This paper analyzes the number of procedural and substantive tension points with which a conscientious whistleblower struggles. Included in the former are such questions as: (1) Am I properly depicting the seriousness of the problem? (2) Have I secured the information properly, analyzed it appropriately, and presented it fairly? (3) Are my motives appropriate? (4) Have I tried fully enough to have the problem corrected within the organization? (5) Should I blow the whistle while still a member of the organization or after having left it? (6) Should I keep anonymity? (7) How ethical is it to assume the role of a judge? (8) How ethical is it to set in motion an act which will likely be very costly to many people? Substantive tension points include such questions as: (1) How fully am I living up to my moral obligations to my organization and my colleagues? (2) Am I appropriately upholding the ethical standards of my profession? (3) How adversely will my action affect my family and other primary groups? (4) Am I being true to myself? (5) How will my action affect the health of such basic values as freedom of expression, independent judgment, courage, fairness, cooperativeness, and loyalty?
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J. Vernon Jensen is professor in the Department of Speech-Communication at the University of Minnesota where he teaches courses in ethics among other subjects. Some recent publications are ‘Teaching Ethics in Speech Communication’, (Communication Education 34 (October, 1985), ‘Bibliography: Ethics in Speech Communication’, (Rhetoric Society Quarterly 15 (Winter & Spring, 1985), and Argumentation: Reasoning in Communication (1981).
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Jensen, J.V. Ethical tension points in whistleblowing. J Bus Ethics 6, 321–328 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00382941
- Economic Growth
- Ethical Standard
- Moral Obligation
- Primary Group
- Tension Point