Type of Wrongdoing and Whistle-Blowing: Further Evidence That Type of Wrongdoing Affects the Whistle-Blowing Process

By Somers, Mark; Casal, Jose C. | Public Personnel Management, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Type of Wrongdoing and Whistle-Blowing: Further Evidence That Type of Wrongdoing Affects the Whistle-Blowing Process


Somers, Mark, Casal, Jose C., Public Personnel Management


Recent scandals in a variety of firms and industries have increased the salience of ethical conduct in business. Indeed, public perceptions of the extent of corporate malfeasance have raised questions about the ethical reasoning and the conduct of senior managers as well as the values taught to them in business schools. (1)

Although acting ethically has clear benefits to employees, other important stakeholders, and to the firm pressures for performance and/or the desire for personal gain have led individuals in both public and private sector organizations astray (2) While there has been renewed interest in fostering ethical behavior in organizations through codes of conduct and/or employee training (3,4) there has also been increased interest in what happens to employees when they discover and report unethical or illegal activity; that is, whistle-blowing. (5)

Perhaps one of the most vexing issues in recent scandals in large firms such as WorldCom, Enron, and Tyco is the nagging question of how this highly unethical conduct was allowed to continue. Why wasn't it was discovered and reported much sooner? Why weren't external oversight agencies more vigilant?

As whistle-blowers can be viewed as a "last defense" against wrongdoing in organizations, it is important to understand the process and the consequences of whistle-blowing from both an academic and a practitioner's perspective. With regard to the former, there is a fairly extensive body of research on the topic of whistle-blowing, Interest has been in hypothesized antecedents of whistle-blowing including contextual, personal and situational variables; that is, theory and research have focused on who blows the whistle and why they do it. (6) There has also been some interest in the consequences of whistle-blowing with respect to experienced retaliation. (7,8)

As is often the case with a maturing research area, while there has been good progress, there are gaps as well; that is, issues that have been overlooked by prior research studies or topic areas that are under-researched. One such under-researched topic area appears to be the potential influence of the type of organizational wrongdoing on whistle-blowing. Most studies have treated observed wrongdoing as monolithic, but some preliminary evidence suggests that this might not be the case. (9) More specifically, it has been suggested that explicit consideration of the type of wrongdoing observed is germane to understanding the whistle-blowing process. This study is intended to help fill a potential gap in whistle-blowing research, and is focused on if and how the type of wrongdoing observed affects the propensity to report it and the consequences of doing so.

Whistle-Blowing and the Whistle-Blowing Process

Whistle-blowing has been defined as "the disclosure by organization members (former or current) of illegal, immoral or illegitimate practices under the control of their employers to persons or organizations that may be able to effect action." (10) This definition has been recognized as the most widely accepted definition of whistle-blowing and it is used to frame whistle-blowing in this study. (11)

How whistle-blowing is defined is important because the definition of the construct frames the development of conceptual models and by extension sets the direction of subsequent empirical research. Several key properties are evident in the definition cited above. The first is the motivational basis for reporting wrongdoing which is predicated on remedy; (12) that is, as defined here, whistle-blowers are faced with a situation that is morally unacceptable and are seeking remedy thereby differentiating it from informing. Second, whistle-blowing is grounded in a moral or ethical imperative that goes beyond violations of laws and policies. (13) That is, whistle blowing encompasses activities that are seen (by the whistle-blower) as wrong. Finally, this definition suggests that whistle-blowers have a reasonable expectation that remedy is likely. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Type of Wrongdoing and Whistle-Blowing: Further Evidence That Type of Wrongdoing Affects the Whistle-Blowing Process
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.