Laddered Motivations of External Whistleblowers: The Truth About Attributes, Consequences, and Values

  • Heungsik Park
  • Wim VandekerckhoveEmail author
  • Jaeil Lee
  • Joowon Jeong
Original Paper


The purpose of this study was to explore the motivational structures of external whistleblowers involved in the decision to blow the whistle by applying MEC theory and the laddering technique. Using both soft and hard laddering methods, data were collected from 37 Korean external whistleblowers. Results revealed that the means-end chain of external whistleblowers was the hierarchical linkage among two concrete attributes (the power of external whistleblowing to make changes and its warning about the seriousness of wrongdoing to the public), two functional consequences (correcting a wrongdoing and making those who violated laws admit their offenses), and one terminal value (the truth). The extant whistleblowing literature has either made assumptions about whistleblowers’ motivations when developing models or has drawn indirect inferences from measures of other variables. Our study is the first with an explicit and empirical focus on whistleblowers’ motivations. The findings provide evidence of the motivational structures of external whistleblowers that consist of a set of complex paths linked by multi-layered motivators. This research will be helpful in designing and reviewing whistleblowing programs for organizations, regulatory agencies, and journalists.


External whistleblowers Motivation Means-end chain theory 



This work was supported by the Horuragi Foundation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public ServiceChung-Ang UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  2. 2.Business School, Work and Employment Relations UnitUniversity of GreenwichLondonUK
  3. 3.Andrew Young School of Policy StudiesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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