide conceptual models of the whistle-blowing experience, particularly the question of when and how employees decide to blow the whistle. Next, empirical studies are classified into categories based on the steps in the whistle-blowing process—specifically, predictors of who blows the whistle; predictors of which whistle-blowers suffer retaliation; and predictors of whether the whistle-blowing is effective in changing the organization’s actions, so that it desists from wrongdoing. Finally, some published articles are described that explore legal structures and their effects both on whistle-blowers and their organizations. The books and articles will make clear that scholarly research has approached the topic of whistle-blowing from many different perspectives, and findings often differ from the picture of whistle-blowers promulgated by the popular media. The authors of this article wish to thank Sean Donigan for his assistance and the Coleman Chair Fund for supporting this research.

Article.  10101 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management

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