27 November 2008

RESEARCH - Bullying at work 2008: The experience of managers

Bullying at work 2008: The experience of managers (November 2008)
A follow-up investigation into 'Bullying as experienced by managers at all levels'

 November 2008
Authors: Patrick Woodman and Dr. Vidal Kumar
ISBN: 0-85946-486-5

Bullying in the workplace is a serious problem for employers. It can have a devastating effect on the individuals involved and impacts on those around them, affecting employee wellbeing, organisational productivity and costs.

Building on research published in 2005, this report further explores the impact of bullying upon managers. It assesses the extent to which managers, as individuals, have been bullied; the types of bullying that they observe in their organisations; and how effective policies can be used to support managers in tackling the problem.
Key findings include:
  • 70 per cent of managers have witnessed instances of bullying in the past 3 years
  • incidents are not just ‘top down’: 63 per cent of respondents observing bullying between peers and 30 per cent witnessing subordinates bullying their manager
  • 42 per cent of managers report having been bullied themselves
  • of those experiencing bullying, more than 1 in 3 (38 per cent) report that no action was taken by their organisation.
The report is based on self-completion questionnaires from 867 managers and leaders across the private, public and voluntary sectors.

Also available : Bullying In The Workplace : Guidance for Managers

24 November 2008

COMMENTARY - Significant damages payout plus costs for sexual harassment claim

Key Points:

Anti-discrimination tribunals and courts are beginning to order more generous payouts

Anti-discrimination tribunals are increasingly prepared to order generous awards for damages.

In the recent decision of Tan v Xenos (No 3) (Anti-Discrimination) [2008] VCAT 584 the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) found that Dr Chris Xenos had sexually harassed Dr Caroline Tan in breach of anti-discrimination legislation. Dr Tan was awarded $100,000 in damages, considered significant in this jurisdiction.

In the associated ruling of Tan v Xenos (Anti-Discrimination) [2008] VCAT 1273, VCAT also ordered the Dr Xenos to pay some of the costs Dr Tan incurred in the lengthy proceedings.


As part of her training to be a neurosurgeon, Dr Tan was employed as a neurosurgical registrar at the Monash Medical Centre. From early August 2004, she moved into a surgical team led by Dr Xenos.

In December 2004, Dr Xenos started inviting Dr Tan to his private rooms. On 15 February 2005, Dr Tan accepted such an invitation. At this meeting, Dr Tan alleged that Dr Xenos sexually harassed her by embracing her, kissing her on the lips, putting his hand down her breast, pinning her against the table, exposing himself and asking her to perform a particular sexual act.

Dr Tan lodged a complaint with the Human Resources Department of the Medical Centre in early 2006. She also made a number of less formal complaints to some of her colleagues after the incident. Eventually, she lodged a complaint in VCAT. Dr Xenos denied the incident took place.


Under section 87 of the Equal Opportunity Act 1985 (Vic) a person must not sexually harass another person at a location that is a workplace for both of them. Sexual harassment includes making an unwelcome sexual advance or engaging in unwelcome conduct that is of a sexual nature.

Judge Harbison concluded that it was more probable than not that the alleged incident took place. The evidence, including that of Dr Tan making a number of complaints following the incident, was consistent with the complaint. It was not consistent with Dr Xenos' submission that the story had been fabricated because of Dr Tan's unsatisfactory performance as a neurosurgeon and her knowledge of likely failure in her training.

In the result, VCAT awarded substantial general damages in the amount of $100,000. The damages award reflected on a financial basis the hurt that Dr Xenos' act caused Dr Tan. VCAT also disavowed the notion that damages awards in the anti-discrimination jurisdiction should be lower than those awarded in comparable cases in other courts.

While there was no medical evidence as to how the incident had affected Dr Tan, Judge Harbison found that Dr Tan had "suffered acutely", was "terribly affected" by the harassment and had reacted, "unusually severe(ly)" to it "as a gross violation of her body and… trust". What is more, while Judge Harbison considered the incident was not the "worst one (could) imagine", Dr Xenos was in a powerful position in which he had "great influence" over Dr Tan's future career and qualification. she also found Dr Xenos had "deliberately and falsely denied the harassment" and sought to impugn Dr Tan's character. She noted that Dr Tan's capacity to enjoy her profession would be "significantly tarnished".

In addition to the significant damages award, Dr Xenos was ordered to pay one-third of Dr Tan's taxed costs.

VCAT can make costs orders when it is fair to do so, based on the consideration of a number of factors. In this case, costs were awarded because the hearing had been "unnecessarily lengthened". Many days had been spent on hearing evidence of Dr Tan's professional capabilities, introduced to support Dr Xenos' claim that the complaint was fabricated - a claim found to be unsubstantiated.


Damages awards in sexual harassment matters have by and large been fairly modest and contained. However, in recent times there has been an emerging trend of anti-discrimination tribunals and courts ordering more generous payouts.

In light of this decision in Tan and other like cases that are expanding the range of damages available in this jurisdiction, it is important that employers remain vigilant in preventing and addressing sexual harassment claims.

The policies and procedures of an employer need to, in a practical and real sense, be understood and adopted by staff from the top down. This means that those who are accountable within the organisation need to know how to identify when there is an issue (whatever the level of severity of the conduct) and understand what action should be taken in the circumstances. To that end, due diligence should be exercised regardless of the rank, seniority and standing of the person complained of. A failure to do so puts an organisation at significant potential risk.


