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Whistleblowing: Types and Justifications


Whistleblowing is the act of an attempt by an employee or former employee to confess the malpractice or iniquity in or by an organisation. Nowadays, many companies have produced their own policies on “whistleblowing” due to the presence of informers, snitches and sources who may disclose vital information for their own benefit or as an act of revenge towards the corporation they were previously part of.  According to the UK government website, any wrong doing a whistle-blower discloses must be in the public interest. Which means it must affect others, e.g. the general public. Companies or organisation treating an employee differently or threat of losing the current job is prohibited as they will be protected by law. Concern for this matter can be raised at any time whether the incident has happened in the past, is happening now, or will happen in the future. In some occasional time it may look that raising a concern may be difficult. Employees are the people who initially catch sight of a problem and can resolve it if they feel safety in reporting it. They should also address any potential risks fraud, health and safety risk, corruption and any other such issues not only because of their own safety but also to prevent others being involve in such risk and contingency.

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Types of whistleblowing

Whistleblowing action can be external, internal, personal and impersonal. It is internal when the whistle-blower discover misconduct in the workplace and communicate to people higher up in the organization who then follows established procedures to address the misconduct within the organization. External whistle-blowers are employees who discover corporate misconduct and choose to bring it to the attention of external parties, such as law enforcement agencies or the media. (Weiss, 2006).  Effectiveness of whistleblowing likely varies, along with processes of retaliation, depending on whether whistleblowing is internal or external (Terry Dworkin, 1998). An employee’s occupation in the organization likely impacts his or her choice of internal versus external channels for reporting wrong doing.

New employers are more likely to come out as a whistle-blowers in most of the organisations. During their work period they are less familiar with the appropriate channels and the environment of the organisation which they are working for (Miceli and Near, 1992). Less information on the firm’s goal is disclosed to them in order for them to blow the whistle internally. Comparatively new employees may rely on external reporting channels because they identify themselves to be organizationally powerless. They may have contributed less in the organization, and be less concerned with stopping wrong doing in the way least harmful to the organization (Kolarska and Aldrich, 1980). They have less to lose because of their shorter tenure. Conversely, employees with longer contract in their organisation are more likely to feel some loyalty, leading them to use internal channels to report wrong doing.

Justification on Whistleblowing

The act of whistleblowing is not something to be done without any suitable or acceptable justification. When blowing the whistle, consideration and certain approaches are to be taken in which whistle-blowing is morally justified. There are often personal obligations to family and others that may caught in an act against whistleblowing. One could be in the situation where blowing the whistle could result in job loss. However, the situation may take an unfortunate event and permanently blacklist an individual in his career, the sacrifice may become more than one’s basic moral obligations require. (Schinzinger and Martin, 2000)

As a professional body, whistleblowing is morally honest and legal way to bring out the wrong doing in an organisation whether if they are big or small. It is important to explain that every employee has a role in preventing and detecting any wrong doings. However employees should consider or consult all the alternatives and choices before blowing the whistle. The moral justification is enforced if the whistle-blower has all relevant evidences and an understanding of any consequences. Their responsibility in view of their role within the organization should be clear. One should make sure that they have followed and apprehend the established procedures for whistleblowing, also that the repercussion that may cause inconveniences to other individuals. Whistle-blower’s responsibility in view of their role within the organization should be clear and should provide strong evidence that can convince an impartial observer.

It is also recommended that employers develop an internal complaint system in which employees can report wrong doing. They may also credit employees for using the appropriate medium to investigate all wrong doings through superior in an organisation. Although whistleblowing may be anonymous, if it is to be effective it frequently requires not only that the whistle-blower reveal his or her identity, but also that he or she seek ways of publicizing the wrong doing. Because this may make the whistle-blower appear a self-appointed messiah, it prevents some people from speaking out. Detailed investigations may be more difficult, or even impossible, to progress if one choose to remain anonymous and cannot be contacted for further information. In a journal by Kroll and Egan, 2004, stated that to motivate an individual with a desire to do right, not wrong, the essential key is moral emotion. They also signifies that serving as a potential gateway from good intentions to good actions, much of the research in this domain has focused on negative valence and self-conscious emotions, such as, guilt and shame (Kroll & Egan, 2004).

