Critical Discussion on “Whistle-blowing” from an Ethical Perspective

5. Analysis:

The ethical or unethical behavior of whistle-blowing always depends on the circumstances. However, several conditions have been explained above which indicates the situations that where it is ethical or where it is concerned as unethical. Whatever the situations are, whistle-blowing is always considered as moral function because it is morally prohibited. Whistle-blowing has been ethically required where the companies are facing serious harms even to them or to the public but supervisor cannot take any appropriate measures to stop such misconduct. Hence, employees are supposed to blow the whistle to deal with risks or to eliminate the harmful situation. Moreover, whistle-blowing is an effective phenomenon and have ethical values morally (Steven, 2015). The morality of this ethical behavior can be best explained by the below explained theories.

5.1. Ethical Theoretical Perspective:

In 1980s the theoretical perspective of whistle-blowing was begun to emerge. Whistle-blowers are the members of organizations who disclose information regarding dysfunctional activities to the firm or organization so they can be able to resolve the problem. It often conjures up the images of inappropriate activities which must be reported. Scholars have their different thoughts and perspectives regarding the concept of whistle-blowers. Some of the perspectives are:

5.1.1 Consequentiality Theory:

This theory brought an attention towards the ethical consequences and results of the action of the whistle-blowers. It includes the other psychological approaches like utilitarianism and egoism. The egoism promotes long-term interests of an individual while utilitarianism reflects the ethical actions which are used for minimization of the total utility. Hedonism is another consequentialist philosophy which explains that pleasure is most important thing for a mankind and individual should maximize it in any way. This theory is based on the evaluation of moral values like, institutions, rules and acts etc. only for the good consequences. According to the theorists John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, consequentialism theory is based on the morality which includes; releasing sufferings and spreading happiness, freedom, survival of species. Thus, they believe that only moral values can bring good outcomes and consequences which end the justified means (Stanford, 2015).

5.1.2 Deontological Theory:

It is an ethical theory that explains the morality of actions should be based on the fact that whether the action is wrong or right under the laws and rules of whistle-blowers. It was introduced in 18th century by Immanuel Kant. The deontological theory is a contrasted theory of consequentialism that explains the ethical rights of the whistle-blowers and their intentions associated with specific behavior than on its consequences. This theory embraces the philosophical approaches which includes; Justice and Kantianism. Kantianism is an approach revolves around the duties of whistle-blowers not their goals and emotions. Their actions are based on underlying principles for the maximization of interests different from each other like, fairness and honesty. On the other hand, the philosophical view of justice is deeply rooted in moral equities and equal treatments for every whistle-blower related to their questionable action. Divine Command Theory is a type of deontological theory which describes that state of action is right only if God has declared it right and that act is mandatorily to be obliged. Thus the moral obligations arise from the command of God. The rightness of every action depends upon the act which is an important duty not because of good consequences. For example, a belief that act of killing someone is wrong (Stanford, 2016).

5.1.3 Virtue Theory:

The virtue ethical theory is one of the major perspectives that focus on the integrity of the moral actions of the whistle-blower than on morality itself. It emphasizes the moral characters rather than rules and duties. This approach de-emphasizes the rules of consequences and only focuses on the act or individual. The issue is not about the intentions that whether they are right or not or whether they are following the correct rule, all these factors are not relevant. According to the virtue theory, a habit like tendency is deeply ingrained. It has been referred to as the nature of a man in which they are born. Moreover, they believe that actions must be formed as a result of less or more independently selected actions. Moral virtues explain the whistle-blowers to act in accordance with certain reasons enable them to feel appropriate and must have the right intentions. This theory explains that whistle-blower must be oriented towards the specific means rather than extremes (Garrett, 2005).

5.1.4. Standard Theory:

The standard theory explains that whistle-blowers should take oneself into the account while making the analysis. It has been considered that this theory has three basic paradoxes which include; Harm, Burden, and Failure. According to the burden paradox, the act of whistle-blower in some cases leads them to the threatening risks. The harm paradox explains that the act of whistle-blowing can sometimes create significant and serious hazards. The failure paradox describes that whistle-blowers can hardly prevent the significant and serious hazards. This theory basically is the justification of whistle-blowing. The theory explains that whistle-blowers always involves revealing the information of other acts so there should not be something problematic about this. They are the ones who protect the bad things to be happening so their morality needs no justification (Michael, 2000).

