Skip to main content

The Dynamics of Employee Dissent: Whistleblowers and Organizational Jiu-Jitsu

Abstract

Whistleblowing is a form of organizational dissent that is rarely successful, instead usually leading to disaster for the whistleblower. Organizational theorists seldom have addressed the question of how to improve whistleblowers’ strategies. A useful general perspective for doing this is to conceive of bureaucracies as authoritarian political systems. The concept of political jiu-jitsu, from the theory of nonviolent action, is adapted to organizational contexts and used to assess a range of tactics used by organizational elites against dissidents. The resulting implications for whistleblower strategies are assessed by comparison with standard recommendations offered by experienced whistleblower advisers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  1. Ackerman, Peter, and Jack DuVall. (2000). A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict. New York: St. Martin's Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Ackroyd, S., and P. Thompson. (1999). Organizational Misbehaviour. London: Sage Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Alford, C. Fred. (2001). Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Alinsky, Saul D. (1971). Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals. New York: Random House.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Argyris, C., and D. Schoen. (1978). Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Barnes, J.A. (1994). A Pack of Lies: Towards a Sociology of Lying. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  7. Bondurant, Joan V. (1988). Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict.Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Cooney, Robert, and Helen Michalowski (eds.). (1977). The Power of the People: Active Nonviolence in the United States. Culver City, CA: The Power of the People Publishing Project.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Coover, Virginia, Ellen Deacon, Charles Esser, and Christopher Moore. (1981). Resource Manual for a Living Revolution. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Cox, Richard J., and David A. Wallace (eds.). (2002). Archives and the Public Good: Accountability and Records in Modern Society. Westport, CT: Quorum.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Crow, Ralph E., Philip Grant, and Saad E. Ibrahim (eds.). (1990). Arab Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East. Boulder: Lynne Rienner.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Dajani, Souad R. (1994). Eyes Without Country: Searching for a Palestinian Strategy of Liberation. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  13. De Maria, William. (1995). 'Quarantining Dissent: The Queensland Public Sector Ethics Movement.'' Australian Journal of Public Administration 54(4), December, 442–454.