22 November 2008

RESEARCH - Review of Literature on Whistleblowing

1.2.4 Review of Literature on Whistleblowing

2.0 Review of Literature on Whistleblowing
There are two central problems in designing and implementing policies and programs to promote whistleblowing against corruption. The first is how to encourage the "silent majority" of public officials and employees to report a wrongdoing despite the risks. The second is how make whistleblowing effective in creating desired changes in individual, organizational and societal practices. This chapter reviews the theories and practices in whistleblowing to generate insights on these two central problems in whistleblowing.
2.1. Encouraging whistleblowing
Whistleblowing among employees appears to be a rare behavior especially in societies and organizations that do not encourage it as a policy. Impediments to whistleblowing against certain wrongdoings include threats to professional careers and physical security, social ostracism, absence or ineffective legal framework, the lack of evidence, absence of clear procedures on whistleblowing, and the perception that nothing will be done about a reported wrongdoing. Identifying and understanding the factors that deter whistleblowing among individuals offer valuable insights on how to design appropriate and effective whistleblowing policies.
2.1.1 Benefits of whistleblowing
Some authors contend that whistleblowing is ineffective in creating change. For example, Near and Miceli (1995:703) assert that whistleblowing, sometimes, benefits no one and harms many, including the whistleblower who may suffer retaliation. They warn that whistleblowing should not be resorted unless the desired outcomes will be realized.
For all the controversy that it generates, whistleblowing actually produces benefits for organizations and societies. These benefits, however, are mostly left unappreciated in the heat of controversies surrounding many whistleblowing incidents.
Nonetheless, several studies have documented the benefits of whistleblowing. For example, in a survey of federal employees in the United States, Jos, Tompkins, and Hays (1989) reported that whistleblowing resulted in policy, procedural, and personnel changes (Table 11). The authors also noted that whistleblowing led to internal and congressional investigations that ultimately resulted in the criminal indictment and conviction of perpetrators of wrongdoing.
Table 11
Reported effects of whistleblower actions on the organization

Percentage of survey respondents
Total reporting changes within organization
Managerial changes
People transferred/replaced/not reappointed
Personnel practices
Departmental reorganization
Safety improvements made
Policies changed
External Investigations
Outside Agency (FBI, EPA, NRC)
Congressional hearings/investigations held
Criminal investigation
Indictments resulted
Convictions obtained

Source: Jos, Philip. H., Mark Tompkins, and Steven Hays.1989. "In Praise of Difficult People: A Portrait
Of the Committed Whistleblower". Public Administration Review, Nov/Dec.1989; 49, 6; Academic Research
Library, p. 555
Johnson and Kraft (1990) provide an assessment framework for looking at the concrete benefits of whistleblowing (Table 12). Exploring several case studies on whistleblowing incidents in the United States, they concluded that whistleblowing led to : 1) certain changes in the government's policy agenda, 2) some substantive changes in public policies, and 3) changes in bureaucratic and organizational procedures.1 These accounts validate the benefits of whistleblowing as an instrument to bring about certain changes in organizations and the society.
Table 12
Measures for assessing whistleblowing policy impact

Changes in policy agenda

  • How did the policy agenda change in terms policymaker's attention to the problem?

  • How seriously did the policymakers consider the various policy alternatives to address the problem?
Changes in bureaucratic procedures

  • What impact did whistleblowing have on the conditions of the agency?

  • Were there changes in organizational resources, personnel procedures, rules and regulations and the way they were implemented?
Changes in the substance of public policy

  • How was substantive public policy affected, as indicated, for example by public pronouncements or by legislative efforts to formulate or adopt new policies or to clarify existing policy?

Source: Adapted from Johnson and Kraft (1990)
The Criminal Justice Commission of Queensland (Australia) enumerates some of the most important societal benefits of whistleblowing against corruption and other forms of wrongdoing. 2 It asserts that whistleblowing protects and promotes the public good by

  • stopping wrongdoings;

  • stopping other people from being disadvantaged by the wrongdoing;

  • preventing danger to the health and safety of the people;

  • preventing serious damage to the environment;

  • creating an opportunity to put better work procedures into practice which can prevent wrongdoing in the future;

  • bringing to justice the people responsible for wrongdoing.
The Criminal Justice Commission also provides the following organizational benefits of whistleblowing:

  • early identification of conduct needing correction;

  • early identification of weak or flawed systems which make the organization vulnerable to loss, criticism, or legal action;

  • avoidance of substantial financial losses;

  • maintenance of a positive corporate reputation;

  • elimination of a risk to the health and safety of the employees
or the community;

  • maintenance of a positive record on environmental protection;

