Management Whistle-Blowing
by
Janet P. Near, Marcia P. Miceli
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 October 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0030

Introduction

Whistle-blowers have been widely discussed in the popular press and by scholars in a variety of academic fields. This article cannot cover all books and articles on the topic. Instead, it highlights articles that focus primarily on whistle-blowing and are published in scholarly journals in the social sciences, management, and law. Not included are articles offering broader theory and empirical research that may be related to whistle-blowing and to related behaviors, such as organizational citizenship, various types of ethical or unethical behavior, corporate social responsibility, or voice behaviors other than whistle-blowing. As described in some of the cited research, there are usually multiple steps involved in whistle-blowing. An employee observes what he or she considers to be wrongdoing in his or her organization, he or she reports it to someone, and the organization responds, perhaps followed by additional responses from the employee and the organization. Researchers have debated the definition of whistle-blowing, but most empirical research has defined whistle-blowing 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” (Near and Miceli 1985, p. 4; cited under Conceptual or Review Articles on Antecedents). Philosophers, business scholars, social scientists, and legal scholars have explored the topic, producing an eclectic mix of sources. First identified are books that range from discussions of results of empirical research to more qualitative or anecdotal analyses of whistle-blowers’ experiences. Next, articles are listed that review the literature or provide conceptual models of the whistle-blowing experience, particularly the question of when and how employees decide to blow the whistle. Next, empirical studies are classified into categories based on the steps in the whistle-blowing process—specifically, predictors of who blows the whistle; predictors of which whistle-blowers suffer retaliation; and predictors of whether the whistle-blowing is effective in changing the organization’s actions, so that it desists from wrongdoing. Finally, some published articles are described that explore legal structures and their effects both on whistle-blowers and their organizations. The books and articles will make clear that scholarly research has approached the topic of whistle-blowing from many different perspectives, and findings often differ from the picture of whistle-blowers promulgated by the popular media. The authors of this article wish to thank Sean Donigan for his assistance and the Coleman Chair Fund for supporting this research.

Books

A wide variety of books about whistle-blowers have been authored by consumer activists, social scientists, therapists, and legal scholars. The first-known publication on whistle-blowing reported results of a 1972 conference called by the consumer activist Ralph Nader to discuss the means for encouraging employee whistle-blowing. Since then, some books, such as Johnson 2002, have focused on antecedents of whistle-blowing; for instance, what kinds of employees blow the whistle and under what conditions. Most books center on the problem of retaliation against whistle-blowers, focusing either on legal concerns and potential solutions or on the personal costs to whistle-blowers; these include Alford 2001 and Glazer and Glazer 1989. Brown, et al. 2014; Miceli and Near 1992; Miceli, et al. 2008; and Miethe 1999 review existing empirical literature and theoretical models. In contrast, Brown 2008 provides an overview of results of a single large study of whistle-blowing. All these books provide broader discussion of the phenomenon than is possible in the many articles written since Nader’s conference.

  • Alford, C. Fred. Whistleblowers: Broken Lives and Organizational Power. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001.

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    Describes the confrontation between the organization and the whistle-blower. Case studies based on interviews with whistle-blowers and their families, lawyers, and therapists. Mixes narrative analysis with political insight. Results suggest that whistle-blowers rarely succeed in changing the organization and commonly suffer organizational retaliation and negative impacts on their personal lives.

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  • Brown, A. J., ed. Whistleblowing in the Australian Public Sector: Enhancing the Theory and Practice of Internal Witness Management in Public Sector Organisations. Canberra: Australian National University E Press, 2008.

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    Presents results of a large empirical study of whistle-blowing among Australian public servants. Analyses show why employees choose to blow the whistle, when and how they suffer retaliation, and whether the organization stops the wrongdoing. Chapters written by collaborators in the study, with a different focus for each chapter.

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  • Brown, A. J., David Lewis, Richard Moberly, and Wim Vandekerckhove, eds. International Handbook on Whistleblowing Research. Elgar Original Reference. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2014.

    DOI: 10.4337/9781781006795Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edited review of whistle-blowing research and policy, with articles on a wide variety of topics. Includes reviews of past research, discussion of legal issues, conceptual discussions of distinctions between whistle-blowing and other cases of organizational dissent, and recommendations for future research and policy directions.

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  • Glazer, Myron Peretz, and Penina Migdal Glazer. The Whistleblowers: Exposing Corruption in Government and Industry. New York: Basic, 1989.

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    Long-term case study of sixty-four whistle-blowers and their spouses who sought psychological counseling following whistle-blowing. Qualitative analysis of the antecedents and outcomes of whistle-blowing.

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  • Johnson, Roberta Ann. Whistleblowing: When It Works—and Why. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2002.

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    Case studies from the tobacco industry, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and other organizations illustrate how individual efforts can transform institutions, shape public policy, and serve as a force for democratization. Discussion of legal issues facing whistle-blowers.

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  • Miceli, Marcia P., and Janet P. Near. Blowing the Whistle: The Organizational and Legal Implications for Companies and Employees. New York: Lexington, 1992.

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    Extends the prosocial organizational behavior (POB) model of whistle-blowing (see Dozier and Miceli 1985, cited under Conceptual or Review Articles on Antecedents). Reviews empirical studies and theoretical contributions of predictors of whistle-blowing behavior, retaliation against the whistle-blower, and effectiveness of whistle-blowing in creating change. Includes chapters on legal issues and practical implications for managers concerned about whistle-blowing.

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  • Miceli, Marcia P., Janet P. Near, and Terry Morehead Dworkin. Whistle-Blowing in Organizations. LEA’s Organization and Management. New York: Routledge, 2008.

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    Reviews theoretical models of whistle-blowing behavior, including why employees blow the whistle, what happens to them, and whether the wrongdoing ceases. Summarizes results of empirical studies. Discusses methodological challenges in studying whistle-blowing. Includes chapters concerning legal changes in the United States and practical implications for all parties involved.

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  • Miethe, Terance D. Whistleblowing at Work: Tough Choices in Exposing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse on the Job. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1999.

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    Uses data from personal interviews and surveys of employees in various work settings. Reviews findings on social and psychological attributes of whistle-blowers, situational factors, and organizational characteristics that influence the likelihood of whistle-blowing. Examines individual and organizational consequences of whistle-blowing, legal rights, and safeguards for whistle-blowers and includes six case histories.

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Conceptual or Review Articles on Antecedents

Conceptual articles and book chapters have focused on defining whistle-blowing and postulating models of variables that predict whether employees will blow the whistle when they observe wrongdoing. Near and Miceli 1985 provides the definition of whistle-blowing that has been used most frequently in empirical studies on the topic, and the authors discuss the relative power of the whistle-blower and the organization as the overall context for whistle-blowing. Dozier and Miceli 1985 proposes the prosocial organizational behavior (POB) model and suggests propositions about how employees decide to blow the whistle. Gundlach, et al. 2003 draws on multiple literatures to develop a social-information-processing model of predictors of whistle-blowing behavior. Bok 1980 provides a more philosophical overview of the ethical issues involved in the whistle-blowing process. Theoretical models of corruption have focused mostly on what actions constitute wrongdoing and when the actions should be rationalized or accepted, which could influence whether group and organization members “see” and label wrongdoing and whether they will be less likely to report it when they do view the activity as wrongful. As such, they may suggest other predictors of whistle-blowing. Anand, et al. 2004 argues that corruption in work groups can be explained through processes of rationalization and socialization. An expanded form of this model is in Ashforth and Anand 2003, in which the overall process of normalization of corruption is seen to be created by processes of institutionalization of corruption, rationalization of corruption, and socialization of newcomers to accept corruption. Near and Miceli 2011 extends this model to wrongdoing in general, suggesting that the same variables that encourage normalization of wrongdoing would also discourage whistle-blowing against it. The effect of perceptions of ethics—and of ethics programs—on whistle-blowing behavior is more specifically discussed in Vadera, et al. 2009.

