Research on whistle-blowing has been hampered by a lack of a sound theoretical base. In this paper, we draw upon existing theories of motivation and power relationships to propose a model of the whistle-blowing process. This model focuses on decisions made by organization members who believe they have evidence of organizational wrongdoing, and the reactions of organization authorities. Based on a review of the sparse empirical literature, we suggest variables that may affect both the members' decisions and the organization's responses.
When successful and ethical managers are alerted to possible organizational wrongdoing, they take corrective action before the problems become crises. However, recent research [e.g., Rynes et al. (2007, Academy of Management Journal50(5), 987–1008)] indicates that many organizations fail to implement evidence-based practices (i.e., practices that are consistent with research findings), in many aspects of human resource management. In this paper, we draw from years of research on whistle-blowing by social scientists and legal scholars and offer concrete suggestions to managers who (...) are interested in encouraging internal reporting of problems requiring attention, and to observers of questionable activity who are considering reporting it. We also identify ways that research suggests policy-makers can have a more positive influence. We hope that these suggestions will help foster evidence-based practice regarding whistle-blowing. (shrink)
Abstract:We analyzed data from a survey of employees of a large military base in order to assess possible differences in the whistle-blowing process due to type of wrongdoing observed. Employees who observed perceived wrongdoing involving mismanagement, sexual harassment, or unspecified legal violations were significantly more likely to report it than were employees who observed stealing, waste, safety problems, or discrimination. Further, type of wrongdoing was significantly related to reasons given by employees who observed wrongdoing but did not report it, across (...) all forms of wrongdoing. However, the primary reason that observers did not report it was that they thought nothing could be done to rectify the situation. Finally, type of wrongdoing was significantly related to the cost of the wrongdoing, the quality of the evidence about the wrongdoing, and the comprehensiveness of retaliation against the whistle-blower. These findings suggest that type of wrongdoing makes a difference in the whistle-blowing process, and it should be examined in future research. (shrink)
Abstract:Statutory approaches toward whistle-blowing currently appear to be based on the assumption that most observers of wrongdoing will report it unless deterred from doing so by fear of retaliation. Yet our review of research from studies of whistle-blowing behavior suggests that this assumption is unwarranted. We propose that an alternative legislative approach would prove more successful in encouraging valid whistle-blowing and describe a model for such legislation that would increase self-monitoring of ethical behavior by organizations, with obvious benefits to society (...) at large.A defense contractor’s inspectors used improper calibration standards when inspecting missile parts and other military products, used noncertified inspectors when inspecting such products, and used employees without top-secret clearance to work on classified projects. This created potentially life-threatening products as well as potential compromises of military secrets.Quality-control officials on the Trans Alaska Pipeline were threatened with physical harm, demoted, and spied on in an effort to force them not to turn in negative reports or report problems. As a result, the likelihood of damaging oil spills due to improperly built and maintained equipment is heightened.A major corporation allegedly initiated an analysis of the cost savings that would result from circumventing or reducing compliance with health, safety and environmental standards. Two officers who objected to this noncompliance cost/benefit analysis were subsequently fired. (shrink)
Student cheating and reporting of that cheating represents one form of organizational wrong-doing and subsequent whistle-blowing, in the context of an academic organization. Previous research has been hampered by a lack of information concerning the validity of survey responses estimating the incidence of organizational wrongdoing and whistle-blowing. An innovative method, the Randomized Response Technique (RRT), was used here to assess the validity of reported incidences of wrongdoing and whistle-blowing. Surprisingly, our findings show that estimates of these incidences did not vary (...) significantly when RRT questionnaire results were compared to those obtained from standard surveys. In fact, a large number of business undergraduates admitted cheating while only a small percentage reported peers'' cheating when they observed it. These results should be sobering for managers and their implications are considered in some detail. (shrink)
Survey responses from Fortune 1000 firms were examined to assess whether firms changed their whistleblowing policies to response to changes in state statutes concerning whistleblowing. We predicted that firms might have created internal channels for whistleblowing in response to new legislation that increased their vulnerability to whistleblowing claims by employees. In fact, very few firms indicated that they had created their policies in responses to legal changes.
Why do employees break organizational rules and why are organizations unable to prevent this? Past studies have suggested three predictors of rule-breaking: _predisposition_ due to normalization of rule-breaking; _pressure_ due to competitive and performance strain; and _opportunity_ to break the rules due to job characteristics associated with the assigned role and the time at work (e.g., Baucus, 1994). We used a purposive sample of 14,472 observations from 5,735 individuals nested in 199 organizations, to investigate these predictors in a sports context (...) where rule-breaking was likely to be low because of a high risk of detection and a strong compliance system. This allowed us to hold constant the effects of compliance systems and rules that were universally applied in all organizations so that we could compare differences in rule-breaking associated with predisposition, pressure, and opportunity. Compared to previous research, our method permitted us to draw four unique conclusions: (a) all three theories about predictors of rule-breaking were supported, even when all predictors were included simultaneously in a multivariate analysis; (b) individual rule-breaking was predicted by individual and organizational variables in multilevel models, suggesting that employees, the organization, and the industry all support rule-breaking under some conditions; (c) temporal precedence of predictor variables in longitudinal analysis suggested that they influenced current rule-breaking rather than the other way around; and (d) the use of a single-industry sample allowed us to collect nested data from individuals and organizations whose rule-breaking was more likely to be detected and penalized than in other industries, thus reducing undercount of rule-breaking. (shrink)