  • improved focus on accountability of managers and staff.
2.1.2 Personal costs and other key factors affecting whistleblowing
Some scholars have attempted to provide a framework to analyze the various factors that affect or influence an individual's whistleblowing decision or behavior. Schultz et al. (1993), for example, examined the propensity of corporate managers and professionals to report questionable acts in both the domestic and international settings.3 Figure 4 shows their whistleblowing model, which proposes that the chances of actual whistleblowing decline as the perceived personal cost of whistleblowing goes higher, and increase with the perceived seriousness of an issue and the attribution of personal responsibility to report a wrongdoing.
The factors affecting whistleblowing intentions enumerated in the study of Schultz et al. are closely related to the significant whistleblowing variables identified in a recent study by Ayers and Kaplan (2005). Using an experimental approach, Ayers and Kaplan identified four considerations that affect whistleblowing behavior. These factors are 1) perceptions about the seriousness of wrongdoing; 2) personal costs; 3) personal responsibility related to a wrongdoing; and 4) moral equity judgments.4
Figure 4
A Model of Reporting Questionable Acts
(Adapted from Schultz et al. 1993)

Seriousness of a wrongdoing and whistleblowing. Whistleblowing will likely occur when people are more aware and actually feel that a wrongdoing has become more harmful to the organization. Perceptions on the seriousness of a wrongdoing are subjective, however. They are influenced by several factors.
One of these is the prevailing organizational or societal value. When the dominant organizational or societal value accepts or tolerates wrongdoing, then whistleblowing will not likely occur. In a survey on corporate wrongdoings conducted by the Asian Institute of Management-Ramon V. del Rosario Center for Corporate Responsibility (2004), for example, the findings reveal that majority of the senior executives (57 percent) believe that "keeping quiet" on a wrongdoing is not "always wrong".5 In one survey of the Social Weather Stations also, bribery is perceived by some businessmen as a standard business practice.
Although a potential whistleblower may perceive that a wrongdoing is serious enough, whistleblowing will not automatically occur especially in the absence of a clear and convincing evidence of the wrongdoing. When the whistleblower holds strong evidence about a corrupt practice, it strengthens his or her belief that the wrongdoing is serious enough and need to be reported.
Perceptions of the seriousness of a wrongdoing may also be influenced by clear policy standards on what constitutes wrongdoing. Laws defining corrupt acts, for example, may provide cues to the potential whistleblower in deciding whether observed wrongdoing is serious or not.
Personal responsibility and whistleblowing. When people are aware and feel that it is their responsibility to report a wrongdoing, they are more likely to blow the whistle. The attribution of personal responsibility to report is an important explanation why people have a higher propensity to report a questionable act compared to others. In a study of internal auditors in the United States and Canada, Miceli, Near and Schwenk (1991) reported that "subjects were less likely to report incidents when they did not feel morally or by role prescriptions to do so". This finding is at odds with the ideal concept of whistleblowing as a voluntary act on the part of the individual. Nonetheless, for the purpose of encouraging whistleblowing as a policy in order to fight corruption, it may be worthwhile to explore the pros and cons of making whistleblowing as a legal obligation of public officials and employees. In addition, it may also be desirable to enhance existing protections given to role-prescribed whistleblowers such as Internal Auditors and Compliance Officers.
Personal costs and whistleblowing. Whistleblowing rarely occurs as the personal costs of reporting rise. When people perceive that the personal costs have become very high, then they will not blow the whistle. This insight does not mean, however, that when personal costs exceed expected benefits, then no whistleblowing will take place. It only means that there are thresholds of tolerable personal costs wherein people are still courageous or willing enough to blow the whistle. Beyond this threshold of tolerance, whistleblowing will be very rare, if it will happen at all.
The fear of retaliation is the major impediment to whistleblowing. This is one of the main reasons why many people prefer to stay silent than blow the whistle against observed wrongdoings. Table 13 shows the most serious forms of retaliation experienced by whistleblowers. Among these are loss of job, reduction of salary or job responsibilities and harassment in the workplace. Ostracism in the workplace is also one of the most burdensome consequences of whistleblowing. Overall, these consequences of whistleblowing deprive the individual of much-needed social support and personal comfort. Expectations of these difficulties will discourage individuals from blowing the whistle.
Table 13
Most serious forms of retaliation experienced by whistleblowers

Form of retaliation
Percentage of survey respondents
Loss of job
Job responsibilities or salary reduced
Harassment, transfer
Job responsibilities changed
Work more closely monitored
No retaliation

Source: Jos, Philip. H., Mark Tompkins, and Steven Hays.1989.

The absence of effective legal protection for whistleblowers increases the personal costs of and deters whistleblowing. In a survey of New South Wales (Australia) public sector employees, it was reported that 76 percent of the respondents said they would either be unlikely to, or definitely would not, report corruption in the absence of legal protection. 6 About 67 percent of respondents agreed that "legal protection makes it easier for them to consider reporting corruption".
Perceptions of the personal costs and of whistleblowing may differ among cultures. The differences may be explained by the dominant value judgments with regard to existing practices. One culture may accept a certain business practice, for example, but in another context, such practice would be viewed as questionable (Schultz et al. 1993:80). The differences in value judgments with regard to certain practices may also affect employee's assessment on whether to report a wrongdoing.
Organizational culture is another factor affecting people's propensity to blow the whistle against observed and perceived forms of wrongdoing. As "collective programs", organizational culture contains values that direct not only people's awareness and attitudes of "good" and "evil" acts, but also contribute to the "tolerance of principled dissent in the organization". 7
People will not also be willing to blow the whistle when authorities, whether internal or external to the organization, habitually fail to act on reported wrongdoings. The perception that nothing will be done about a reported wrongdoing may contribute to the potential whistleblower's fear of retaliation from powerful wrongdoers.
2.1.3 Frameworks on whistleblowing effectiveness
Policies designed to encourage whistleblowing must consider the factors that facilitate or constrain it. In addition, they must address the issues that impede the effectiveness of whistleblowing in correcting or terminating reported questionable practices. Understanding the whistleblowing process provides valuable guidance in designing such policy.
The whistleblowing process has been explored in considerable depth by some scholars. Near, Dworkin, and Miceli (1993) employed the concepts of justice and power to make some sense of the whistleblowing process.
Justice framework. This framework explains the reactions of various parties to whistleblowing. It uses the concepts of procedural and distributive justice to understand the reactions of parties to whistleblowing incidents. The concept of "procedural justice" guides stakeholders' perceptions of "satisfaction" or "dissatisfaction" with the system of whistleblowing (Near, Dworkin, and Miceli 1993). "Distributive justice" concerns determine feelings of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the outcomes of whistleblowing. The justice framework offers the following insights on whistleblowing effectiveness.
Procedural justice