  • Anand, Vikas, Blake E. Ashforth, and Mahendra Joshi. “Business as Usual: The Acceptance and Perpetuation of Corruption in Organizations.” Academy of Management Executive 18.2 (2004): 39–53.

    DOI: 10.5465/AME.2004.13837437Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that organizational corruption can be partly explained by rationalizations used to neutralize any regrets or negative feelings that emanate from individuals’ participation in unethical acts, and that rationalizations are often accompanied by socialization tactics through which newcomers entering corrupt units are induced to practice ongoing unethical acts. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Ashforth, Blake E., and Vikas Anand. “The Normalization of Corruption in Organizations.” In Research in Organizational Behavior: An Annual Series of Analytical Essays and Critical Reviews. Vol. 25. Edited by Barry M. Staw and Roderick M. Kramer, 1–52. Amsterdam: JAI, 2003.

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    Examines how corruption becomes normalized and perpetuated through institutionalization, where an initial corrupt decision or act becomes embedded in structures and processes and thereby routinized; rationalization, where self-serving ideologies develop to justify corruption; and socialization, where newcomers are induced to view corruption as permissible. Discusses implications for theory and practice.

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  • Bok, Sissela. “Whistleblowing and Professional Responsibilities.” In Ethics Teaching in Higher Education. Edited by Daniel Callahan and Sissela Bok, 277–295. New York: Plenum, 1980.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4613-3138-4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Whistle-blowers face choices of public versus private good in deciding whether to reveal organizational wrongdoing. Discusses philosophical issues behind these choices.

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  • Dozier, Janelle Brinker, and Marcia P. Miceli. “Potential Predictors of Whistle-Blowing: A Prosocial Behavior Perspective.” Academy of Management Review 10.4 (1985): 823–836.

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    Proposes a model of whistle-blowing as a form of prosocial behavior. Develops propositions based on review of empirical studies in the social-psychological literature of prosocial behavior concerning personality and situational variables predictive of whistle-blowing. Available online by subscription.

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  • Gundlach, Michael J., Scott C. Douglas, and Mark J. Martinko. “The Decision to Blow the Whistle: A Social Information Processing Framework.” Academy of Management Review 28.1 (2003): 107–123.

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    Integrates the power, justice, and prosocial literature on whistle-blowing with the attribution and emotion literature to develop a social-information-processing model. Examines effects of individuals’ attributions and responsibility judgments for wrongdoing and their cost-benefit analyses of acting on the decision to blow the whistle. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Near, Janet P., and Marcia P. Miceli. “Organizational Dissidence: The Case of Whistle-Blowing.” Journal of Business Ethics 4.1 (1985): 1–16.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF00382668Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Draws from theories of motivation and power relationships to offer a definition and propose a model of the whistle-blowing process. Focuses on decisions made by organization members who believe they have evidence of organizational wrongdoing, and the reactions of organization authorities. Reviews the empirical literature and suggests variables that may affect members’ decisions and organizations’ responses. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Near, Janet P., and Marcia P. Miceli. “Integrating Models of Whistle-Blowing and Wrongdoing: A Proposal for a New Research Agenda.” In Rebels in Groups: Dissent, Deviance, Difference, and Defiance. Edited by Jolanda Jetten and Matthew J. Hornsey, 302–323. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.

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    Proposes a model of effects of work group normalization of wrongdoing on whistle-blowing processes, following Ashforth and Anand 2003.

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  • Vadera, Abhijeet K., Ruth V. Aguilera, and Brianna B. Caza. “Making Sense of Whistle-Blowing’s Antecedents: Learning from Research on Identity and Ethics Programs.” Business Ethics Quarterly 19.4 (2009): 553–586.

    DOI: 10.5840/beq200919432Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors argue for (1) the adoption of a moral identity approach and (2) the integration of the whistle-blowing research with that on ethics programs for future research examining predictors of whistle-blowing.

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Conceptual or Review Articles on Outcomes

Articles that focus on retaliation as part of the overall process of whistle-blowing are listed in this section. Many of these articles also discuss earlier stages in the process and are also reviewed in the section Conceptual or Review Articles on Antecedents. Farrell and Petersen 1982 argues that internal whistle-blowing is not true whistle-blowing. This view has not been supported by more-recent empirical research, which has shown that most external whistle-blowers use internal channels first (see Miceli, et al. 2008, cited under Books). Graham 1986 postulates that whistle-blowing represents principled organizational dissent, meaning that it represents altruistic behavior, but results of empirical research, summarized in Miceli, et al. 2008 (cited under Books), suggest that many whistle-blowers appear to have mixed motives. In the first meta-analysis of earlier research, Mesmer-Magnus and Viswesvaran 2005 reports significant differences in results of studies based on survey data from actual whistle-blowers versus studies of survey data from respondents who are asked to describe their intended whistle-blowing behavior in scenarios of hypothetical whistle-blowing situations—that is, findings from studies using these two different methods are not directly comparable. Near and Miceli 1987 discusses organizational change implications of whistle-blowing, including both variables that predict whistle-blowing and variables that predict subsequent retaliation against whistle-blowers. Near and Miceli 1996 reviews empirical findings and concludes that most whistle-blowers are not disgruntled employees and that most whistle-blowers suffer retaliation, contrary to the inference that might be made on the basis of reports in the popular press. Near and Miceli 2008 reviews findings from studies on federal employees by the Merit Systems Protection Board of the US government. These three surveys use random samples with high response rates, so their results probably are more representative than those obtained in convenience samples used in some earlier studies. These review articles highlight methodological challenges in studying wrongdoing and whistle-blowing that may explain some of the inconsistency in results across studies. In contrast, Sumanth, et al. 2011 notes the importance of cognitive and affective mechanisms between whistle-blowers and those who retaliate against them. All these articles, by considering the steps in the whistle-blowing process, remind us that whistle-blowing is not an isolated event but a series of events in what may be a very long and twisted sequence.

  • Farrell, Dan, and James C. Petersen. “Patterns of Political Behavior in Organizations.” Academy of Management Review 7.3 (1982): 403–412.

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    Uses the voice model to examine why whistle-blowers engage in dissent and the outcomes for them and the organization. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Graham, Jill W. “Principled Organizational Dissent: A Theoretical Essay.” In Research in Organizational Behavior: An Annual Series of Analytical Essays and Critical Reviews. Vol. 8. Edited by Barry M. Staw and Larry L. Cummings, 1–52. Greenwich, CT: JAI, 1986.

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    Presents a model of whistle-blowing as principled organizational dissent, addressing both motivations of the whistle-blower and outcomes for the whistle-blower.

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  • Mesmer-Magnus, Jessica R., and Chockalingam Viswesvaran. “Whistleblowing in Organizations: An Examination of Correlates of Whistleblowing Intentions, Actions, and Retaliation.” Journal of Business Ethics 62.3 (2005): 277–297.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-005-0849-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Meta-analysis of 193 correlations obtained from twenty-six samples (N = 18,781) reveals differences in the correlates of whistle-blowing intentions and actions. Stronger relationships were found between personal, contextual, and wrongdoing characteristics and whistle-blowing intent than with actual whistle-blowing. Retaliation seems to be best predicted using contextual variables. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Near, Janet P., and Marcia P. Miceli. “Whistle-Blowers in Organizations: Dissidents or Reformers?” In Research in Organizational Behavior: An Annual Series of Analytical Essays and Critical Reviews. Vol. 9. Edited by Barry M. Staw and Larry L. Cummings, 321–368. Greenwich, CT: JAI, 1987.

