Mental heath as a weapon: Whistleblower retaliation and normative violence

Kate Kenny*, Marianna Fotaki, Stacey Scriver

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
387 Downloads (Pure)


What form does power take in situations of retaliation against whistleblowers? In this article, we move away from dominant perspectives that see power as a resource. In place, we propose a theory of normative power and violence in whistleblower retaliation, drawing on an in-depth empirical study. This enables a deeper understanding of power as it circulates in complex processes of whistleblowing. We offer the following contributions. First, supported by empirical findings we propose a novel theoretical framing of whistleblower retaliation and the role of mental health, which draws upon poststructuralist psychoanalytic thinking. Specifically, we highlight how intra- and inter-psychic affective and ambivalent attachments to organizations influence the use of normative violence in cases of whistleblower retaliation. The second contribution is empirical and builds upon the existing literature on whistleblower retaliation by highlighting how organizations position whistleblower subjects as mentally unstable and unreliable individuals, to undermine their claims. We conclude by highlighting the implications of normative power for the outcomes of whistleblower struggles.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Early online date17 Apr 2018
Publication statusEarly online date - 17 Apr 2018


  • Affect
  • Butler
  • Mental health
  • Normative power
  • Organizational violence
  • Retaliation
  • Whistleblowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law

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