  • The organization's fairness in administering the procedures for dealing with whistleblowing incidents determines the whistleblower satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the whistleblowing system.

  • Members of the organization will perceive that there is procedural justice when the whistleblower follows "fair" reporting procedures, probably reporting the wrongdoing through internal channels than making it public knowledge by reporting it to some outside agency or the media.8
Distributive justice

  • The whistleblower will be satisfied with the outcome of his/her whistleblowing when the organization corrected or terminated a wrongdoing and did not retaliate against him or her. 9

  • The members of the organization will be satisfied with the whistleblowing when they feel that the organization was not harmed by the wrongdoing and the whistleblowing.
Power-relations framework. This framework views whistleblowing as an "influence process" that affects the "balance of power within an organization".10 According to this framework, a whistleblower tries to convince the members of the organization or its dominant coalition to change an existing practice because it constitutes a wrongdoing. The organization can either terminate or continue with the challenged practice, depending on how powerful or influential the whistleblower is in the organization. Lacking power, the whistleblower may be punished for his or her "activism" that may rock the stability and challenges the power structures in the organization. Thus, for Near and Miceli (1995:686), the whistleblower's effectiveness in producing the desired changes depends partly on the power he or she possesses in the organization.
Whistleblowing involves the dynamic interaction of several parties. Near and Miceli (1995) offers the following simple framework to understand this process of interaction.
Figure 5
A model of the whistleblowing process
As Figure 5 shows, whistleblowing effectiveness will be determined by the combined outcomes of the six (6) interactions:

  • between the whistleblower and the complaint recipient;

  • between the whistleblower and the organization;

  • between the whistleblower and the wrongdoer;

  • between the complaint recipient and the wrongdoer;

  • between the complaint recipient and the organization;

  • between the wrongdoer and the organization.
In turn, the outcomes of these interactions will depend on the characteristics of the five (5) primary actors in whistleblowing (Near and Miceli 1995:681).

  • Characteristics of the whistleblower;

  • Characteristics of the complaint-recipient;

  • Characteristics of the wrongdoer;

  • Characteristics of the wrongdoing;

  • Characteristics of the organization.
The influence of individual and situational variables on the outcome of whistleblowing is shown in Figures 6 and 7. Essentially, the credibility and power of whistleblowers, complaint recipients, or wrongdoers affect the overall outcome of a whistleblowing incident. The organizational and societal support to whistleblowers or wrongdoer is also crucial in determining the outcomes of whistleblowing. Lastly, the willingness of the organization to change a questionable practice determines whistleblowing effectiveness.
Figure 6
Individual variables that affect the outcome of whistleblowing
(Source: Near and Miceli.1995. Effective Whistleblowing, p. 682)
Figure 7
Situational variables that affect the outcome of whistleblowing
(Source: Near and Miceli. 1995. Effective Whistleblowing, p. 683)
In addition to individual variables, situational variables also influence the outcome of the whistleblowing process. Two variables are crucial: the characteristics of the wrongdoing and the characteristics of the organization. The level of organizational dependence on a wrongdoing, the availability of convincing evidence of wrongdoing, and the legal basis for the whistleblowing may influence its outcomes.
Other important factors affecting whistleblowing effectiveness are 1)organizational perceptions on the "appropriateness of whistleblowing", 2) the existence of a climate favorable to whistleblowing, 3) the existence of less bureaucratic organizational structures, 4) organization's power relative to its external environment, and 5) the whistleblower's choice of whistleblowing channels (internal or external).
2.1.4 Theoretical insights on whistleblowing policy design
The main challenges in whistleblowing policy design are 1) encouraging individuals with information about a wrongdoing to blow the whistle, and 2) making whistleblowing effective as an instrument of change. The literature contains rich insights on these core problems in whistleblowing. Among these are the following:

  • Achieve overall system satisfaction.

  • Improve legal standards on protected whistleblowing.

  • Reduce the costs of whistleblowing.

  • Create effective societal and organizational structures.

  • Promote role-prescribed whistleblowing.

  • Enhance whistleblowing skills.
Achieve system satisfaction. Many policy initiatives to encourage whistleblowing generally fail because they focus only on satisfying the concerns of whistleblowers; the concerns of the other parties such as managers and fellow employees are largely neglected (Near, Dworkin and Miceli 1993:396). Currently, the dominant approach to encourage whistleblowing is to protect whistleblowers and establish procedures that will facilitate whistleblowing. Such interventions are not enough to increase the supply of whistleblowers to counter the massive corruption in some societies and organizations.
The key to encourage whistleblowing, according to Near and Miceli (1995), is to achieve overall system satisfaction, which can create a much safer environment for whistleblowers. To achieve system satisfaction, policies must satisfy the procedural and distributive justice concerns of both the whistleblowers and the other parties to whistleblowing incidents.

  • Satisfying the concerns of whistleblowers. Policies must ensure that organizations establish and provide fair procedures for whistleblowing by employees. In addition, the policies must address the distributive concerns of whistleblowers, i.e., making sure that reported wrongdoings are acted upon. The policies must ensure that whistleblowers will not suffer from retaliation as a result of reporting wrongdoings that pose serious harm to the public or organizational interests.
For whistleblowers, satisfaction and continuing confidence on the whistleblowing system will come from perception that society and organizations have fair and user-friendly procedures for reporting and responding to reported wrongdoing. The whistleblowing system must ensure that whistleblowers will be amply protected, if not rewarded, when they blow the whistle against serious forms of wrongdoing.

  • Satisfy the procedural and distributive concerns of the other parties to whistleblowing. The policies must provide certain incentives for whistleblowers to follow the prescribed and legitimate procedures for whistleblowing, probably giving the organization the first opportunity to correct the wrongdoing. Policies to encourage whistleblowing must raise awareness and appreciation of the individual, organizational, and societal benefits of whistleblowing. Addressing the concerns of stakeholders will help produce a favorable response to whistleblowing (ibid., p. 397). Policies must mandate the adoption and implementation of programs to promote the value of whistleblowing to all stakeholders.
Improve legal and organizational standards on protected whistleblowing. Whistleblowing will be more effective when whistleblowers report activities that are clearly illegal compared to those that are merely unethical or immoral (Near and Miceli 1995:698). In one survey, majority of respondents expressed higher preference for whistleblowing against illegal-as compared to merely unethical--activities (Callahan, Sangrey and Collins 1995:942). In the same study, 75 percent of respondents believed that an employee who is terminated for informing the news media of an employer's illegal activity should be protected. In comparison, only 61 percent of respondents asked for whistleblower's protection for those who report unethical practices.
Laws that define the forms of wrongdoing that are illegal also empower complaint-recipients to act on whistleblower's disclosure.
Whistleblowing will be more effective in organizations with ethical climates that discourage wrongdoing, encourage the reporting of wrongdoing, and discourage retaliation against whistleblowers (Near and Miceli 1995:701). The ethical climates in organizations influence perceptions of the appropriateness of whistleblowing (Near and Miceli 1995:700). In general, if the organizational climate discourages wrongdoing, then employees will be more encouraged to report a wrongdoing.
When stakeholders perceive that the whistleblower's action is appropriate, then whistleblowing will be more effective in producing the desired changes. When coworkers, management, and the complaint recipient believe that organizational norms allow or even encourage the reporting of a wrongdoing, then whistleblowing will be more effective. But, if stakeholders perceive that the whistleblower's actions have breached the bounds of appropriateness, whistleblowing will be resisted regardless of its benefits. Policy interventions, therefore, must encourage organizations to adopt organizational cultures and practices that make whistleblowing legitimate, appropriate, and socially rewarding.
Reduce the costs of whistleblowing. Whistleblowing has personal costs that will make whistleblowing a rare behavior among individuals. Mitigating these costs will increase the individual's use of whistleblowing as an instrument for correcting or terminating wrongdoings. A holistic policy on whistleblower's protection is an essential step in reducing the costs of, and encouraging, whistleblowing. Policies must also establish programs to promote the value of whistleblowers for organizations and the society.

  • Counter the negative perception that whistleblowers are "harmdoers". Some people in powerful positions view a whistleblower as "harmdoer" when he or she reports directly to an external public authority or to the media, about alleged wrongdoing. According to the view, a whistleblower makes the first "public attack" against an organization although he or she may be making a legitimate protest against a questionable organizational practice that poses serious harm to the public or even organizational interest.11 This negative view serves as justifications for retaliating against whistleblowers. To counter this view, whistleblowing policies must mandate the adoption of programs to promote the value of whistleblowers in uncovering anomalies that would do more serious damage to the public or even organizational interest if left not corrected. They must also provide incentives (e.g. state protection) for whistleblowers to use official channels for airing allegations of wrongdoings.

  • Prevent retaliation. Policies and programs to encourage whistleblowing must be able to prevent harassment, reprisals and other forms of retaliatory actions, which are major impediments to whistleblowing. Society can reduce the personal costs of whistleblowing by establishing the rights of, and providing legal remedies for retaliatory actions against, whistleblowers.

  • Cultivate social support. Policies and programs must help cultivate societal and organizational support, which are far more effective strategies in preventing retaliation against whistleblowers. They can enhance such support by increasing awareness of the benefits of whistleblowing and preventing damage to the reputations of individuals and organization from unsubstantiated allegations of wrongdoings.

