Is there any recognition in blowing the whistle?

Meghan Van Portfliet, Kate Kenny

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Why do some whistleblowers persist in making their claims heard within and outside of their organizations, even when they are subject to retaliation? This question has perplexed scholars for some time and in this paper we depart from traditional approaches that focus on the motivations of whistleblowers. Rather, we argue that whistleblowing is an ongoing, intersubjective process in which the person speaking out engages in a struggle for recognition with their organization that emerges as a result of conflicting interpretations of norms. We illustrate our arguments with a paradigmatic case of whistleblowing and retaliation in a US financial services organization. Honneth’s recognition framework, adapted for a micro-level focus on practices, provides a theoretical grounding. Overall, we propose that viewing whistleblowing as a struggle for recognition contributes a novel framing for understanding why organizational whistleblowers persist despite retaliation, and that retaliation itself can further enhance the drive to bring one’s claims into the public domain.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jan 2018
EventWork, Ethics, and Democracy symposium - Queen's University, Belfast, United Kingdom
Duration: 20 Dec 201720 Dec 2017


ConferenceWork, Ethics, and Democracy symposium
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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