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    Proposes a model of the change process as it relates to whistle-blowing that focuses on how whistle-blowers decide to take action; the immediate consequences for individuals, groups, and organizations of such actions; and the long-term consequences for organizations that treat whistle-blowers as dissidents rather than reformers.

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  • Near, Janet P., and Marcia P. Miceli. “Whistle-Blowing: Myth and Reality.” Journal of Management 22.3 (1996): 507–526.

    DOI: 10.1177/014920639602200306Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews research results on whether whistle-blowers are crackpots and whether most suffer retaliation following their actions, concluding “no” to both questions. Argues that scholars interested in these questions have come from several fields and lack integration among their perspectives, so myth is often perpetuated and needs to be debunked. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Near, Janet P., and Marcia P. Miceli. “Wrongdoing, Whistle-Blowing, and Retaliation in the U.S. Government: What Have Researchers Learned from the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) Survey Results?” Review of Public Personnel Administration 28.3 (2008): 263–281.

    DOI: 10.1177/0734371X08319153Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews results from analyses of three data sets collected from large random samples of federal employees, showing that situational variables better predict whistle-blowing than do individual variables and that retaliation rates have varied at different points in time. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Sumanth, John J., David M. Mayer, and Virginia S. Kay. “Why Good Guys Finish Last: The Role of Justification Motives, Cognition, and Emotion in Predicting Retaliation against Whistleblowers.” Organizational Psychology Review 1.2 (2011): 165–184.

    DOI: 10.1177/2041386611398283Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors introduce cognitive and affective mechanisms as variables that influence the relationship between whistle-blowing and retaliation. Using system justification theory, they explore how perceived threats to an individual’s ego, group, or system may motivate someone to retaliate, even where there seems to be no reward for doing so. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Antecedents of Actual Whistle-Blowing

Several studies have examined the relationship between individual and situational variables and whistle-blowing. De Graaf 2010 presents interviews with observers of wrongdoing who say that they would be more likely to blow the whistle if they thought it was just, reflecting concerns about the nature of the wrongdoing rather than individual differences between whistle-blowers and inactive observers. Miceli and Near 1984 compares groups of federal employees who had not observed wrongdoing (nonobservers), those who had done so but did not blow the whistle (inactive observers), and those who were whistle-blowers, finding that the groups differed from one another in terms of their positions in the organization and their beliefs about the organization. Using the same sample in addition to archival data from the federal agencies, Miceli and Near 1985 shows significant differences among employees associated with the nature of the wrongdoing and of the organizational climate of the agencies. In a study of employees of a large military base, Near, et al. 2004 similarly indicates that the type of wrongdoing influences whistle-blowing behaviors. Brewer and Selden 1998 examines public service motivation among federal employees and finds that whistle-blowers are motivated by concern for the public interest. Turning to the population of directors of internal auditing in North America, Miceli, et al. 1991 shows an association between whistle-blowing behavior and high job performance combined with a sense that respondents are compelled to report wrongdoing on the basis of their roles or their moral codes; in addition, a less bureaucratic structure seems related to whistle-blowing. Rothwell and Baldwin 2006 returns to the question of effects of organizational climates; the study finds no consistent effect in police units but shows that the status of the employee (civilian versus police officer and supervisory status) is associated with whistle-blowing behavior. Bjørkelo, et al. 2010 is one of the few studies showing significant relationships between personality dimensions and whistle-blowing. Findings from most surveys of actual whistle-blowers (as opposed to those respondents describing their response to a hypothetical case of wrongdoing) suggest that situational variables are more strongly associated with whistle-blowing than are individual variables. However, it is premature to conclude that this is the case, because too-few studies have been completed on this question and the inventory both of individual and situational variables has been limited and narrow. The apparently minor effects of individual variables on whistle-blowing behavior may be due to limitations in the number and breadth of the variables studied.

  • Bjørkelo, Brita, Ståle Einarsen, and Stig Berge Matthiesen. “Predicting Proactive Behaviour at Work: Exploring the Role of Personality as an Antecedent of Whistleblowing Behaviour.” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 83.2 (2010): 371–394.

    DOI: 10.1348/096317910X486385Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In study 1, conducted among 503 municipality employees, extroversion and agreeableness predict whistle-blowing. In study 2, conducted among a representative sample of employees, domineering personality is found to be significantly associated with whistle-blowing. The results provide evidence that there are personality antecedents of whistle-blowing. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Brewer, Gene A., and Sally C. Selden. “Whistle Blowers in the Federal Civil Service: New Evidence of the Public Service Ethic.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 8.3 (1998): 413–439.

    DOI: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.jpart.a024390Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The model of public service motivation (PSM) predicts that individuals predisposed to public norms and emotions act in the public interest. Findings show that federal whistle-blowers are high performers motivated by concern for the public interest and report high levels of achievement, job commitment, and job satisfaction. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • de Graaf, Gjalt. “A Report on Reporting: Why Peers Report Integrity and Law Violations in Public Organizations.” Public Administration Review 70.5 (2010): 767–779.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2010.02204.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A Dutch study using archival and interview data of the self-reported reasons observers give for reporting wrongdoing or not. Suggests that the following factors are important: a sense of justice, self-protection, and concern about what will happen to the wrongdoer. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Miceli, Marcia P., and Janet P. Near. “The Relationships among Beliefs, Organizational Position, and Whistle-Blowing Status: A Discriminant Analysis.” Academy of Management Journal 27.4 (1984): 687–705.

    DOI: 10.2307/255873Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Survey data from a random sample of 8,500 federal employees show that respondents who report perceived organizational wrongdoing differ from other employees as to their beliefs about organizational conditions and their organizational positions. Whistle-blowers, observers of wrongdoing who do not act, and nonobservers differ significantly from one another. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Miceli, Marcia P., and Janet P. Near. “Characteristics of Organizational Climate and Perceived Wrongdoing Associated with Whistle-Blowing Decisions.” Personnel Psychology 38.3 (1985): 525–544.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.1985.tb00558.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discriminant analysis of survey data from nearly 8,600 federal employees shows that whistle-blowing is associated with clear evidence of wrongdoing that is serious and has directly harmed the respondent. Where the organization appears to be dependent on the wrongdoing and threatens retaliation, whistle-blowers are more likely to report it externally. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Miceli, Marcia P., Janet P. Near, and Charles R. Schwenk. “Who Blows the Whistle and Why?” Industrial and Labor Relations Review 45.1 (1991): 113–130.

    DOI: 10.2307/2524705Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Report of perceptual variables among 653 auditors indicates that whistle-blowing is related to feeling compelled morally or by role prescription to blow the whistle, to high job performance, and to low bureaucracy. External whistle-blowing is associated with harmful wrongdoing or theft by low-level workers, with few other observers, or with high levels of organization regulation. Available online by subscription.

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  • Near, Janet P., Michael T. Rehg, James R. Van Scotter, and Marcia P. Miceli. “Does Type of Wrongdoing Affect the Whistle-Blowing Process?” Business Ethics Quarterly 14.2 (2004): 219–242.

    DOI: 10.5840/beq200414210Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analyses show that employees of a large military base are more likely to report wrongdoing involving mismanagement, sexual harassment, or legal violations than for stealing, waste, safety problems, or discrimination. Type of wrongdoing is related to cost of wrongdoing, quality of evidence about wrongdoing, and comprehensiveness of retaliation against the whistle-blower. Available online by subscription.

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  • Rothwell, Gary R., and J. Norman Baldwin. “Ethical Climates and Contextual Predictors of Whistle-Blowing.” Review of Public Personnel Administration 26.3 (2006): 216–244.

    DOI: 10.1177/0734371X05278114Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Survey of police units shows that ethical climates fail to predict whistle-blowing consistently, but that status as supervisors and police officers (i.e., not civilian employees) is related to whistle-blowing. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Antecedents of Whistle-Blowing Intent

Studies of whistle-blowing intent have presented respondents with a set of scenarios about organizational wrongdoing and have asked whether the respondent would blow the whistle under these conditions. The scenario study of managers in Keenan 1990 finds that knowledge about appropriate internal whistle-blowing channels is positively related to whistle-blowing intent but that fear of retaliation is inversely related to whistle-blowing intent. Keil, et al. 2010 tests the prosocial organizational behavior (POB) model in Dozier and Miceli 1985 (cited under Conceptual or Review Articles on Antecedents) and finds support in scenario questions completed by information technology (IT) project managers, who consider both costs and benefits in registering intent to blow the whistle. In the King 2001 survey, nurses are asked to reply to scenarios about wrongdoing by colleagues; respondents indicate that they would speak directly with the wrongdoer rather than blow the whistle on that person. McCutcheon 2000 finds that intent to blow the whistle is associated with friends’ predictions that the respondent would report wrongdoing, but that it is not associated with personality variables. Park and Keil 2009 uses an experiment to test effects of organizational climate on intent to blow the whistle among IT executives. In a scenario study of internal and management accountants, Seifert, et al. 2010 learns that whistle-blowing increases when policies and procedures are perceived to be more just. Smith, et al. 2001 reports an experiment focusing on whistle-blowing intentions in the case of an ongoing project, varying the level of wrongdoing and the perception that not blowing the whistle will harm the project’s chance of success. Somers and Casal 1994 reports that organizational commitment among accountants shows a curvilinear relationship to whistle-blowing intent. Meta-analysis (see Mesmer-Magnus and Viswesvaran 2005, cited under Conceptual or Review Articles on Outcomes) has shown significant differences in results of studies of actual whistle-blowing behavior versus studies of whistle-blowing intent when measured by responses to scenarios and experiments about hypothetical cases of wrongdoing. Thus, findings produced by these two methods may not be directly comparable.

  • Keenan, John P. “Upper-Level Managers and Whistleblowing: Determinants of Perceptions of Company Encouragement and Information about Where to Blow the Whistle.” Journal of Business and Psychology 5.2 (1990): 223–235.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF01014334Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Findings from a scenario study of 112 managers show that fear of retaliation and having enough information on how and where to report wrongdoing predicted intent to blow the whistle after observing wrongdoing. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Keil, Mark, Amrit Tiwana, Robert Sainsbury, and Sweta Sneha. “Toward a Theory of Whistleblowing Intentions: A Benefit-to-Cost Differential Perspective.” Decision Sciences 41.4 (2010): 787–812.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5915.2010.00288.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Uses the POB model in Dozier and Miceli 1985 (cited under Conceptual or Review Articles on Antecedents) to identify benefits-and-costs weighting as an important influence on whistle-blowing. Findings from scenarios completed by 159 experienced IT project managers show that the perceived “benefit-to-cost differential” mediates the relationship between several predictors and whistle-blowing intentions. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • King, Granville. “Perceptions of Intentional Wrongdoing and Peer Reporting Behavior among Registered Nurses.” Journal of Business Ethics 34.1 (2001): 1–13.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1011915215302Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Registered nurses (N = 372) respond to a scenario survey about wrongdoing. Respondents say that they are more likely to discuss the unintentional wrongdoings with the wrongdoer in lieu of officially reporting to an immediate supervisor or to a member of upper management. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • McCutcheon, L. E. “Is There a ‘Whistleblower’ Personality?” Psychology: A Journal of Human Behavior 37.2 (2000): 2–9.

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    Intention to blow the whistle is not predicted by personality variables but is predicted by perceptions held by acquaintances of the seventy-seven participants.

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  • Park, Chong Woo, and Mark Keil. “Organizational Silence and Whistle-Blowing on IT Projects: An Integrated Model.” Decision Sciences 40.4 (2009): 901–918.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5915.2009.00255.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using a role-playing experiment to test a model based in part on the POB model (see Dozier and Miceli 1985, cited under Conceptual or Review Articles on Antecedents), the authors find that organizational structures/policies and other variables create a climate of silence that affects an individual’s intended willingness to report. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Seifert, Deborah L., John T. Sweeney, Jeff Joireman, and John M. Thornton. “The Influence of Organizational Justice on Accountant Whistleblowing.” Accounting, Organizations, and Society 35.7 (2010): 707–717.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.aos.2010.09.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Scenario study of five hundred internal auditor and management accountant participants shows that whistle-blowing policies and mechanisms incorporating higher levels of procedural justice, distributive justice, and interactional justice are perceived to increase the likelihood that an organizational accountant would internally report fraud on financial statements. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Smith, H. Jeff, Mark Keil, and Gordon Depledge. “Keeping Mum as the Project Goes Under: Toward an Explanatory Model.” Journal of Management Information Systems 18.2 (2001): 189–227.

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    Experiment showing that whistle-blowing intentions are predicted both by the level of impact associated with project failure—should an individual fail to report negative information—and the level of observed behavioral wrongdoing associated with the project. Available online by subscription.

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  • Somers, Mark J., and José C. Casal. “Organizational Commitment and Whistle-Blowing: A Test of the Reformer and the Organization Man Hypotheses.” Group and Organization Management 19.3 (1994): 270–284.

    DOI: 10.1177/1059601194193003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analysis of data from management accountants indicates that the relationship between commitment and the intent to report wrongdoing takes the form of an inverted U, suggesting that moderate levels of commitment are most likely to result in whistle-blowing. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Differences in Use of Internal versus External Channels

Often media reports about whistle-blowers have focused on those who used external channels to report the wrongdoing, implying that this is the most common pattern for whistle-blowers. In fact, research on actual whistle-blowers has shown consistently that the vast majority use internal channels first, resorting to external channels only if the wrongdoing is very serious, if managers take no action after the first report, or if managers retaliate against the whistle-blower. In a review of empirical studies, Miceli, et al. 2008 (cited under Books) concludes that most whistle-blowers begin with internal reports and go external. Dworkin and Baucus 1998 explores this question in a small sample of cases drawn from legal cases and coded by the researchers. The results are largely supportive of those found in surveys of actual whistle-blowers summarized in Miceli, et al. 2008 (cited under Books) and in a more recent large survey reported in Ethics Resource Center 2012. Mayer, et al. 2013 focuses on internal whistle-blowing exclusively and finds that ethical tone in the organization influences reporting actions. The scenario study of whistle-blowing intent among nurses in King 1997 focuses on hypothetical cases of wrongdoing by fellow nurses. Not surprisingly, respondents indicate that they would first tell the wrongdoer that actions were inappropriate and they would the supervisor if the wrongdoing continued, but that they would not use external channels because of the strong norms in nursing that support internal reporting. Sims and Keenan 1998 finds that internal whistle-blowing intent and external whistle-blowing intent are related to different individual and situation variables, but these data come from managers asked to indicate which they would choose in hypothetical situations. Often a whistle-blowing case involves several steps in which the employee and organization each respond to the other’s last actions; it is usually not a one-time event in which the whistle-blower reports the wrongdoing and then ignores the organization’s response. Therefore it is best studied as a dynamic process that unfolds over time, which is difficult to describe in a hypothetical scenario. Miceli, et al. 2012 finds that oftentimes whistle-blowers report wrongdoing first to a direct supervisor, and that the overall process is similar to that when they report through other channels. Thus, channel may be important to the whistle-blowing process, but empirical evidence does not suggest major differences in process due to use of internal or external channels.