  • Increase personal benefits. Organizations and society must increase the personal benefits of whistleblowing. The level of expected benefits must be convincing enough to help the whistleblower decide in favor of whistleblowing despite the presence of risks. Attractive incentives, in whatever form, should be provided to encourage whistleblowing.
Create powerful societal or organizational structures for whistleblowing. The work of Near and Miceli (1998) on effective whistleblowing underscores the value of powerful complaint-recipients in making whistleblowing effective.
Like whistleblowers, complaint-recipients also make some calculations on whether to act on the reported wrongdoings. They must determine 1) whether wrongdoing has really occurred, 2) whether they are responsible for acting, and 3) whether they have the power to change the wrongdoing.
When they are powerful enough, complaint-recipients may use "efficacious actions" to address a reported wrongdoing, but only when they support the whistleblower (Near and Miceli 1995:694). A powerful complaint-recipient, who is supportive of the whistleblower, enhances the whistleblower's credibility (ibid., p. 693), thus increasing overall whistleblowing effectiveness.
Near and Miceli (1995:702) also hypothesize that whistleblowing is more effective in organizations with more formal (written) mechanisms of encouraging whistleblowing.

  • Allow graduated levels of anonymous or confidential whistleblowing. Anonymity may either enhance or decrease whistleblowing effectiveness (Near and Miceli 1995:692). On the one hand, it can increase whistleblowing effectiveness by reducing the likelihood of retaliation against whistleblowers and by preventing attacks against the motivations of whistleblowers who have questionable characters but, nonetheless, provided valuable information about wrongdoings. On the other hand, anonymity reduces the credibility of the complaint itself; it raises suspicions about the value of the disclosed information and the motive for whistleblowing. Anonymity makes it also difficult for complaint-recipients to seek additional evidence to validate the whistleblower's allegations of wrongdoing, reducing whistleblowing effectiveness in the process.
The proper policy approach towards anonymity and confidentiality may depend on the existing organizational climates. When the organizational climate is unsafe for people who challenge authority structures for perpetuating questionable practices, then anonymous whistleblowing can be a safer alternative to encourage individuals to disclose information about observed wrongdoing. Confidential whistleblowing to authorized complaint-recipients, inside or outside organizations, can also be encouraged especially when organizational norms that discourage wrongdoing already exist.
Whistleblowers who have the courage to reveal themselves to complaint-recipients may increase perceptions about their credibility and facilitate the complaint-recipient's investigation.

  • Allow several channels for whistleblowing. Internal whistleblowing will be less effective especially when the organization exhibits great dependence on a questionable practice. When the organization is highly dependent on the wrongdoing for its survival, top management may be unable to terminate a protested wrongdoing. In such cases, external whistleblowing will be more effective in correcting or terminating a wrongdoing (Near and Miceli 1995:695-697).
Using a justice framework on whistleblowing, organizations must develop consensus not only on internal whistleblowing procedures, but also on the criteria and procedures that would make it legitimate for employees to use external whistleblowing channels.
Promote role-prescribed whistleblowing. The likelihood of whistleblowing depends on the attribution of personal responsibility to report wrongdoings (Schultz et al. 1993). Thus, to encourage whistleblowing, society and organizations need to mandate it as part of an employee's responsibilities.
Some existing studies also hypothesize that role-prescribed whistleblowers are more effective in correcting or terminating wrongdoings because their whistleblowing is seen as more legitimate (i.e., they are just doing their job). Role-prescribed whistleblowers, such as Internal Auditors, are also less prone to retaliation because they can offer more socially acceptable and legitimate reasons for whistleblowing; they can use "ideological accounts" to convince stakeholders that their whistleblowing only complies with societal dictates to report organizational wrongdoings although organizations themselves may suffer certain consequences (Near, Miceli and Dworkin 1993:405).
Whistleblowing can also be prescribed as a duty of leaders and managers of organizations, to make it more effective. Using a theory of resource dependence, Near and Miceli (195:687) hypothesize that whistleblowers who occupy leadership positions or have expertise are likely to be more effective in stopping questionable practices. This is because of the organization's dependence on their resources (leadership, expertise, etc.) In addition, using the theory of value congruence, Near and Miceli assert that whistleblowers who have the same values as the organization's management will be more influential in stopping organizational wrongdoings. The effectiveness of role-prescribed whistleblowers can also be explained by their legitimate organizational power to reward or coerce (Near and Miceli 1998).
Policy initiatives to prescribe whistleblowing as an employee's duty may have the same effect as legitimizing role-prescribed whistleblowing status (Near and Miceli 1998).
Improve whistleblowing skills. Whistleblowing will be more effective when the evidence of a wrongdoing is convincing. Written documentation and other clear evidence of a wrongdoing will make whistleblowing more effective because they enhance the credibility of the whistleblower and his/her disclosure. Strong evidence will also make it easier for the whistleblower to convince the complaint recipient to act on the reported wrongdoing (Near and Miceli 1995:697. These insights suggest that whistleblowing policies must mandate the adoption and implementation of programs designed to increase the knowledge and skills of whistleblowers in using the official channels and procedures for whistleblowing.
1 Johnson, Robert Ann and Michael Kraft.1990. "Bureaucratic Whistleblowing and Policy Change". The Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 4 (Dec.),pp. 849-874
2 Criminal Justice Commission.1999. Exposing Corruption: A CJC Guide to Whistleblowing in Queensland. Available: http://www.cmc.qld.gov.au/data/portal/00000005/content/30223001131406950275.pdf
3 Schultz, Joseph Jr., Douglas Johnson, Deigan Morrisand Sverre Dyrnes.1993. "An Investigation of the Reporting of Questionable Acts in an International Setting." Journal of Accounting Research, Vol.31, Studies on International Accounting, pp. 75-103. The authors used an experimental study in which subjects were asked to judge the likelihood of reporting a questionable act and to assess the personal responsibility to report. Each subject completed six case studies. The subjects consisted of 145 managers and professional staff from public companies in Norway and the United States and from wholly owned US subsidiaries in France.
4 Ayers, Susan and Steven Kaplan.(2005)."Wrongdoing by Consultants: An Examination of Employees Reporting Intentions." Journal of Business Ethics, Volume 57, pp. 121-137
Source : www.aim-hills.ph
5 Opinion Survey of Senior Executives conducted by the RVR Center for Corporate Responsibility, Asian Institute of Management
6 Whistle-blowing: An effective anti-corruption tool? Available: http://www.iss.co.za/Pubs/CRIMEINDEX/99VOL3NO3/ WhistleBlowing.html. Published at Nedbank ISS Crime Index, Volume 3, 1999, Number 3, May-June.
7 Hofstede 1985 as cited in Schultz et al. (1991:79-80)
8 Near, Dworkin, Miceli 1993:395-396)
9 ibid, p. 395
10 Near, Dworkin & Miceli, 1993:394
11 Near, Dworkin and Miceli (1993:405)

12 November 2008

The rise of the whistleblower

24th February 2004

Katharine Gun says she leaked a secret e-mail to prevent democracy at the UN being undermined. Not every whistle-blower has such lofty concerns - but that doesn't mean their actions are any less significant.

Rise of the whistle-blower
Like countless other employees, most of whom never make the local papers, let alone become an international cause celebre, Katharine Gun is a whistle blower.
Last year the Chinese speaker was sacked from GCHQ - the agency which listens in on communications abroad - after she leaked an e-mail purportedly from US spies, which asked British officers to tap phones of UN delegates about to vote on war in Iraq.
As such eavesdropping violated international law, Ms Gun said her actions were justified. After being cleared of breaching the Official Secrets Act on Wednesday, she said that although she was "not prone to leak secrets left, right and centre", the public had a right to know what was going on.
"I felt that the British intelligence services were being asked to do something that would undermine the whole UN democratic processes."
Once pariahs, whistle-blowers are increasingly seen as a key check on public and private companies.

Katharine Gun
Her backers included Sean Penn and Rev Jesse Jackson

For every high-profile case with far-reaching consequences - be it David Kelly voicing disquiet about claims that Iraq could launch WMDs within 45 minutes, or Sherron Watkins lifting the lid on Enron's dodgy accounting practices - there are many more unsung heroes who act on their conscience.
The number of people calling a national helpline with concerns about misdeeds at work has more than doubled in the past five years. The helpline, run by the charity Public Concern at Work, offers independent advice to whistle-blowers.
Since its launch in 1993, more than 4,000 allegations of public concern have been raised.
One case involved a charity boss who extended a one-day conference in the US into a fortnight's break with his fiancée, apparently at the charity's expense. In another, a local authority housing manager got staff to requisition building materials for his own home.
"One person raised the alarm about a colleague who was a dangerously incompetent surgeon. That surgeon has now been prosecuted," says Guy Dehn, the director of Public Concern at Work.
The charity's approach is that if an issue is of sufficient concern to tell friends and family, it should be raised openly at work - or, if necessary, outside - so that it can be put right.


No longer are whistle-blowers seen as traitors or tale-tellers, not least because it is far easier - and less risky professionally - to do so.

Robert Maxwell
A whistle-blower highlighted Robert Maxwell's mismanagement
"When we started, if you asked someone to rate from one to 10 how they'd feel if they were called a whistle-blower, most would put it at three," says Mr Dehn. "It still had negative connotations. Now it's moved up the scale to about a six."
Firms increasingly have well-defined policies on dealing with complaints, and the rights of the whistle-blower are enshrined in law. In 1998, the UK enacted the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which gives some protection to employees who raise serious concerns within the workplace and suffer from so doing (although Ms Gun is among the tiny minority not covered, working as she did for the intelligence service).
One of the charity's trustees, Gary Brown, blew the whistle when his boss at Abbey National awarded a contract to an ideas agency run by a friend of a friend, and then approved hefty fees for the below-standard work done.
Although the atmosphere soured as the case edged towards the courts - so much so that he eventually quit his job - Mr Brown says he has no regrets. "It wasn't negative; it was morally uplifting."

Eyes opened

But being a whistle-blower need not involve exposing malpractice or a cover-up, or indeed being victimised for doing so. It may involve something as simple as pointing out a dangling computer cable which could trip up a partially-sighted staff member.

