Is the Type of Misconduct Decisive for the Perceived Legitimacy of Whistleblowing? A Study of Municipal Managers’ Assessments of Whistleblowing in Cases of Harassment and Corruption

Marit Skivenes, Sissel Trygstad


The purpose of this article is to investigate whether the type of misconduct that is reported – subjective or objective issues – has any impact on whether managers will assess this whistleblowing as acceptable or not. Misconduct involving harassment will involve a larger element of subjectivity than is usually seen in cases of corruption, which tend to be characterized by more objective facts. Our sample includes 1 940 municipal managers from 107 medium-sized and large municipalities. One half of them have assessed a vignette that describes a situation involving harassment, while the other half was presented with the same vignette, but harassment had been replaced by corruption. Any differences in the perception of whistleblowing related to harassment compared to corruption will emerge in the way in which the two sub-samples assess the two vignettes. The analyses show, however, that no such differences can be found, neither when controlled for gender, education, seniority or number of subordinates. The only difference detected relates to the management level of the respondents. Senior managers stand out in terms of their significantly lower acceptance of whistleblowing in cases of harassment.

Keywords: whistleblowing, whistleblowing responses, whistleblowing recipient, harassment, corruption

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