5.1.5 Complicity Theory:

The complicity theory was proposed by Davis and it is an alternative theory to standard theory. This theory explains that whistle-blowers have some obligations to perform the act of whistle-blowing in order to express their loyalty to the firm or organization. Davis explains that this theory has two main features. The most important one is “morals”. This approach automatically prevents the harm paradox of standard theory. The second one is that complicity leads to more demanding obligations then the ability to prevent harm. This theory basically defends the act of whistle-blowing by explaining that it is ethical and necessary. Another theorist like Selden and Brewer also promoted this theory with the explanation that public officials denounced the internal corruptions and misconducts and prevent welfare of their public (Tezcan, 2005).

6. Case Study of Whistle-blowing:

6.1 Coca-Cola Case:

An employee of the Coca-Cola Company named Mathew Whitley was fired in 2003 after he sent some allegations to the top management. He was financial executive who has seen some illegal actives or misconducts under the organization. Instead of whistle-blowing to the supervisor, he asked the Company to pay him $4.4 million US dollars otherwise he will reveal the secret. The Company refused to do so and as a result he was dismissed from his job. Then he went to media, and reveals all the illegal actives accruing in the organization like charging Coke with illegal termination, slander, frauds and infliction of emotional distress through which he passes from last few years. An investigation was conducted by the United States Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) (BBC News, 2003). Some of the allegations prove wrong and some were found true. As a result, company paid Mathews $140,000 for his sufferings and even has to apologize for this while Mathews were asked to respect his company. Basically, three things have been concluded from this case. Firstly, Mathews did not immediately blow the whistle to his supervisor. Secondly, the real motivation behind the whistle-blowing was unethical as it is for the personal gains. Lastly, he blows the whistle in order to take revenge from the company. It has been explained above that any act of whistle-blowing for the cause of personal interest or revenge would be entitled as unethical or immoral (Sherii, 2003).

6.2 Hughes Aircraft Case:

Hughes is a microelectronics company who used to manufacture microchips for military programs and many environmental chips were made which were specified by the government contract. In 1985, they shipped the microchip without proper testing because of the time pressure of the manufacturer. The chips were failed to perform its tasks which cause the failure of radar in an F-14 weapon and leaves the pilot unable to defend or attack. Margaret was the in charge of the testing department of Microelectronics Company, she tried to tell the upper authorities that this chip as not tested but she was asked to keep silent otherwise she have to leave her job. But she reported the problem to the federal investigators. Proper investigation was conducted and it was concluded that Hughes was found guilty by doing fraud with the government. He was assessed 4.05 millions and Margaret was awarded $891,000 for her ethical whistle-blowing but she lost her job permanently. The loss of the job affected her personal life. Three major things were highlighted by this case. Firstly, it causes serious harm to the company due to the defective microchips. Secondly, it was ethical behavior that she chooses the internal channels before going to public. Lastly, the case explains that whistle-blowing is considered as ethical and moral in a case of serious harm and threats (Hughes Industrial, 2013).

6.3 Tnuva Case:

Tnuva is a dairy conglomerate which was operated by the General Federation of Labor. Kuch was the secretary of this company who found some financial misconducts and irregularities. She tried to inform her supervisor but she was posted to another department. She again tried to inform her supervisor but no steps were taken. She was then frightened for losing her job as she has given her suspicions to her supervisors. At the end, she decided to do the external whistle-blowing by informing the police. Then police conduct a proper investigation and the supervisors were founded guilty and they were sentenced to prison. Kuch was fired from the company; she went to the committee and clime her unfair dismissal (Liptak, 2015). The supervisors decided that they will set her as a psychologically disturbed person and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. They involve the doctor with them and the doctor made her reports without meeting her once and creates her medical records illegally. She filed a complaint against the doctor and she sued him from the court. Several points have been explained by this case. Firstly, she blower the whistle twice internally but when she realizes the zero response, she went to the police, this shows her loyalty. Secondly, she waited for long before doing external whistle-blowing in order to make sure about the misconducts. Lastly, as it has explained above that whistle-blowing against the irregularities is always ethical and moral (Doris, 2016).

