Why Are Whistleblowers Often Our Age?
Start writing a post
Arts Entertainment

Why People Our Age Are The Ones Doing The Whistleblowing

Turns out millennials are strong-willed, rely more on their own beliefs than on norms, and can overcome insecurities.

Why People Our Age Are The Ones Doing The Whistleblowing

It seems like all the recent major whistleblowers, from Edward Snowden to Chelsea Manning to Christopher Wylie, have been millennials.

Is this a coincidence, or is there something that makes millennials more likely to call out wrongdoing when they see it?

Traits of Millennials and Whistleblowers Align

Image via Giphy

Some have suggested that the characteristics commonly associated with millennials line up with the psychological traits of your typical whistleblower, and research seems to back them up.

Although it's difficult to generalize the personality traits of an entire generation, two of the most common descriptions of millennials are "altruistic" and "narcissistic." Although it appears that these two traits go against one another, millennials, it seems, possess a mix of both of them.

Pew Research has also described millennials as "confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change." They also tend to be highly educated — some might even say that they're over-educated.

In 2011, psychotherapist Dr. Bernard Luskin described the traits that whistleblowers typically share. According to Dr. Luskin, whistleblowers are often altruistic and moralistic. He also writes that they are strong-willed, rely more on their own beliefs than on norms, and can overcome insecurities, such as doubts about releasing information, through exhibitionism.

A much-cited report from Ohio State University researchers described whistleblowing as "prosocial" behavior, meaning it has both altruistic and egoistic motives.

A comparison of the traits of millennials and those of whistleblowers reveals a lot of similarities between the two. Altruism and ego may drive both of them, often at the same time. Millennials also tend to be confident and self-expressive, which can help when speaking out even when it's risky, as whistleblowing can be.

Additionally, millennials tend to be liberal and open to change, making them more likely to want to alter the course of things for what they believe is the greater good.

Some Caveats

Image via Giphy

Of course, not all millennials have the same personalities and priorities. And even if they do embody the typical traits of millennials, a lack of resources or privilege can prevent someone from blowing the whistle.

According to a paper by researchers from Boston University and Northwestern University, people who are paid more and are more highly educated are more likely to take on the risk of leaking information. Whistleblowers are also more likely to be male.

The researchers point out that these patterns show that those with more power and those who fit into the norm are more likely to report wrongdoing. This may be, they write, because they face less risk of punishment.

Whistleblowing is also financially risky. While you can recover money through False Claims Act cases, it can initially be costly. If you're barely scraping by, you're also not likely to risk losing your job by rocking the boat.

The Role of Technology

Image via Giphy

Another factor that may make millennials more likely to blow the whistle is the technology they have available to them. Informers have long relied on the media to get their information out to the world. But now, doing so is easier than ever.

Rather than having to acquire paper documents and physically copy them, you can upload or email digital records. There are even journalistic websites, such as WikiLeaks, that are dedicated to publishing leaked information. Whistleblowers, journalists and others involved in these leaks can also use encryption and other cybersecurity measures to disguise their identities.

The Perspective of Being New

Image via Giphy

The fact that millennials are new in the workforce may also play a role in their being whistleblowers. As new entries, they're not used to the ways things are at their companies or within the government organizations they work for. They're also less invested in these organizations, having spent less time there. This might make them less concerned about breaking their ties with that organization.

Those who have been in the workforce or at a particular company for a long time may be more likely to accept that things just "are the way they are." They might also be more personally invested in an organization and could have even helped build it up to where it is today, making them unwilling to damage its reputation.

Although it seems that, today, millennials are the most likely to bring activities they see as wrong into the public eye, people have been doing so for a long time.

Whistleblowing is not a new phenomenon. Perhaps, in a few decades, younger generations will be even more well-suited to being whistleblowers — and will be the ones keeping millennials honest.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

college students waiting in a long line in the hallway

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments