Whistleblowing and why it matters

Update: a recording of the lecture by Professor Mark Stein is available here.

Update: a webinar on whistleblowing with Dame Ruth Silver and Professor Mark Stein is now available.

Ways in which leaders can think more positively about whistleblowers in organisations was the focus of the prestigious 2018 Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL) Annual Lecture, delivered earlier this month by Professor Mark Stein, Chair in Leadership and Management at the School of Business.

The lecture, which was held at Kings Place - The Guardian headquarters - in London, was livestreamed, with a video recording and webinar to be made available shortly.

“Whistleblowers are frequently hated and scorned by others in their organisations, with many becoming targets of harassment, intimidation and stigmatisation. Where whistleblowers raise their heads above the parapet, it is not unusual for a witch-hunting culture to develop, so that an atmosphere of persecution pervades,” says Mark.

“Precisely why whistleblowers are often so hated remains a vital and intriguing question. For some, the answer may appear obvious: by setting up ‘in opposition’ to the organisation, whistleblowers constitute a substantial threat and are disliked – or even hated – because they represent the ‘other’ who would appear to stand up in opposition to colleagues and the organisation.

 “I challenge the idea that this is exclusively why whistleblowers are hated, and argue that there is more here than meets the eye. Contrary to the above view, as well as representing the ‘other’, I argue that whistleblowers may unconsciously also represent the lost good part of the ‘self’ of the staff member, the self that is capable of knowing and facing the truth, and that this intensifies hatred of them.”

Dame Ruth Silver, President of the Trust, wrote that Professor Stein’s work is 'highly original and profoundly relevant to the challenges of contemporary leadership’ and that she had invited him because he was ‘one of the brightest, most stimulating thinkers on leadership'.

Professor Stein’s lecture was entitled ‘Whistleblowing – and the loss of the good self’.

It was introduced by Ricky McMenemy (Chair of FETL) and the lecture was followed by questions and answer sesson with Professor Stein and Dame Ruth Silver.

 A recording of the lecture by Professor Mark Stein is available here: