What Happens to Whistleblowers, and Why

Jean Lennane


Whistleblowers — people who speak out in the public interest — are valuable to society, often being instrumental in opposing corruption and dangers to the public. Whistleblowers are often subject to reprisals that can have serious health, financial, career and relationship consequences. Powerful organisations have a predictable set of responses to whistleblowers, sending a message to other employees that dissent is unwelcome and avoiding dealing with the problems identified by the whistleblowers. Laws and agencies set up to protect whistleblowers are often flawed or corrupted. At a psychological level, responses to whistleblowers involve obedience to authority, groupthink and other processes. Whistleblowers need to be prepared for reprisals by collecting lots of information, not relying on official procedures and being prepared for a lengthy struggle. More education, research and action are needed to oppose corruption and support whistleblowers.

Key words: whistleblowers; corruption; psychology; health

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