7. Conclusion:

From the all above discussion, it has been concluded that whistle-blowing is necessary for the organization in order to be save from any harm and misconduct. There are several types which defines the working of whistle-blowing internally and externally. However, the laws regarding whistle-blowing were passed in 19th century and till date they are getting improved or reconstruct. Mostly people argued that wheatear the act of whistle-blowing is ethical or unethical. But the above study concluded that whistle-blowing is an ethical phenomenon and is required morally. This perspective has been proven by several theorists that ethical whistle-blowing is necessary for the reputation of the organization. Moreover, certain cases have been explained above which explains the differences and impact of ethical or unethical whistle-blowing.


BBC News. (2003). Coke pays off whistleblower. Retrieved from

David, L., & Heungsik, P. (2018). The negative health effects of external whistleblowing: A study of some key factors. The Social Science Journal, vol 55; issue 1; pp 37-51.

Devine, T. M. (1999). HE WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION ACT OF 1989. Administrative Law Review, Vol 51; issue 2; pp 531-579.

Diego, B., Dutra, S., & Filipe, S. (2013). whistleblowing and its interfaces with the Brazilian culture. Brazilian Administration Review, Vol 10; Issue 4; pp 44-54.

Doris, R. (2016). Acquisition of Israel Dairy Company Tnuva. Retrieved from

Ethics Sage. (2014, September 30). Is Whistleblowing an Ethical Practice? Retrieved from

Garrett, D. (2005, November 28). Virtue Ethics. Retrieved from

Henkel, C. (2016). Whistleblower Rights and Protection Under U.S. Law in the Private Sector. The Librairie Générale de Droit et de Jurisprudence.

Hughes Industrial. (2013, November 01). THE BEGINNING OF HUGHES AIRCRAFT COMPANY. Retrieved from

John, B., & Martin, F. (2012). Whistleblowing: Law and Practice. OUP Oxford.

John, K. (2012). Whistle-blowing. Retrieved from Encyclopedia:

Judy, N., & Miriam, S. (2015, October 13). Whistle Blowing in the Public Sector. Retrieved from

Kongens, G. (2011). Whistleblowing and ethical responsibility. Retrieved from

Liptak, A. (2015). Supreme Court Rules on Whistle-Blower Case and Bankruptcy Judges. Retrieved from

Mark, K. (2010). Toward a Theory of Whistleblowing. Decision Sciences, Vol 41; Issue 4; pp 45-56.

Mathieu, B. (2008). Whistle-Blowing and Morality. Business Ethics, Vol 81; Issue 3; pp 579-585.

Michael, D. (2000). Paradoxes of Whistle-blowing. Business and Professional Ethics, Vol 15; Issue 1; pp 45-56.

Norman, F. (2001). Ethical Issues in Whistleblowing. The Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol 4; issue 9; pp 465-476.

Ricotta, M. (2018, February 18). INTERNAL VS. EXTERNAL WHISTLEBLOWING. Retrieved from

Robert, M. (2016). Whistleblowing: Don’t Encourage It, Prevent It. International Journal of Health Policy and Management, Vol 5; issue 3; pp 189-191.

Rouse, M. (2016). Whistleblower Protection Act. Retrieved from

Sawan, K. (2017, March 19). Why occupational health and safety is important to the workplace? Retrieved from

Sherri, D. (2003, December 05). Coca-Cola Settles Whistle-Blower Suit for $540,000. Retrieved from

Stanford. (2015, October 22). Consequentialism. Retrieved from Encyclopedia:

Stanford. (2016, October 16). Deontological Ethics. Retrieved from

Steven, M. (2015, December 17). The Morality of Whistle-blowing. Retrieved from

Storch, R. P. (2017). A Review of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. New York: Department of Justice.

Suzanna, K. (2017, June 27). INTERNAL WHISTLEBLOWING. Retrieved from

Tezcan, K. (2005). Test of Complicity Theory. European Journal of Business and Management, Vol 7; Issue 18; pp 36-49.

Thomas, C., Mary, E., & Verdu, R. (2007). Whistle-Blowing for Profit: An Ethical Analysis of the Federal False Claims Act. Business Ethics, Vol 2; Issue 5; pp 324-445.

U.S. Department of State. (2015). The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012. Retrieved from

US Department of Labour. (2016). A safe workplace is a sound business. Retrieved from