Does it pay to air your worries at work? Not according to new survey

Based on research by the University of Greenwich, carried out alongside the charity Public Concern at Work, the report also finds that 15 per cent of whistleblowers were later sacked from their jobs. Many others were bullied, ostracised or victimised.

Results show that the vast majority of individuals – 85 per cent – who said they had witnessed some form of malpractice at work did not raise a concern externally, perhaps fearing that society would not approve of whistleblowing.

Led by Dr Wim Vandekerckhove from the Work & Employment Research Unit (WERU) at the University of Greenwich, researchers analysed the files of one thousand workers who approached a national advice helpline, run by Public Concern at Work, between August 2009 and December 2010. The workers’ identities were concealed in the report, entitled Whistleblowing: The Inside Story.

The research, which concludes that the typical whistleblower’s experience is often fraught with threats and fears, has now led to a call by the charity for a review of the legislation to protect whistleblowing in Britain.

Dr Vandekerckhove says: “We knew from previous research that whistleblowers nearly always raise their concerns inside their organisation. But this research is the first to trace that internal whistleblowing. Half of those who raise concerns try at least twice inside their organisation. Even at a third attempt, the majority still try to raise it in this way. Line managers and higher management are, by far, most likely to receive these concerns.

Hence this research shows organisations do get a fair chance to correct their own wrongdoing, and regulators should hold them more accountable for failing to do so.

Nearly two thirds of whistleblowers also reported that they received no response from management about their claims, either positive or negative. Senior whistleblowers were the most likely to be dismissed, while newer employees – those with less than two years’ service with an organisation – were most likely to blow the whistle.

Typical whistleblowers were skilled workers or professionals, researchers found, with about a third of those surveyed coming from the health and social care sectors. Others worked in charities, local government and financial services.

Dr Vandekerckhove is a Senior Lecturer in the University of Greenwich’s Business School, 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.

The research has achieved widespread national and regional media coverage in recent days. It has featured on BBC Radio Five Live, BBC World News, BBC London and BBC Wales, as well as in The Guardian and the Huffington Post.

The full report is available at:

To find out more, please contact Dr Vandekerckhove:
[email protected] or 020 8331 8657.

Story by Public Relations

Picture: Dr Wim Vandekerckhove.