  • Dworkin, Terry Morehead, and Melissa S. Baucus. “Internal vs. External Whistleblowers: A Comparison of Whistleblowing Processes.” Journal of Business Ethics 17.12 (1998): 1281–1298.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1005916210589Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Quantitative and qualitative analysis of thirty-three legal cases of internal and external whistle-blowers wrongfully fired for reporting wrongdoing shows that external whistle-blowers have lower tenure in the organization, greater evidence of wrongdoing, and greater effectiveness in changing organizational practices. They also experience more-extensive retaliation than do internal whistle-blowers. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Ethics Resource Center. “Just What Is a Whistleblower?” Washington, DC: Ethics Resource Center, 2012.

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    Reports data showing that only 2 percent of employees go solely outside their companies to report misconduct. Part of larger study available at the Ethics Resource Center website.

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  • King, Granville, III. “The Effects of Interpersonal Closeness and Issue Seriousness on Blowing the Whistle.” Journal of Business Communication 34.4 (1997): 419–436.

    DOI: 10.1177/002194369703400406Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Scenario surveys completed by registered nurses show that—regardless of closeness to other employees and severity of the wrongdoing—respondents report that they would follow the proper chain of command in reporting a wrongdoing, using internal channels rather than external. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Mayer, David M., Samir Nurmohamed, Linda Klebe Treviño, Debra L. Shapiro, and Marshall Schminke. “Encouraging Employees to Report Unethical Conduct Internally: It Takes a Village.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 121.1 (2013): 89–103.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2013.01.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Employees’ internal whistle-blowing depends on an ethical tone being set by complementary social influence sources at multiple organizational levels (both supervisory and coworker levels), in three separate studies. Also, in two studies this interactive effect was found to be mediated by fear of retaliation but not by perceptions of futility.

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  • Miceli, Marcia P., Janet P. Near, Michael T. Rehg, and James R. Van Scotter. “Predicting Employee Reactions to Perceived Organizational Wrongdoing: Demoralization, Justice, Proactive Personality, and Whistle-Blowing.” Human Relations 65.8 (2012): 923–954.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726712447004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Questionnaire data from 3,000 organization members show that observation of wrongdoing is associated with lower perceived organizational support and lower perceived justice of reporting channels. Predictors of blowing the whistle exclusively to one’s supervisor—one type of internal channel—are similar to those of using other channels.

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  • Sims, Randi L., and John P. Keenan. “Predictors of External Whistleblowing: Organizational and Intrapersonal Variables.” Journal of Business Ethics 17.4 (1998): 411–421.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1005763807868Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Scenario survey data indicate that external whistle-blowing is significantly related to supervisor support, informal policies, gender, and ideal values. External whistle-blowing is not found to be significantly predicted by formal policies, organizational tenure, age, education, satisfaction, or commitment. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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National Culture’s Impact

In studying the effect of a national culture on whistle-blowing, it is difficult to separate the impact of the actual cultural norms from the effects of its legal system, economic situation, and political operations, as discussed in Miceli, et al. 2008 (cited under Books). Most of the studies of a culture’s impact have compared US employees or managers to those from societies where collectivism is higher, under the assumption that norms against reporting wrongdoing by one’s coworkers or managers would be stronger in such cultures. As expected, significant differences in whistle-blowing intent are reported between US managers and Chinese managers (Chiu 2003, Keenan 2007), Croatian managers (Tavakoli, et al. 2003), Indian managers (Keenan 2002), Jamaican managers (Sims and Keenan 1999), Thai participants (Trongmateerut and Sweeney 2013), and South Korean managers (Park, et al. 2005). Most of the studies of a culture’s impact have examined whistle-blowing intent, not actual whistle-blowing, so it is difficult to generalize from these findings to expectations about how employees in these countries would behave if confronted with actual cases of wrongdoing. An exception to this compares results from previously published studies of actual whistle-blowing in Australia, Norway, and the United States (Miceli and Near 2013).

  • Chiu, Randy K. “Ethical Judgment and Whistleblowing Intention: Examining the Moderating Role of Locus of Control.” Journal of Business Ethics 43.1–2 (2003): 65–74.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1022911215204Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Results from scenario surveys completed by Chinese managers and professionals (N = 306) show that an individual’s locus of control moderates the relationship between ethical judgment and whistle-blowing. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Keenan, John P. “Comparing Indian and American Managers on Whistleblowing.” Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal 14.2–3 (2002): 79–89.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1021171520620Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Results from a survey of whistle-blowing intent completed by a sample of Indian and American managers indicate differences in individual, organizational, and moral-perception variables related to whistle-blowing. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Keenan, John P. “Comparing Chinese and American Managers on Whistleblowing.” Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal 19.2 (2007): 85–94.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10672-007-9036-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Results from a survey of whistle-blowing intent completed by a sample of Chinese and American managers indicate differences in individual, organizational, and moral-perception variables related to whistle-blowing. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Miceli, Marcia P., and Janet P. Near. “An International Comparison of the Incidence of Public Sector Whistle-Blowing and the Prediction of Retaliation: Australia, Norway, and the US.” Australian Journal of Public Administration 72.4 (2013): 433–446.

    DOI: 10.1111/1467-8500.12040Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares results of several large-scale survey studies of whistle-blowing by public-sector employees, from samples in Australia, Norway, and the United States. Reviews incidence rates of wrongdoing, whistle-blowing, and retaliation. Differences in results across the three countries suggest that country and workplace cultures can affect the whistle-blowing process.

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  • Park, Heungsik, Michael T. Rehg, and Donggi Lee. “The Influence of Confucian Ethics and Collectivism on Whistleblowing Intentions: A Study of Korean Public Employees.” Journal of Business Ethics 58.4 (2005): 387–403.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-004-5366-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Confucian ethics and collectivism show significant but mixed effects on whistle-blowing intention among 343 public officials in South Korea, with particular dimensions of Confucian ethics and collectivism affecting an individual’s whistle-blowing intentions differently in degree and direction, making blanket predictions about cultural effects on whistle-blowing difficult. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Sims, Randi L., and John P. Keenan. “A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Managers’ Whistleblowing Tendencies.” International Journal of Value-Based Management 12.2 (1999): 137–151.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1007711220997Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Differences in culture emerge between a US sample of managers and a Jamaican sample of managers, through using Geert H. Hofstede’s (1991) theory of international cultures. Explores how those cultural differences may help understanding of the differences in reported whistle-blowing intention. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Tavakoli, A. Assad, John P. Keenan, and Biljana Crnjak-Karanović. “Culture and Whistleblowing: An Empirical Study of Croatian and United States Managers Utilizing Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions.” Journal of Business Ethics 43.1–2 (2003): 49–64.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1022959131133Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines differences in culture between a group of managers from the United States and a similar group from Croatia, by using Geert H. Hofstede’s theory of international cultures and survey data about whistle-blowing intentions. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Trongmateerut, Pailin, and John T. Sweeney. “The Influence of Subjective Norms on Whistle-Blowing: A Cross-Cultural Investigation.” Journal of Business Ethics 112.3 (2013): 437–451.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1270-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Individuals in the collectivist Thai culture have higher means on subjective norms, attitudes, and intentions for whistle-blowing than do members of the individualist American culture, on the basis of two studies. Compared to American subjects, the whistle-blowing intentions of Thai participants are more strongly influenced by subjective norms for whistle-blowing.

