What is the difference between internal and external whistleblowing?

May 3, 2022

To begin with, it can be helpful to determine what a whistleblower actually is. Whistleblowing is simply the use of official channels to report corruption, inaccuracies & misconduct within an organization or authority. However, this can be further divided into internal and external whistleblowing.

In this blog post, we take a closer look at what the two mean, what they have in common, but also what is the difference between internal and external whistleblowing.

What is internal whistleblowing?

Although internal whistleblowing is a relatively loose term, it usually means that an employee reports misconduct to someone within the organization. You thus use the channels that the organization or authority receives, for example through HR staff or by using an internal “hotline” or similar whistleblower solutions.

Exactly what is reported can be anything from financial inaccuracies and harmful practices to improper food handling and other serious misconduct. Virtually anything that can be interpreted as incorrect, illegal or harmful and that is in the public interest.

In the case of internal whistleblowing, the hope is that the organization will rectify the problem without spreading the error further. In this way, the damage that occurs can be reduced, both for the employees, the workplace and the entire organization. Internal whistleblowing rarely involves media attention or public trials, unless the organization ignores the reporting or does not take it seriously.

Who should be able to blow the whistle internally often decides where your internal reporting channel should be located. Read more in this blog post: Should the whistleblower channel be on the website or intranet?

What is external whistleblowing?

External whistleblowing usually means that an individual discovers a serious misconduct, either by an organization, authority or individual, and reports this to an external party. External whistleblowers can be an employee, a customer, a competitor or a supplier who discovers that not everything is going in the right way.

The external party to whom they report this may differ. For example, some choose to report directly to the relevant authority, while others turn to social media or traditional media channels such as newspapers or TV channels. Many times external whistleblowing is due to insufficient alternatives or lack of solutions internally.

External whistleblowing can, as a result, ruin an organization's reputation. It can also lead to major lawsuits, such as when the US state of California sued game maker Activision Blizzard over a problematic workplace culture.

So what is the difference between internal and external whistleblowing?

To make it easy to distinguish between the internal and external whistleblowing, we have condensed down the biggest differences into three points each:

Internal whistleblowing

  • Uses internal reporting channels (HR, whistleblower systems etc.)
  • Managed within the organization
  • The whistleblower is often, but not always, protected from retaliation

External whistleblowing

  • Uses external reporting channels (authorities, media, social media)
  • Often handled externally through trials in the eyes of the public
  • The whistleblower is sometimes not protected from retaliation.

In summary

With a functional and user-friendly internal whistleblower solution, you reduce the risk that your employees will feel the need to turn to external whistleblowing. Visslan offers complete solutions as well as various components for a whistleblower solution that suits your organization.

Questions about the blog post or whistleblowing?
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