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Whistleblowers in Organisations: Prophets at Work?

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  • Stephanos Avakian

    ()

  • Joanne Roberts

    ()

Abstract

This article argues that the study of biblical prophets offers a profound contribution to understanding the experience, role and attributes of whistleblowers. Little is known in the literature about the moral triggers that lead individuals to blow the whistle in organisations or why whistleblowers may show persistence against the harshness experienced as a result of their actions. This article argues that our understanding of the whistleblower’s work is highly informed by appreciating how moral values and norms are exercised by prophets in seeking to become agents for change. This article identifies three core implications that have practical and theoretical relevance. The first concerns how the whistleblowing activity challenges the established order of an organisation as this is comprised of institutional structures, policies and procedures. Institutions display an unusual fragility against the seemingly powerless individual who helps reveal the wrongdoing. By disclosing ‘hidden’ knowledge concerning illegitimate intentions and actions, the seemingly powerless individual creates tension that has implications for the stability and order of the organisation. The second implication concerns the degree of social concern and the individual’s interpretation of morality. Whistleblowers, like prophets, display concern for moral values that have implications for the welfare of others, and which they seek to promote through their whistleblowing act. The third implication concerns the importance of agency. By taking a moral stance, the whistleblower assumes an important agentic role facilitating change through his/her intervention. Although such change is sudden and unpredictable it brings about new conditions for the organisation and its members. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s10551-011-1148-7
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Journal of Business Ethics.

Volume (Year): 110 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 (September)
Pages: 71-84

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Handle: RePEc:kap:jbuset:v:110:y:2012:i:1:p:71-84

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Web page: http://www.springerlink.com/link.asp?id=100281

Related research

Keywords: Agency; Ethics; Moral values; Prophets; Religion; Theology; Whistleblowers;

References

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  1. Rees, Ray, 1985. "The Theory of Principal and Agent: Part 2," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(2), pages 75-95, May.
  2. Hayne E. Leland., 1998. "Agency Costs, Risk Management, and Capital Structure," Research Program in Finance Working Papers RPF-278, University of California at Berkeley.
  3. Thomas Carson & Mary Verdu & Richard Wokutch, 2008. "Whistle-Blowing for Profit: An Ethical Analysis of the Federal False Claims Act," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 77(3), pages 361-376, February.
  4. Paul M. Healy & Krishna G. Palepu, 2003. "The Fall of Enron," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(2), pages 3-26, Spring.
  5. Rees, Ray, 1985. "The Theory of Principal and Agent: Part 1," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(1), pages 3-26, January.
  6. Hayden Teo & Donella Caspersz, 2011. "Dissenting Discourse: Exploring Alternatives to the Whistleblowing/Silence Dichotomy," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 104(2), pages 237-249, December.
  7. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
  8. Fama, Eugene F & Jensen, Michael C, 1983. "Agency Problems and Residual Claims," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(2), pages 327-49, June.
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Cited by:
  1. Jamie-Lee Campbell & Anja Göritz, 2014. "Culture Corrupts! A Qualitative Study of Organizational Culture in Corrupt Organizations," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 120(3), pages 291-311, March.

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