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Antecedents and Outcomes of Whistle-Blowing about Sexual Harassment and Discrimination

Most surveys of whistle-blowing behavior ask about multiple forms of wrongdoing and provide respondents a checklist of possible types of wrongdoing. In most cases there are too-many types included to permit comparison of statistical differences in the whistle-blowing associated with a specific type of wrongdoing because of small subsample sizes in each category. However, study design in studies of sexual harassment and gender discrimination has controlled the effects of type of wrongdoing on the results. Most of these studies do not draw from the literature on whistle-blowing, but the reporting of wrongdoing in these studies is consistent with the definition of whistle-blowing given in the Introduction, so they are included here. In most cases the results seem similar to those produced by studies of Antecedents of Actual Whistle-Blowing or of Retaliation against Whistle-Blowers. Brooks and Perot 1991 investigates antecedents of reporting of sexual harassment and finds that frequency is associated with higher reporting. Goldman 2001 shows that several variables are associated with reporting of employment discrimination. In both studies, findings are consistent with earlier studies of Antecedents of Actual Whistle-Blowing. Sociological research compares the effects of legal changes to personnel policies on sexual harassment cases in Dobbin and Kelly 2007. Knapp, et al. 1997 proposes a model of sexual harassment on the basis of other literature, including whistle-blowing. Lee, et al. 2004 explicitly investigates hypotheses based on a model of whistle-blowing, finding that antecedents and outcomes of reporting of sexual harassment are very similar to those found in earlier studies of whistle-blowing about other types of wrongdoing. Other research on sexual harassment has examined its effects, similar to the approach taken by studies reported in the section Retaliation against Whistle-Blowers. Bergman, et al. 2002 examines the effects of whistle-blowing about sexual harassment and finds that the organizational response, including retaliation, has greater negative impact on the whistle-blower than the initial reporting. Glomb, et al. 1997 shows “ambient effects” of sexual harassment in the workplace on other organization members who did not themselves experience harassment. O’Leary-Kelley, et al. 2009 provides a broad review of empirical studies both of antecedents and outcomes of sexual harassment.

  • Bergman, Mindy E., Regina Day Langhout, Patrick A. Palmieri, Lilia M. Cortina, and Louise F. Fitzgerald. “The (Un)reasonableness of Reporting: Antecedents and Consequences of Reporting Sexual Harassment.” Journal of Applied Psychology 87.2 (2002): 230–242.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.87.2.230Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reporting of sexual harassment does not improve job, psychological, and health outcomes in 6,417 male and female military personnel. Mediator analysis shows that organizational responses to reports (i.e., organizational remedies, organizational minimization, and retaliation) and procedural satisfaction—but not reporting itself—are the source of the negative effects of reporting. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Brooks, Linda, and Annette R. Perot. “Reporting Sexual Harassment: Exploring a Predictive Model.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 15.1 (1991): 31–47.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.1991.tb00476.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Analysis of data collected from 214 tenure-track faculty women and 276 female graduate students indicates that feminist ideology and frequency of sexual harassment are significant predictors of perceived offensiveness, which directly affects the likelihood of an incident being reported. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Dobbin, Frank, and Erin L. Kelly. “How to Stop Harassment: Professional Construction of Legal Compliance in Organizations.” American Journal of Sociology 112.4 (2007): 1203–1243.

    DOI: 10.1086/508788Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Most employers installed procedures for sexual harassment grievance and for sensitivity training by the late 1990s. Results show that employers who consulted personnel experts were more likely to make these changes than were those who consulted lawyers.

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  • Glomb, Theresa M., Wendy L. Richman, Charles L. Hulin, Fritz Drasgow, Kimberly T. Schneider, and Louise F. Fitzgerald. “Ambient Sexual Harassment: An Integrated Model of Antecedents and Consequences.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 71.3 (1997): 309–328.

    DOI: 10.1006/obhd.1997.2728Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Proposes that the general or ambient level of sexual harassment, measured by the frequency of sexually harassing behaviors experienced by others in a woman’s work group, has similar antecedents and outcomes as direct personal exposure. Results using samples of female employees from two organizations generally support predictions. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Goldman, Barry M. “Toward an Understanding of Employment Discrimination Claiming: An Integration of Organizational Justice and Social Information Processing Theories.” Personnel Psychology 54.2 (2001): 361–386.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2001.tb00096.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigates initial decisions to claim discrimination in a sample of 439 terminated workers who were surveyed at several unemployment offices. Logistic regression analysis shows that the decision to claim discrimination is associated with procedural and distributive justice, social guidance, minority status, age, and tenure. Education and gender were unrelated. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Knapp, Deborah Erdos, Robert H. Faley, Steven E. Ekeberg, and Cathy L. Z. Dubois. “Determinants of Target Responses to Sexual Harassment: A Conceptual Framework.” Academy of Management Review 22.3 (1997): 687–729.

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    Discusses the typology of target responses to sexual harassment (SH), identifies potential contextual and individual determinants of responses to SH, presents a theoretical framework (supported by the literature on whistle-blowing and stress/coping) of the relationships among those determinants and how they collectively influence responses to SH, and proposes propositions based on this conceptual framework. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Lee, Jeong-Yeon, Sharon Gibson Heilmann, and Janet P. Near. “Blowing the Whistle on Sexual Harassment: Test of a Model of Predictors and Outcomes.” Human Relations 57.3 (2004): 297–322.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726704043273Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Results of LISREL (linear structural relations) modeling of questionnaire data from 13,000 US government employees are similar to findings from earlier studies of organizational wrongdoing and whistle-blowing where the nature of the wrongdoing included issues other than sexual harassment. Results suggest that general models of whistle-blowing also apply to reporting of sexual harassment. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • O’Leary-Kelly, Anne M., Lynn Bowes-Sperry, Collette Arens Bates, and Emily R. Lean. “Sexual Harassment at Work: A Decade (Plus) of Progress.” Journal of Management 35.3 (2009): 503–536.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206308330555Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors reviewed research on workplace SH since 1995. Definitions, labeling of SH, antecedents to SH, responses to SH, and consequences resulting from SH were examined; some similarities to the prosocial organizational behavior (POB) model are noted. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Retaliation against Whistle-Blowers

Employees suffer workplace retaliation for various reasons, including revenge for personal offense (Aquino, et al. 2001) or for voicing concerns about a workplace policy (Cortina and Magley 2003). Employees may fear that engaging in voice will be risky or inappropriate, and they seem to hold “implicit voice theories” about why they should not do so, even if they have not observed negative consequences with their own managers (Detert and Edmondson 2011). Retaliation against whistle-blowers differs because it is reprisal that occurs in response to the whistle-blowing event, as noted in Rehg, et al. 2008. In one of the earliest studies of retaliation against whistle-blowers, Parmerlee, et al. 1982 shows that power relationships predict relationships among variables. Near and Miceli 1996 (cited under Conceptual or Review Articles on Outcomes) reviews studies of random samples of whistle-blowers and finds that the majority of whistle-blowers do not suffer retaliation, although when they do it is harsh and impactful (see also Miceli, et al. 2008, cited under Books). Legislation aimed at protecting US federal employees has attempted to reduce retaliation through legal sanctions, with mixed success. Structural mechanisms implemented by organizations to encourage whistle-blowing have been more effective (see Near, et al. 1993). According to Rothschild and Miethe 1999, the rate of retaliation seems to be higher in nonrandom samples of whistle-blowers from multiple industries, but this may be due to the use of convenience samples for surveys. On the other hand, federal employees have somewhat greater legal protection from retaliation than do other employees, so results from that study may not be representative either. Thus, it is difficult to achieve a reliable estimate of the percentage of whistle-blowers who suffer retaliation. And perhaps that is the wrong question. Clearly any reprisal is problematic and needs to be avoided. Rehg, et al. 2008 attempts to discern why some whistle-blowers suffer more retaliation than others, and the authors find that male whistle-blowers are less likely to suffer retaliation if they are powerful; however, the same is not true for female whistle-blowers. Bjørkelo, et al. 2011 shows evidence that workplace bullying is higher among whistle-blowers than other organization members, even though formal sanctions or reprisals are rare in that sample. Thus, studies of retaliation may need to look more broadly at the overall response of coworkers and managers to the whistle-blower to gain a full picture of whistle-blowing’s outcomes.

