This paper summarizes and analyzes a recent study that uses data collected from sampled employees of the Kenya Public Service to investigate the evidence of perceived retaliation against internal whistleblowers in public organizations. The study uses the power relations theory and assumes that (1) perceived retaliation against whistleblowers is related to whistleblower psychological power, seriousness of wrongdoing, position of a wrongdoer, shift in jobs by whistleblowers and management support to whistleblower, (2) whistleblower psychological power is likely to relate to the seriousness of wrongdoing, position of the wrongdoer, and management support to the whistleblower, and (3) shift in jobs by whistleblowers is likely to relate to the position of wrongdoer and seriousness of wrongdoing (Mawanga, 2014).
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A major finding of the study is that whistleblower psychological power is positively correlated to the position of the offender or fraudster in the organization, the gravity of the fraudulent act, as well as senior management’s support to whistleblowers; however, the study finds no evidence to support the assumption that that shifting careers by whistleblowers are positively correlated to the high positions of fraudsters, gravity or significance of fraudulent acts, and lack of top-level support to whistleblowers. Additionally, the study finds that (1) wrongdoers are at all levels of management, (2) whistleblowers with high psychological power are more likely to report serious wrongdoing or wrongdoing by highly positioned employees than those with low power, (3) strong management support to whistleblowers discourages the whistleblowers from changing jobs as they feel recognized and rewarded by the organization, (4) young employees with a proper educational background often fail to report instances of wrongdoing due to fears over career advancement and promotion, hence enhancing the likelihood of serious wrongdoing in the future, and (5) predictors of perceived retaliation against whistleblowers include the seriousness of wrongdoing, whistleblower psychological power, and management support to the whistleblower (Mawanga, 2014).
In retrospect, it is evident from the study findings that perceived retaliation against internal whistleblowers is most often associated with the strategic decisions made by organizations as they attempt to sustain competitive advantage. For example, many organizations fail to empower young employees and instead prefer to recognize and reward employees who have stayed in the organization for a long time (MacGregor, Robinson, & Stuebs, 2014). Such a strategic decision, though good in intentions, serves to curtail the psychological power of these employees, particularly in reporting serious wrongdoing.
Additionally, it is evident that a lack of management support at the organizational level not only enhances serious wrongdoing but also encourages retaliation against internal whistleblowers. This view is reinforced by Lee & Kleiner (2011), who argue that lack of management support represents the most important factor why employees fail to report organizational fraud even after having prior knowledge of serious wrongdoing. As demonstrated by Mawanga (2014), senior managers need to support internal whistleblowers in preventing those in high positions from engaging in wrongdoing and also in providing whistleblowers with a high psychological power needed to report wrongdoing without fear of reprisals. Lastly, organizations should desist from implementing strategic decisions that facilitate institutional protectionism of wrongdoing and encourage psychological segregation of internal whistleblowers because such practices often dampen the urge by employees to report serious wrongdoing.
Drawing from the summary and critical reflection, it is recommended that:
- Organizations should internalize employee recognition and reward programs irrespective of the number of years served by employees in order to encourage internal whistleblowing;
- Senior managers should provide employees with support and enhance their psychological power to report serious wrongdoing, and;
- Institutional protectionism of wrongdoers and retaliatory practices targeted at internal whistleblowers (e.g., psychological segregation, name-calling, termination of services, and denying access to institutional resources) should be avoided at all costs.
Lee, K., & Kleiner, B. (2011). Whistleblower retaliation in the public sector. Public Personnel Management, 40(4), 341-348.
MacGregor, J., Robinson, M., & Stuebs, M. (2014). Creating an effective whistleblowing environment. Strategic Finance, 96(3), 35-40.
Mawanga, F. (2014). Perceived retaliation against internal whistleblowers: Evidence from public institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa. Electronic Journal of Business Ethics and Organizational Studies, 19(1), 19-26.