    Google Scholar 

  14. De Maria, William. (1999). Deadly Disclosures: Whistleblowing and the Ethical Meltdown of Australia. Adelaide: Wakefield Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. De Maria, William, and Cyrelle Jan. (1996). ''Behold the Shut-eyed Sentry! Whistleblower Perspectives on Government Failure to Correct Wrongdoing.''Crime, Law & Social Change 24, 151–166.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Dempster, Quentin. (1997). Whistleblowers. Sydney: ABC Books.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Devine, Thomas M., and Donald G. Aplin. (1988). ''Whistleblower Protection-The Gap between the Law and Reality.'' Howard Law Journal 31, 223–239.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Devine, Tom. (1997). The Whistleblower's Survival Guide: Courage Without Martyrdom. Washington, DC: Fund for Constitutional Government.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Elliston, Frederick A. (1982). ''Civil Disobedience and Whistleblowing: A Comparative Appraisal of Two Forms of Dissent.'' Journal of Business Ethics 1, 23–28.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Elliston, Frederick, John Keenan, Paula Lockhart, and Jane van Schaick. (1985). Whistleblowing: Managing Dissent in the Workplace. New York: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Ellsberg, Daniel. (2002). Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York: Viking.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Ewing, David W. (1977). Freedom Inside the Organization: Bringing Civil Liberties to the Workplace. New York: Dutton.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Farazmand, Ali. (1999). ''The Elite Question: Toward a Normative Elite Theory of Organization.'' Administration & Society 31(3), 321–360.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Fisher, Robert. (1984). Let the People Decide: Neighborhood Organizing in America. Boston: Twayne.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Fitzgerald, A. Ernest. (1972). The High Priests of Waste. New York: Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Fitzgerald, A. Ernest. (1989). The Pentagonists: An Insider's View of Waste, Mismanagement, and Fraud in Defense Spending. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Forrester, Geoff, and R.J. May (eds.). (1998). The Fall of Soeharto. Bathurst, Australia: Crawford House.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Frankel, Philip. (2001). An Ordinary Atrocity: Sharpeville and Its Massacre. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Gandhi, M.K. (1927/1929). An Autobiography or the Story of My Experiments with Truth. Ahmedabad: Navajivan.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Glazer, Myron Peretz, and Penina Migdal Glazer. (1989). The Whistleblowers: Exposing Corruption in Government and Industry. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Gregg, Richard B. (1966). The Power of Nonviolence. New York: Schocken Books.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Harcave, Sidney. (1964). First Blood: The Russian Revolution of 1905. London: Bodley Head.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Herngren, Per. (1993) Path of Resistance: The Practice of Civil Disobedience. Philadelphia: New Society Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Hunt, Geoffrey (ed.). (1995). Whistleblowing in the Health Service: Accountability, Law and Professional Practice. London: Edward Arnold.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Hunt, Geoffrey (ed.). (1998). Whistleblowing in the Social Services: Public Accountability and Professional Practice. London: Arnold.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Jackall, Robert. (1988). Moral Mazes: The World of Corporate Managers. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Kennedy, Marilyn Moats. (1985). Office Warfare: Strategies for Getting Ahead in the Aggressive 80s. New York: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Kolb, Deborah M., and Jean M. Bartunek (eds.). (1992). Hidden Conflict in Organizations: Uncovering Behind-the-Scenes Disputes. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Lampert, Nicholas. (1985). Whistleblowing in the Soviet Union: Complaints and Abuses under State Socialism. London: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  40. Lee, Robert, and Peter Lawrence. (1985). Politics at Work. Leckhampton, Cheltenham: Stanley Thornes.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Lennane, Jean. (1996). ''What Happens to Whistleblowers, and Why.'' In Klaas Woldring (ed.), Business Ethics in Australia and New Zealand: Essays and Cases. Melbourne: Thomas Nelson, pp. 51–63.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Martin, Brian. (1999a). The Whistleblower's Handbook: How to Be an Effective Resister. Charlbury, UK: Jon Carpenter.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Martin, Brian. (1999b). ''Whistleblowing and Nonviolence.'' Peace & Change 24(1), 15–28.

    Google Scholar 

  44. McAllister, Pam. (1991) The River of Courage: Generations of Women's Resistance and Action. Philadelphia: New Society Press.

    Google Scholar 

  45. McManus, Philip, and Gerald Schlabach (eds.). (1991). Relentless Persistence: Nonviolent Action in Latin America. Philadelphia: New Society Press.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Miceli, Marcia P., and Janet P. Near. (1992). Blowing the Whistle: The Organizational and Legal Implications for Companies and Employees. New York: Lexington Books.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Miethe, Terance D. (1999). Whistleblowing at Work: Tough Choices in Exposing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse on the Job. Boulder, CO: Westview.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Moore, Jr., Barrington. (1978). Injustice: The Social Bases of Obedience and Revolt. London: Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Nader, Ralph, Peter J. Petkas, and Kate Blackwell (eds.). (1972). Whistle Blowing: The Report of the Conference on Professional Responsibility. New York: Grossman.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Parkman, Patricia. (1990). Insurrectionary Civic Strikes in Latin America 1931-1961. Cambridge, MA: Albert Einstein Institution.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Perrow, C. (1984). Normal Accidents: Living with High-Risk Technologies. New York: Basic Books.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Peters, Charles, and Taylor Branch. (1972). Blowing the Whistle: Dissent in the Public Interest. New York: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Randle, Michael. (1991). People Power: The Building of a New European Home. Stroud, UK: Hawthorn.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Rigby, Andrew. (1991). Living the Intifada. London: Zed Books.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Robinson, W. Peter. (1996). Deceit, Delusion and Detection. London: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Rothschild, Joyce, and Terance D. Miethe. (1994). ''Whistleblowing as Resistance in Modern Work Organizations: The Politics of Revealing Organizational Deception and Abuse.'' In John M. Jermier, David Knights, and Walter R. Nord (eds.), Resistance and Power in Organizations. London: Routledge, pp. 252–273.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Rothschild, Joyce, and Terance D. Miethe. (1999). ''Whistle-blower Disclosures and Management Retaliation: The Battle to Control Information about Organization Corruption.'' Work and Occupations 26(1), 107–128.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Sandman, P. (1987) ''Risk Communication: Facing Public Outrage.'' EPA Journal, November, 21–22.

  59. Scheff, T.J. (1988). ''Shame and Conformity: The Deference-Emotion System.'' American Sociological Review 53, 395–406.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Schneider, C.D. (1977/92). Shame, Exposure, and Privacy. London: Norton.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Semelin, Jacques. (1993). Unarmed against Hitler: Civilian Resistance in Europe, 1939–1943. Westport, CT: Praeger.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Sharp, Gene. (1973). The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Boston: Porter Sargent.

  63. Sharp, Gene. (1979). Gandhi as a Political Strategist. Boston: Porter Sargent.

  64. Shridharani, Krishnalal. (1939). War Without Violence: A Study of Gandhi's Method and its Accomplishments. London: Victor Gollancz.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Skilling, H.G. (1976). Czechoslovakia's Interrupted Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  66. Stewart, Julie, Thomas Devine, and Dina Rasor. (1989). Courage Without Martyrdom: A Survival Guide for Whistleblowers. Washington, DC: Government Accountability Project.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Truelson, Judith A. (1987). ''Blowing the Whistle on Systematic Corruption: On Maximizing Reform and Minimizing Retaliation.'' Corruption and Reform 2, 55–74.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Vaughan, D. (1996). The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance at NASA. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Google Scholar 

  69. Vinten, Gerald (ed.). (1994). Whistleblowing-Subversion or Corporate Citizenship? London: Paul Chapman.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Weber, Thomas. (1993). '' 'The Marchers Simply Walked Forward until Struck Down': Nonviolent Suffering and Conversion.'' Peace & Change 18(3), 267–289.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Weinstein, Deena. (1977). ''Bureaucratic Opposition: The Challenge to Authoritarian Abuses at the Workplace.'' Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory 1(2), 31–46.

    Google Scholar 

  72. Weinstein, Deena. (1979). Bureaucratic Opposition: Challenging Abuses at the Workplace. New York: Pergamon.

  73. Westhues, Kenneth. (1998). Eliminating Professors: A Guide to the Dismissal Process. Queenston, Canada: Kempner Collegium.

    Google Scholar 

  74. Westin, Alan F., Henry I. Kurtz, and Albert Robbins (eds.). (1981). Whistle Blowing! Loyalty and Dissent in the Corporation. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  75. Whiteside, Thomas. (1972). The Investigation of Ralph Nader: General Motors vs. One Determined Man. New York: Arbor House.

    Google Scholar 

  76. Windsor, Philip, and Adam Roberts. (1969). Czechoslovakia 1968: Reform, Repression and Resistance. London: Chatto and Windus.

    Google Scholar 

  77. Zald, Mayer N., and Michael A. Berger. (1978). ''Social Movements in Organizations: Coup d'etat, Insurgency, and Mass Movements.''American Journal of Sociology 83(4), 823–861.

    Google Scholar 

  78. Zunes, Stephen. (1999) ''The Role of Non-violent Action in the Downfall of Apartheid.'' Journal of Modern African Studies 37(1), 137–169.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Martin, B., Rifkin, W. The Dynamics of Employee Dissent: Whistleblowers and Organizational Jiu-Jitsu. Public Organization Review 4, 221–238 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:PORJ.0000036869.45076.39

Download citation

  • whistleblowers
  • dissent
  • nonviolent action
  • organizations