  • Aquino, Karl, Thomas M. Tripp, and Robert J. Bies. “How Employees Respond to Personal Offense: The Effects of Blame, Attribution, Victim Status, and Offender Status on Revenge and Reconciliation in the Workplace.” Journal of Applied Psychology 86.1 (2001): 52–59.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.86.1.52Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Results from a sample of 141 government agency employees show that blame is positively related to revenge and negatively related to reconciliation. Victims who blamed sought revenge more often when the offender’s status was lower than their own or when they had high absolute status. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Bjørkelo, Brita, Ståle Einarsen, Morten Birkeland Nielsen, and Stig Berge Matthiesen. “Silence Is Golden? Characteristics and Experiences of Self-Reported Whistleblowers.” European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology 20.2 (2011): 206–238.

    DOI: 10.1080/13594320903338884Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Shows that although most whistle-blowers are not sanctioned and few are rewarded, they report receiving more workplace bullying than do non-whistle-blowers. Also finds that being a union leader or personnel-safety representative is significantly related to the decision to blow the whistle. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Cortina, Liliana M., and Vicki J. Magley. “Raising Voice, Risking Retaliation: Events Following Interpersonal Mistreatment in the Workplace.” Journal of Occupational Health Psychology 8.4 (2003): 247–265.

    DOI: 10.1037/1076-8998.8.4.247Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Regression analyses of data from 1,167 public-sector employees suggest that different victim voice mechanisms trigger different forms of retaliation depending on the social positions of the mistreatment victim and instigator. Discriminant function analyses demonstrate lower professional, psychological, and physical well-being among mistreated employees who have been further victimized with retaliation. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Detert, James R., and Amy C. Edmondson. “Implicit Voice Theories: Taken-for-Granted Rules of Self-Censorship at Work.” Academy of Management Journal 54.3 (2011): 461–488.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMJ.2011.61967925Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines implicit voice theories—taken-for-granted beliefs about when and why speaking up at work is risky or inappropriate—in four studies. Through interviews the authors (1) identify a list of theories about why employees fear engaging in voice, (2) assess generalizability of the theories, and (3) develop survey measures for five such theories.

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  • Near, Janet P., Terry Morehead Dworkin, and Marcia P. Miceli. “Explaining the Whistle-Blowing Process: Suggestions from Power Theory and Justice Theory.” Organization Science 4.3 (1993): 393–411.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.4.3.393Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reviews three sets of studies suggesting that legal sanctions have been unsuccessful in encouraging whistle-blowing but that legalistic responses designed by the organizations themselves have discouraged retaliation against whistle-blowers. Attempts to resolve this paradox by considering two theoretical frameworks: power relations and justice theory. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Parmerlee, Marcia A., Janet P. Near, and Tamila C. Jensen. “Correlates of Whistle-Blowers’ Perceptions of Organizational Retaliation.” Administrative Science Quarterly 27.1 (1982): 17–34.

    DOI: 10.2307/2392544Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Tests a model of predictors of retaliation against whistle-blowers, finding that power dynamics between whistle-blower and organization have an important impact. Available online by subscription.

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  • Rehg, Michael T., Marcia P. Miceli, Janet P. Near, and James R. Van Scotter. “Predictors and Outcomes of Retaliation against Whistle-Blowers: Gender Differences and Power Relationships.” Organization Science 19.2 (2008): 221–240.

    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1070.0310Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Results of structural equation modeling show gender differences in antecedents and outcomes of retaliation among whistle-blowers from a large military base. For men, lack of support from others and low power predict retaliation; for women, lack of support from others, serious wrongdoing, and the wrongdoing’s direct effect on the whistle-blower predict retaliation.

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  • Rothschild, Joyce, and Terance D. Miethe. “Whistle-Blower Disclosures and Management Retaliation: The Battle to Control Information about Organization Corruption.” Work and Occupations 26.1 (1999): 107–128.

    DOI: 10.1177/0730888499026001006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interviews from a national but nonrandom sample show that whistle-blowing is more frequent in the public sector than in the private and cannot be predicted by socio-demographic characteristics. Whistle-blowers suffer severe retaliation from management, especially when their information proves significant and cannot be insulated from such retaliation.

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Effectiveness

Near and Miceli 1995 proposes a model of whistle-blowing effectiveness, arguing that the appropriate policy goal is to encourage effective whistle-blowing, not just whistle-blowing in general. Invalid complaints about wrongdoing harm the organization and may harm the employee; the goal is to increase whistle-blowing about true wrongdoing and to ensure that organizations stop the wrongdoing in a timely manner. Effective whistle-blowing—or the termination of wrongdoing—is difficult to assess, however. Whistle-blowers are loath to complete surveys that are not anonymous, and so their evaluation of the whistle-blowing effectiveness cannot be validated by asking other observers (because doing so would require identifying the whistle-blower). This means that estimates of whistle-blowing effectiveness are usually self-reported and perhaps less reliable. Nonetheless, empirical attempts to validate the 1995 model have supported it. Miceli and Near 2002 examines three data sets and finds that termination of wrongdoing is associated with variables relating to characteristics of the wrongdoing; specifically, wrongdoing termination is related to less frequent wrongdoing that lasts a short period of time or has a minor impact. Further, termination is associated positively with the whistle-blower’s power in the organization. Similarly, Van Scotter, et al. 2005, a study of whistle-blowers at a large military base, finds that wrongdoing termination is associated with whistle-blower power. Thus, even though few studies have been done, the results fit the proposed model and are intuitively appealing. Organizations seem more willing to terminate wrongdoing when it does not affect them negatively. For example, managers may be happy to stop wrongdoing when it involves embezzlement by a low-level employee but less willing to do so when it involves hiding fraudulent tax returns that would negatively affect the organization overall if revealed. Near, et al. 2004 (cited under Antecedents of Actual Whistle-Blowing) finds that the type of wrongdoing seems to affect whether the wrongdoing is stopped, among other variables. Also, termination of wrongdoing is related to the whistle-blower’s power; lower-level whistle-blowers without much power may not be able to persuade managers to cease wrongdoing unless the managers wish to do so for other reasons. Experiments suggest that the power of the receiver of information and perceptions of the sender influence whether the advice is used (Tost, et al. 2012). Bjørkelo, et al. 2011 and Skivenes and Trygstad 2010 identify several predictors of whistle-blower effectiveness in Norway and explore theoretical reasons for this. Finally, Miceli and Near 2013 compares and contrasts whistle-blowing (or reporting of wrongdoing) to a related concept, “voice” (or constructive suggestions for improvement); the differences between the two constructs may help explain conceptually why whistle-blowing is sometimes ineffective.

  • Bjørkelo, Brita, Ståle Einarsen, Morten Birkeland Nielsen, and Stig Berge Matthiesen. “Silence Is Golden? Characteristics and Experiences of Self-Reported Whistleblowers.” European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology 20.2 (2011): 206–238.