The results from the above discussions support hypothesis that internal whistle-blowers were usually ineffective whistle-blowers, while external whistle-blowers often initiated investigations, helpful actions or other changes by the organization. Most ethicists agree whistleblowing is an ethical action. According to the Michael Davis, 1996 on whistleblowing, whistleblowing is morally required when it is required at all. Engineer have a moral obligation to prevent serious harm to others if they can do so with little costs to themselves.

In every organisations or corporation from government organisations to business establishments around the world whistleblowing has become a very important followed procedure. There has been heroic whistle-blowers world over. Ernest Fitzgerald and the C-5A, and Edward Snowden are few whistle-blowers who came forward with what they though was a right approach to take.

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Ernest Fitzgerald and the C-5A:

On November 13, 1968, Fitzgerald appeared before Senator William Proxmire’s Subcommittee on Economy in Government concerning C-5A. He testified that cost-overruns on the CA transport plane could approximate $2 billion over the period of 2years. For the reason that a giant cargo plane being built by Lockheed Aircraft Corporation for the Air Force. He also revealed that unexpected technical difficulties had arisen during the development of the aircraft. He was pressured not to discuss the extent of the C-5A over- Responsibilities runs before Senator Proxmire’s committee.  [Schinzinger and Martin 2000]

After the allegation Fitzgerald’s job was being eliminated by the Department of Defence. Not until 4years of numerous court battle before federal courts, he finally won an injunction and was given order to the Air Force to rehire him for his formal position in 1981.

Edward Snowden:

In the early June 2013, it was published that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans. The whistle-blower Edward Snowden who used to be a former contractor for the CIA leaked the information to the media about unauthorised phone and internet surveillance by American Intelligence before he left the US soil and taking temporary asylum in Russia (BBC, 2014). Still in exile, Snowden remained a polarizing figure.


There is no denying the fact that whistle-blowers do a great service to the society at their great risk and cost, even at the loss of life. Any individual can raise concerns about any issue relating to suspected misconduct at work place, risk to any employees, abuse or wrong doing. If they have a reasonable certainty that the problem has taken place, is taking place or will presumably take place in the future. Employee may have doubt or may be frightened to raise a concern even when legal protection exists. Employees can be advised to raise a concern openly, confidentially or anonymously.

They should be made aware of certain solution as to raise any concern as early as possible no matter how big the suspicion maybe, this allows the matter to be looked into promptly. Employers in any company are thought to be responsible for their actions and one way to do so is to encourage whistleblowing if wrong doing is witnessed. In conclusion, whistleblowing is an essential practice in any organisation which is very vital for them to protect from fraud, corruption and wrong doing.


  • Weiss, W. Joseph. 2006. Business Ethics: A Stakeholder and Issues Management Approach, 4th Edition, Thomson South-Western.
  • UK government website, 2017. Whistleblowing for employees. [Online]. [Accessed 16 Nov 2017]. Available from: [https://www.gov.uk/whistleblowing]
  • Terry Morehead Dworkin, Melissa S. Baucus, 1998. Internal vs. External Whistle-blowers: A Comparison of Whistleblowering Processes. Journal of Business Ethics, Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Miceli, M. P., & Near, J. P. 1992. Blowing the whistle: the organizational and legal implications for companies and employees. New York, Lexington Books. (pg. 117)
  • Schinzinger and Martin Introduction to Engineering Ethics, (McGrah-Hill 2000), the section on whistleblowing in chapter 5 (pages 167-181.)
  • BBC News. 2014. Edward Snowden: Leaks that exposed US spy programme. [Online]. [Accessed 16 Nov 2017]. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23123964
  • Kroll, J. and Egan, E. (2004). Psychiatry, Moral Worry, and the Moral Emotions. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 10(6), pp.352-360.
  • Michael Davis, 1996. “Some Paradoxes of Whistleblowing.” Business & Professional Ethics Journal


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