Whistleblowing and Intervention: A Role For The Clinical Sociologist

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: Booth 55
Oral Presentation
Tina UYS , Sociology, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
Worldwide there is a tendency to view the act of whistleblowing as making an important contribution in the fight against corporate misconduct.  However, a more ambivalent attitude is often displayed towards the whistleblowers. There are global debates about whether whistleblowers should be considered as heroes or traitors and what kind of protection they should have.

Whistleblowing takes place when a present or past member of an organization discloses suspicions about organizational wrongdoing to those they believe to be in a position to take action. Whistleblowing could occur internally when the whistleblower communicates the message inside the organization (using prescribed or non-prescribed channels) or externally when the whistleblower resorts to an external agency, which could include the media. Regardless of how the disclosure is done, organizations generally regard whistleblowing as illegitimate. The disclosure of information about organizational wrongdoing, especially if it is placed in the public domain, is regarded as a form of betrayal and often leads to retaliation by the organization. Acting as ‘loyal and caring’ employees, whistleblowers generally do not expect the severe negative responses they receive as a result of disclosing irregularities in their places of work.  

This paper discusses whistleblowing in the USA and South Africa and considers the role clinical sociologists could play in designing and/or implementing interventions that would ensure better outcomes for the whistleblower as well as the organization. Clinical sociologists attempt to improve people’s quality of life by designing and/or implementing interventions based on an analysis of problem situations. In the case of whistleblowing their role could include advising the organization with regard to the implementation of confidential reporting systems that would pre-empt whistleblowing; developing support systems for whistleblowers before, during and after the disclosure is made; mediation between the organization and the whistleblower and advocacy to improve legal protection for whistleblowers.