Whistleblowing Hotlines: An (Un)democratic Management Tool?

Josefine Kondrup, Julie Nørholm Larsen & Heidi Lindberg Hadsund

Student thesis: Master thesis


purpose of this thesis is to contribute to the academic field of whistleblowing from a human resource management perspective. In recent years, whistleblowing hotlines have become the center of a debate revolving around the promotion of ethical behaviour in organizations, as a result of a series of well-publicized media scandals. This debate has resulted in proposed legislation, in an attempt to codify the act of whistleblowing; this codification moves whistleblowing from unregulation into a formalized system, in order to uncover unethical behaviour in organizations. This need for uncovering ethical behaviour has created global momentum due to increased stakeholder expectations that compel organizations to implement formalized whistleblowing hotlines. The amount of empirical literature concerning whistleblowing and whistleblowing hotlines outside of North America is limited, to the point of being almost non-existent in a Danish setting. We find it interesting that Danish private organizations introduce whistleblowing hotlines for the purpose of risk management, without considering that the legal and cultural prerequisites in the United States are not present. Therefore, the research question of this study is: How are whistleblowing hotlines utilized and legitimized in Deloitte & Vestas, and how does this affect human resource management in a Danish setting? To answer this question, we have obtained qualitative empirical data through two explorative case studies. The data have been collected through semi-structured interviews and document analysis of the case-organizations’ Codes of Conduct, among other relevant documents. In the analysis, we draw upon three theoretical directions - institutional theory, power theory and theory of psychological contracts - in order to identify why the hotlines have been implemented and how it affects management of human resources. The findings show that in a Danish setting, forcing employees to report upon colleagues is not ethically justified. Furthermore, it shows that implementing whistleblowing hotlines as a risk management tool is only justified if the organizations recognize the democratic rights of employees by taking the necessary steps to provide protection and encourage participation in the whistleblowing proces.

EducationsMSocSc in Human Resource Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages128
SupervisorsHans Krause Hansen