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Whistleblowing in financial organizations:

towards an identity work perspective

Event details


Nov 15, 2012
from 03:00 PM to 04:00 PM


Quinn Q201

Contact Name

Paul McGrath

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A research seminar by Dr. Kate Kenny, School of Political Science and Sociology, NUI Galway


How can we understand more about peoples' experiences of blowing the whistle in financial sector organizations? In this paper, instead of following existing research and focusing on generalizable traits and experiences, I adopt an identity work perspective.


Whistleblowing is an important topic for organizational scholars. In many cases, people who have spoken up about perceived wrongdoing in their work contexts represent the only way for problems to come to light. Today, whistleblowing is ever more vital; as work practices become more complex through the use of opaque technology systems in, for example, banking and finance, fewer people are in a position to understand these practices fully. This means that we depend now more than ever on whistleblowers who have inside knowledge to alert us to problems (Rothschild and Miethe, 1999).

To date, research is limited, and tends to fall roughly into two categories. The first involves studying the factors that influence experiences of whistleblowing- the structural circumstances that surround instances including whether the organization in question is in the public or private sector (Vinten, 1994), the country context (Skivenes and Trygstad, 2010), the hierarchical structure in place (Rothwell and Baldwin, 2006) and the position of the whistleblower (Bjorkelo et al., 2011). Researchers examine how such factors affect both the likelihood of whistleblowing occurring and the kinds of retaliation that results (Near and Miceli, 1996; Rothschild and Miethe, 1999). A second approach has been to gather experiences of whistleblowers themselves through relatively unstructured interviews (Alford, 2001; Glazer and Glazer, 1989). The idea is that through this method, the lived experiences of whistleblowers across a wide range of sectors can emerge. What is missing, to date, is a specific focus on banking organizations. In this presentation, I present findings from a recent empirical study into this setting. In addition, I propose a lens derived from theories of organizational culture and identity in order to enhance our understanding of whistleblowing in banking.


Kate Kenny is Lecturer in Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway, Ireland, and a Research Fellow at Cambridge University's Judge Business School, UK. Her research interests include Whistleblowing in Banking and Finance Organizations, and issues of subjectivity and identity in work organizations. She recently co-authored a book on this topic: "Understanding Identity and Organizations" (Kenny, Whittle & Willmott, 2011). Her work has been published in Organization Studies, Human Relations, Organization and Gender Work and Organization, among other journals. She is an editorial board member of ‘Organization’, Journal of Organizational Ethnography and ephemera: theory and politics of organization.