Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 117, Issue 1, pp 153–172 | Cite as

The Joint Effects of Machiavellianism and Ethical Environment on Whistle-Blowing

  • Derek Dalton
  • Robin R. RadtkeEmail author


Given the importance of the Machiavellianism construct on informing a wide range of ethics research, we focus on gaining a better understanding of Machiavellianism within the whistle-blower context. In this regard, we examine the effect of Machiavellianism on whistle-blowing, focusing on the underlying mechanisms through which Machiavellianism affects whistle-blowing. Further, because individuals who are higher in Machiavellianism (high Machs) are expected to be less likely to report wrongdoing, we examine the ability of an organization’s ethical environment to increase whistle-blowing intentions of high Machs. Results from a sample of 116 MBA students support our premise that Machiavellianism is negatively related to whistle-blowing. Further, we find that Machiavellianism has an indirect effect on whistle-blowing through perceived benefits and perceived responsibility. Finally, we find that a strong ethical environment, relative to a weak ethical environment, increases whistle-blowing intentions incrementally more for individuals who are higher in Machiavellianism. Taken together, these findings extend our understanding of how Machiavellianism and an organization’s ethical environment impact whistle-blowing.


Ethical environment Machiavellianism Ethical disposition Whistle-blowing 



We appreciate helpful comments provided by Donna Bobek Schmitt, Steve Buchheit, John Masselli, Ralph Viator, and Jim Wilcox. We also appreciate helpful comments from attendees at the 2011 ABO conference.


  1. Ajzen, I. (1991). The theory of planned behavior. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 50, 179–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Al-Rafee, S., & Cronan, T. (2006). Digital piracy: Factors that influence attitude toward behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 63, 237–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arnold, V., Lampe, J., & Sutton, S. (1999). Understanding the factors underlying ethical organizations: Enabling continuous ethical improvement. Journal of Applied Business Research, 15, 1–20.Google Scholar
  4. Arnold, V., Lampe, J., & Sutton, S. (2000). Creating an ethically driven organization: A model for fostering an epidemic of ethical intensity. Advances in Accounting Behavioral Research, 3, 201–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arnold, D., & Ponemon, L. (1991). ‘Internal Auditors’ perceptions of whistle-blowing and the influence of moral reasoning: An experiment. Auditing: A Journal of Practice & Theory, 10(2), 1–15.Google Scholar
  6. Ayers, S., & Kaplan, S. (2005). Wrongdoing by consultants. Journal of Business Ethics, 57(2), 121–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barnett, T. (1992). A preliminary investigation of the relationship between selected organizational characteristics and external whistleblowing by employees. Journal of Business Ethics, 11, 949–959.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barnett, T., Bass, K., & Brown, G. (1996). Religiosity, ethical ideology, and intentions to report a peer’s wrongdoing. Journal of Business Ethics, 15, 1161–1174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Baron, R., & Kenny, D. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(6), 1173–1182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bedard, J., Deis, D., Curtis, M., & Jenkins, J. (2008). Risk monitoring and control in audit firms: A research synthesis. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory, 27(1), 187–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bergman, M., Langhout, R., Palmieri, P., Cortina, L., & Fitzgerald, L. (2002). The (un)reasonableness of reporting: Antecedents and consequences of reporting sexual harassment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87, 230–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Bloodgood, J., Turnley, W., & Mudrack, P. (2010). Ethics instruction and the perceived acceptability of cheating. Journal of Business Ethics, 95, 23–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bobek, D., & Radtke, R. (2007). An experiential investigation of tax professionals’ ethical environments. The Journal of the American Taxation Association, 29(2), 63–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Booth, P., & Schultz, A. (2004). The impact of an ethical environment on managers’ project evaluation judgments under agency problem conditions. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 29, 473–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Brabeck, M. (1984). Ethical characteristics of whistleblowers. Journal of Research in Personality, 18, 41–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Budd, R. (1987). Response bias and the theory of reasoned action. Social Cognition, 5, 95–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Burney, L., Henle, C., & Widener, S. (2009). A path model examining the relations among strategic performance measurement system characteristics, organizational justice, and extra- and in-role performance. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 34, 305–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chiu, R. (2003). Ethical judgment and whistleblowing intention: examining the moderating role of locus of control. Journal of Business Ethics, 43, 65–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chiu, R., & Erdener, C. (2003). The ethics of peer reporting in Chinese societies: Evidence from Hong Kong and Shanghai. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 14(2), 335–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Chonko, L., & Hunt, S. (1985). Ethics and marketing management: An empirical examination. Journal of Business Ethics, 13, 339–359.Google Scholar
  21. Christie, R., & Geis, F. (1970). Studies in Machiavellianism. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  22. Curtis, M. (2006). Are audit-related ethical decisions dependent upon mood? Journal of Business Ethics, 68, 191–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dahling, J., Whitaker, B., & Levy, P. (2009). The development and validation of a new Machiavellianism scale. Journal of Management, 35(2), 219–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Dozier, J., & Miceli, M. (1985). Potential predictors of whistle-blowing: A prosocial behavior perspective. Academy of Management Review, 10(4), 823–836.Google Scholar
  25. Duizend, G., & McCann, K. (1998). Do collegiate business students show a propensity to engage in illegal business practice? Journal of Business Ethics, 17(3), 229–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ellis, S., & Arieli, S. (1999). Predicting intentions to report administrative and disciplinary infractions: Applying the reasoned action model. Human Relations, 52, 947–967.Google Scholar
  27. Fehr, B., Samson, D., & Paulhus, D. (1992). The construct of Machiavellianism: Twenty years later. In C. Spielberger & J. Butcher (Eds.), Advances in personality assessment (pp. 77–116). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  28. Fletcher, C. (1990). The relationship between candidate personality, self-presentation strategies, and interviewer assessments in selection interviews: An empirical study. Human Relations, 43, 739–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Flynn, S., Reichard, M., & Slanc, S. (1987). Cheating as a function of task outcome and Machiavellianism. Journal of Psychology, 121, 423–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ford, R., & Richardson, W. (1994). Ethical decision making: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of Business Ethics, 13, 205–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Fornell, C., & Larcker, D. (1981). Structural equation modeling in practice: A review and recommended two-step approach. Psychological Bulletin, 103(3), 411–423.Google Scholar
  32. Gautschi, F., & Jones, T. (1998). Enhancing the ability of business students to recognize ethical issues: An empirical assessment of the effectiveness of a course in business ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(2), 205–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ghosh, D. (2000). Organizational design and manipulative behavior: Evidence from a negotiated transfer pricing experiment. Behavioral Research in Accounting, 12, 1–30.Google Scholar
  34. Ghosh, D., & Crain, T. (1996). Experimental investigation of ethical standards and perceived probability of audit on intentional noncompliance. Behavioral Research in Accounting, 8, 221–244.Google Scholar
  35. Grafton, J., Lillis, A., & Widener, S. (2010). The role of performance measurement and evaluation in building organizational capabilities and performance. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 35, 689–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Graham, J. (1986). Principled organizational dissent: A theoretical essay. In L. L. Cummings & B. M. Staw (Eds.), Research in organizational behavior (pp. 65–115). Greenwich, CN: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  37. Granitz, N. (2003). Individual, social and organizational sources of sharing and variation in the ethical reasoning of managers. Journal of Business Ethics, 42, 101–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Gunnthorsdottir, A., McCabe, K., & Smith, V. (2002). Using the Machiavellianism instrument to predict trustworthiness in a bargaining game. Journal of Economic Psychology, 23, 49–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hegarty, W., & Sims, H. (1979). Organizational philosophy, policies and objectives related to unethical decision behaviour: A laboratory experiment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 64, 331–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Henik, E. (2008). Mad as hell or scared stiff? The effects of value conflict and emotions on potential whistleblowers. Journal of Business Ethics, 80, 111–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hiltebeitel, K., & Jones, S. (1992). An assessment of ethics instruction in accounting education. Journal of Business Ethics, 11(1), 37–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hunt, S., & Chonko, L. (1984). Marketing and Machiavellianism. Journal of Marketing, 48, 30–42. Google Scholar
  43. Jones, T. (1991). Ethical decision making by individuals in organizations: An issue-contingent model. Academy of Management Review, 16(2), 366–395.Google Scholar
  44. Jos, P., Tompkins, M., & Hays, S. (1989). In praise of difficult people: A portrait of the committed whistleblower. Public Administration Review, 49(6), 552–561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Jukiewicz, C., Giacalone, R., & Knouse, S. (2004). Transforming personal experience into a pedagogical tool: Ethical complaints. Journal of Business Ethics, 53, 283–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Kaplan, S., & Whitecotton, S. (2001). An examination of auditors’ reporting intentions when another auditor is offered client employment. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory, 20(1), 45–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Kitson, A., & Campbell, R. (1996). The ethical organisation. London: MacMillan Press.Google Scholar
  48. Lacayo, R., & Ripley, A. (2002). Persons of the year 2002: The whistleblowers. Time, 160, 32.Google Scholar
  49. Libby, R., Bloomfield, R., & Nelson, M. (2002). Experimental research in financial accounting. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 27, 775–810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Liyanarachchi, G., & Newdick, C. (2009). The impact of moral reasoning and retaliation on whistle-blowing: New Zealand evidence. Journal of Business Ethics, 89, 37–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Lopez, T., Vandervelde, S., & Wu, Y. (2009). Investor perceptions of an auditor’s adverse internal control opinion. The Journal of Accounting and Public Policy, 28, 231–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. MacNab, B., & Worthley, R. (2008). Self-efficacy as an intrapersonal predictor for internal whistleblowing: A US and Canada examination. Journal of Business Ethics, 79, 407–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. McLaughlin, B. (1970). Incidental learning and Machiavellianism. Journal of Social Psychology, 82, 109–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Mesmer-Magnus, J., & Viswesvaran, C. (2005). ‘Whistleblowing in organizations: An examination of correlates of whistleblowing intentions, actions, and retaliation. Journal of Business Ethics, 62, 277–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Miceli, M., & Near, J. (1985). Characteristics of organizational climate and perceived wrongdoing associated with whistle-blowing decisions. Personnel Psychology, 38, 525–544.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Near, J., & Miceli, M. (1985). Organizational dissidence: The case of whistle-blowing. Journal of Business Ethics, 4, 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Nichols, M., & Day, V. (1982). A comparison of moral reasoning of groups and individuals on the defining issues test. Academy of Management Journal, 25, 201–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. O’Fallon, M., & Butterfield, K. (2005). A review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: 1996–2003. Journal of Business Ethics, 59, 375–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Park, H., & Blenkinsopp, J. (2009). Whistleblowing as planned behavior: A survey of South Korean police officers. Journal of Business Ethics, 85, 545–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Park, H., Rehg, M., & Lee, D. (2005). The influence of confucian ethics and collectivism on whistleblowing intentions: A study of South Korean public employees. Journal of Business Ethics, 58, 387–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Peecher, M., & Solomon, I. (2001). Theory and experimentation in studies of audit judgments and decisions: avoiding common research traps. International Journal of Auditing, 5(3), 193–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Peppas, S., & Diskin, B. (2000). Ethical perspectives: Are future marketers any different? Teaching Business Ethics, 4(2), 207–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Podsakoff, P., MacKenzie, S., Lee, J.-Y., & Podsakoff, N. (2003). Common method bias in behavioral research: A critical review of the literature and recommended remedies. Journal of Applied Psychology, 88(5), 879–903.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ponemon, L. (1992). Ethical reasoning and selection-socialization in accounting. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 17(3), 237–258.Google Scholar
