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Overwhelming public support for whistleblowers
15 November 2012
Greenwich, University of
New research by the University of Greenwich shows 4 out of 5 Britons think that people should be supported for revealing serious wrongdoing, even if it means revealing inside information. However, under half of the respondents (47%) thought whistleblowing is an acceptable thing to do in our society. Hence, people think society is less supportive of it than it should be.
Three quarters of respondents, who are employees or members of an organisation, also indicated that if they observed wrongdoing, they would feel personally obliged to report it to someone in their organisation. However, a smaller proportion were confident their organisation would stop wrongdoing if they reported it, and less than half thought management in their organisation were serious about protecting people who report wrongdong. Still, almost 9 out of 10 in Britain believe whistleblowers should be able to use the media to draw attention to wrongdoing (either as a first resort, when there become specific reasons to do so or as a last resort).
Dr Wim Vandekerckhove from the Work and Employment Relations Unit (WERU) at the University of Greenwich, who leads the research, believes that at a time where a change in the UK legislation on whistleblower protection is demanded by different actors and in different directions, it is important to take stock of how citizens feel about whistleblowing. Any changes to the legislation should be in line with attempts to close the gaps identified by this research.
Dr Vandekerckhove concludes that this research shows people will raise concern inside their organisation, but adds: 'If we don't make it safer for employees to speak up inside their organisations, people will support those who blow the whistle to the media.' Political, business and community leaders must accept this new reality, and develop and implement legislation and policies that make it safe and effective to speak up about wrongdoing inside the organisation.
This research was funded by the University of Greenwich Business School. ComRes interviewed 2,000 adults online from 26th to 28th October 2012. Data were weighted to be demographically representative of all British adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full data tables are available at ComRes.co.uk.
Dr Wim Vandekerckhove is Senior Lecturer at the University of Greenwich where he researches and teaches on whistleblowing, business ethics, and organisational behaviour. He has published widely in academic journals and books, and is a regular international speaker at conferences and events on whistleblowing and business ethics.
The survey is part of an ongoing international project measuring public attitudes to whistleblowing. Findings in Australia show a similar thrust as these from Britain.