Enron's HQ
Enron staff were given note pads with inspiring quotes, such as this by Martin Luther King Jr:"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter'"
"You may go home and think nothing more about it, but you are a whistle blower," Mr Dehn says. "If you hadn't said anything, that person may trip and end up in a wheelchair.
"Your employer would have to pay compensation, and bring in new rules and new computers. And the guy sitting at the desk with the trailing cable would feel distraught."
So Katharine Gun's advice to others in the intelligence services to act on their consciences could equally apply to any employee. "I know it's very difficult and people don't want to jeopardise their careers or lives, but if there are things out there that should really come out, hey, why not?" she said.  

Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3485348.stm 

11 November 2008

WHISTLEBLOWING :: Whistle while you work


Whistleblower are employees in a company or public administration who, with the welfare of the company or public good in mind, point out unlawful or unethical practices that are harmful to the general public, insisting on rectification.

Whistleblower as an Early Warning
Organisations are dependent on whistleblower to pass the insider information on risks and abuse to the management. Misconduct can be exposed in its early stages, protecting the company or administration from extensive follow-up costs and damage to its image.

Whistleblowers are people who have integrity and morals, people who actually care about their company and work practices. Sadly, once they speak up they often become target by management who do not want to deal with the situation, or you have exposed an issue far more complex involving many including management, and hence the whistleblower may be seen as the enemy or sideline and isolated whilst a cover up ensues.

What to do?
Australia promotes public-interested whistle blowing with differential state based legislation, as there is currently no Federal Law or Act to address whistleblowing.

Learn more about the laws designed to protect whistleblowers.
VIC - Whistleblower Protection Act 2001,  and
Whistleblowers Protection Amendment Bill 2008

If you are thinking about becoming a whistleblower, you might want to get in touch with Whistleblowers Australia (WBA).
The lobby groups aims to promote a society in which it is possible to speak out without reprisal about corruption, dangers to the public and other vital social issues, and to help those who speak out in this way to help themselves.
WBA uses two main approaches to achieve this goal. The first is to encourage self-help and mutual help among whistleblowers and the second is to support campaigns on specific issues.
WBA Position Policy on 'The Design of the Whistleblower Protection Legislation'.

If you are seeking legal advice there are some legal firm specialising in this field, or there may be advocacy help available through your Union or from private organisations.

Judgements on Whistleblowing (Germany)

08 November 2008

COMMENTARY - Workplace bullying: Sharing lessons with our friends across the Tasman

Key Points:

Four strategies can help manage workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying can be highly demoralising and costly for a workforce. Queensland's Griffith University has estimated that it affects around 3.5% of workers. WorkCover ACT states the financial cost of bullying to Australian businesses at between $6 billion and $13 billion a year, including indirect costs such as absenteeism, labour turnover, lost productivity and legal costs.

The rise in workplace bullying and how it should be addressed, has also not been lost on our friends across the Tasman. In a recent speech to the Queensland Safety Forum, New Zealand bullying expert Haydn Olsen outlined four strategies to make an organisation bully-proof.

The four strategies

In order to change from a "climate of fear" to a "climate of safety", education, leadership, complaint-handling and support for victims must be addressed.

  • Firstly, it is important to educate workers as to what bullying is and is not. Despite the apprehensions of many employers that this will lead to a raft of claims, Olsen says that letting workers know what is not workplace bullying will restrict claims to those that are legitimate and serious. An employer should emphasise the particular elements of bullying, as well as give specific examples to highlight to employees their practical application. Olsen recommends the use of facilitated education sessions to achieve this.

  • Secondly, employers should understand that bullying is closely linked to leadership and that 60-80% of bullying occurs from positions of higher power. Managers and supervisors must be trained both not to bully and also to prevent others from bullying, particularly by ensuring early intervention. Managers are also in a good position to be role models for appropriate workplace demeanour and behaviour. Choosing the right people for the task is vital, says Olsen, pointing out that managers should be able to communicate clearly, handle conflict, confront behaviour and manage defensiveness.

  • Thirdly, a workplace must have both formal and informal procedures for handling complaints. The informal procedures should operate on a "no blame" basis, while formal procedures should take longer, clearly attribute responsibility and have a definite outcome. Informal procedures should be followed first. If they do not result in an agreeable outcome, formal procedures should then be instigated. All claims should be taken seriously, handled promptly and by fair process, an coupled with protection from victimisation. It is also advised that disciplinary action be taken in the case of any fraudulent complaints.

  • Lastly, Olsen stressed the need for employees to give sufficient support to those who make a complaint. As he points out, a New Zealand survey found 75 per cent of complainants received no help. In order to address this, employers should put in place employee assistance programs, designate contact persons, offer mentoring and coaching (especially for new employees) and provide supportive management.


The four strategies of education, leadership, grievance resolution and handling and support are elements which directly translate into the Australian environment.

This is not surprising on one level. Making clear what is acceptable and unacceptable workplace behaviour, promoting staff awareness through training, role modelling of appropriate behaviour and demonstrating leadership, having a process in which to respond to and resolve issues and providing assistance to employees who may have been affected by inappropriate conduct, are all familiar themes to prudent employers already well-versed in dealing with workplace discrimination and harassment.

Despite these similarities, it is interesting to note that many commentators often do not make the link between employer strategies to deal with workplace bullying and discrimination, and moreover, that intrinsic to both is the importance of addressing broader issues about workplace culture and associated with that human resources priorities such as staff retention and development and corporate leadership.