  65. Ponemon, L. (1994). Whistle-blowing as an internal control mechanism: individual and organizational considerations. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory, 13(2), 118–130.Google Scholar
  66. Preacher, K., & Hayes, A. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879–891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Randall, D., & Gibson, A. (1991). Ethical decision making in the medical profession: An application of the theory of planned behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 10, 111–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Ricks, J., & Fraedrich, J. (1999). The paradox of Machiavellianism: Machiavellianism may make for productive sales but poor management reviews. Journal of Business Ethics, 20, 197–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Ritter, B. (2006). Can business ethics be trained? A study of the ethical decision-making process in business students. Journal of Business Ethics, 68(2), 153–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Robinson, S., Robertson, J., & Curtis, M. (2012). The effects of contextual and wrongdoing attributes on organizational employees’ whistleblowing intentions following fraud. Journal of Business Ethics, 106, 213–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Rothschild, J., & Miethe, T. (1999). Whistleblower disclosures and management retaliation: The battle to control information about organization corruption. Work and Occupations, 26(1), 107–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Schultz, J., Johnson, D., Morris, D., & Dyrnes, S. (1993). An investigation of the reporting of questionable acts in an international setting. Journal of Accounting Research, 31, 75–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Seifert, D., Sweeney, J., Joireman, J., & Thornton, J. (2010). The influence of organizational justice on accountant whistleblowing. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 35, 707–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Shepperd, J., & Socherman, R. (1997). On the manipulative behavior of low Machiavellians: Feigning incompetence to “sandbag” an opponent. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1448–1459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sims, R., & Keenan, J. (1998). Predictors of external whistleblowing: Organizational and intrapersonal variables. Journal of Business Ethics, 17, 411–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Street, M., & Street, V. (2006). The effects of escalating commitment on ethical decision-making. Journal of Business Ethics, 64, 343–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Sweeney, B., Arnold, D., & Pierce, B. (2010). The impact of perceived ethical culture of the firm and demographic variables on auditors’ ethical evaluation and intention to act decisions. Journal of Business Ethics, 93, 531–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Tang, T., & Liu, H. (2012). Love of money and unethical behavior intention: Does an Authentic Supervisor’s Personal Integrity and Character (ASPIRE) make a difference? Journal of Business Ethics, 107, 295–312.Google Scholar
  79. Tavakoli, A., Keenan, J., & Crnjak-Karanovic, B. (2003). Culture and whistleblowing: an empirical study of Croatian and United States managers utilizing Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. Journal of Business Ethics, 43, 49–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Taylor, E., & Curtis, M. (2010). An examination of the layers of workplace influences in ethical judgments: Whistleblowing likelihood and perseverance in public accounting. Journal of Business Ethics, 93, 21–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Vitell, S., Lumpkin, J., & Rawwas, M. (1991). Consumer ethics: An investigation of the ethical beliefs of elderly consumers. Journal of Business Ethics, 10, 365–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Wakefield, R. (2008). Accounting and Machiavellianism. Behavioral Research in Accounting, 20, 115–129.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Windsor, C., & Ashkanasy, N. (1995). The effect of client management bargaining power, moral reasoning development and belief in a just world on accountant independence. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 20, 701–720.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Winter, S., Stylianou, A., & Giacalone, R. (2004). Individual differences in the acceptability of unethical information technology practices: The case of Machiavellianism and ethical ideology. Journal of Business Ethics, 54, 279–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wrightsman, L. (1991). Interpersonal trust and attitudes toward human nature. In J. P. Robinson, P. R. Shaver, & L. S. Wrightsman (Eds.), Measures of personality and social psychological attitudes (pp. 373–412). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  86. Zhao, X., Lynch, J, Jr, & Chen, Q. (2010). Reconsidering Baron and Kenny: Myths and truths about mediation analysis. Journal of Consumer Research, 37, 197–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Accountancy and FinanceClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

Personalised recommendations