    DOI: 10.1080/13594320903338884Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Survey of Norwegian whistle-blowers that shows that wrongdoing generally was stopped or reduced, though whistle-blowers received little feedback. Status of the wrongdoer is related to the reaction the wrongdoer receives afterward, as is the type of wrongdoing, which also is related to whistle-blowing effectiveness. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Miceli, Marcia P., and Janet P. Near. “What Makes Whistle-Blowers Effective? Three Field Studies.” Human Relations 55.4 (2002): 455–479.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726702055004463Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Results from three field studies show that whistle-blowers perceive that termination of wrongdoing is predicted by characteristics of wrongdoing, including less frequent occurrence, minor impact, and shorter duration, and by whistle-blower’s power. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Miceli, Marcia P., and Janet P. Near. “Some Implications of the Voice Literature for Research on Whistle-Blowing.” In Voice and Whistleblowing in Organizations: Overcoming Fear, Fostering Courage, and Unleashing Candour. Edited by Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper, 182–202. New Horizons in Management. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2013.

    DOI: 10.4337/9781781005927Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Compares whistle-blowing (reporting wrongdoing) and voice (making constructive suggestions to managers) by examining four key differences between the constructs. Concludes that similarities and differences in the two areas of research should be considered by researchers as areas for cross-fertilization.

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  • Near, Janet P., and Marcia P. Miceli. “Effective Whistle-Blowing.” Academy of Management Review 20.3 (1995): 679–708.

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    After providing definitions of whistle-blowing and its effectiveness, the article presents a model of five primary factors that influence effective termination of wrongdoing (characteristics of the whistle-blower, the complaint recipient, the wrongdoer, the wrongdoing, and the organization) and the variables that affect these factors; specifically, individual and situational variables. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Skivenes, Marit, and Sissel C. Trygstad. “When Whistle-Blowing Works: The Norwegian Case.” Human Relations 63.7 (2010): 1071–1097.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726709353954Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study of Norwegian public-sector employees shows that, compared to those in US contexts, many observers blow the whistle, many whistle-blowers receive positive reactions, and many believe that the conduct that led them to blow the whistle improved. Workplace culture differences that could account for these findings are explored. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Tost, Leigh Plunkett, Francesca Gino, and Richard P. Larrick. “Power, Competitiveness, and Advice Taking: Why the Powerful Don’t Listen.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 117.1 (2012): 53–65.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.10.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Four experiments test the prediction that feelings of power lead individuals to discount advice received both from experts and novices, mediated by feelings of competitiveness and confidence and mitigated by feeling cooperative with their advisors.

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  • Van Scotter, James R., Marcia P. Miceli, Janet P. Near, and Michael T. Rehg. “What Difference Can One Person Make? Organizational Dependence Relations as Predictors of Whistle-Blowing Effectiveness.” International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management 4 (2005): 11–20.

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    Analysis of survey data reveals that situational organizational dependence on the whistle-blower and on wrongdoing predicts effectiveness but whistle-blower demographics do not. Effectiveness is defined as termination of organizational wrongdoing. Respondents were employees of a large military base who had observed wrongdoing and blown the whistle about it. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Legal Issues

Laws meant to encourage whistle-blowing and to prohibit retaliation against whistle-blowers have been compared across different states in the United States, as discussed in Callahan and Dworkin 2000 and Dworkin and Near 1997. Differences in laws have also been examined across nations (Callahan, et al. 2004). Other legal studies have focused on the impact of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), which has imposed new regulations on US firms governing their responses to whistle-blowing. It has had beneficial impacts on whistle-blowing but perhaps does not go far enough, as suggested in Dworkin 2007, Moberly 2006, and Moberly 2007. In a field study comparing effects of legal changes over time, Miceli, et al. 1999 reports that legal protections aimed at federal employees have been of limited utility in changing the way they report wrongdoing and how they are protected from reprisal when doing so. Moberly 2008 suggests that perhaps the best way to protect whistle-blowers from retaliation is to require firms to specify protections in their contracts, which then may be enforced through the courts. Similarly, Brown 2008 (cited under Books) reports that policies implemented through state and federal agencies in Australia are sometimes successful in encouraging whistle-blowing. As noted in Miceli, et al. 2008 (cited under Books), attempts to protect whistle-blowers and to increase the likelihood of reporting wrongdoing through the law have been diverse and not always successful.

  • Callahan, Elletta Sangrey, and Terry Morehead Dworkin. “The State of State Whistleblower Protection.” American Business Law Journal 38.1 (2000): 99–175.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-1714.2000.tb00286.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a summary of existing legislative and judicial protection for whistle-blowers. Presents a categorization of state whistle-blower protection statutes, most of which are based on an antiretaliation model, and explains judicial interpretations of these laws. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Callahan, Elletta Sangrey, Terry Morehead Dworkin, and David Lewis. “Whistleblowing: Australian, U.K., and U.S. Approaches to Disclosure in the Public Interest.” Virginia Journal of International Law 44.3 (2004): 879–912.

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    Whistle-blowing laws enacted in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia have similar antecedents and objectives, but legislative bodies in these countries have taken a variety of approaches to disclosures of wrongdoing. Compares the statutes’ provisions and efficacy.

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  • Dworkin, Terry Morehead. “SOX and Whistleblowing.” Michigan Law Review 105.8 (2007): 1757–1780.

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    SOX attempts to encourage and protect whistle-blowers by providing for anonymous whistle-blowing, establishing criminal penalties for retaliation against whistle-blowers, and defining whistle-blowing channels. Compares SOX to state and federal whistle-blowing statutes, discusses its shortcomings, and explains why SOX needs to be revised.

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  • Dworkin, Terry Morehead, and Janet P. Near. “A Better Statutory Approach to Whistle-Blowing.” Business Ethics Quarterly 7.1 (1997): 1–16.

    DOI: 10.2307/3857229Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines statutes that supposedly encourage whistle-blowing and protect whistle-blowers. Argues for remedies that could improve effectiveness. Available online by subscription.

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  • Miceli, Marcia P., Michael T. Rehg, Janet P. Near, and Katherine C. Ryan. “Can Laws Protect Whistle-Blowers? Results of a Naturally Occurring Field Experiment.” Work and Occupations 26.1 (1999): 129–151.

    DOI: 10.1177/0730888499026001007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Data collected over three time periods from 1980 to 1992 show changes in the ways federal employees reported wrongdoing. Results show reduced incidence of perceived wrongdoing, increased likelihood of whistle-blowing, increased perceived retaliation, and increased anonymous whistle-blowing. Concludes that the law had mixed effectiveness in reducing wrongdoing and encouraging whistle-blowing. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Moberly, Richard E. “Sarbanes-Oxley’s Structural Model to Encourage Corporate Whistleblowers.” Brigham Young University Law Review 5 (2006): 1107–1180.

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    SOX uses a structural approach that encourages whistle-blowing by requiring that corporations provide a standardized channel for employees to report organizational misconduct internally. SOX reduces the difficulties corporate employees experience in disclosing misconduct, and it provides an improved mechanism to encourage employees to report wrongdoing, yet the law has significant flaws.

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  • Moberly, Richard E. “Unfulfilled Expectations: An Empirical Analysis of Why Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblowers Rarely Win.” William and Mary Law Review 49.1 (2007): 65–155.

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    During the first three years after the passage of SOX, only 3.6 percent of SOX whistle-blowers won relief through the initial administrative process that adjudicates such claims, and only 6.5 percent of SOX whistle-blowers won appeals through the process, on the basis of data investigated here. Statutory and administrative deficiencies are identified.

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  • Moberly, Richard E. “Protecting Whistleblowers by Contract.” University of Colorado Law Review 79.4 (2008): 975–1043.

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    Enforcing existing contract protections may provide greater security for whistle-blowers than other means. These emanate from the major stock exchanges’ requirement that publicly traded firms publish a code of business conduct and ethics, promising not to retaliate against employees.

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