Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 126, Issue 1, pp 85–99 | Cite as

Whistleblowing Intentions of Lower-Level Employees: The Effect of Reporting Channel, Bystanders, and Wrongdoer Power Status

  • Jingyu GaoEmail author
  • Robert Greenberg
  • Bernard Wong-On-WingEmail author


It has been suggested that a reporting channel administered by a third-party may represent a stronger procedural safeguard of anonymity and avoids the appearance of impropriety. This study examines whistleblowing intentions among lower-tier employees, specifically examines whether an externally-administered reporting channel increases whistleblowing intentions compared to an internally-administered one. In contrast to the findings of an earlier study by Kaplan et al. (Audit J Pract Theory 28(2):273–288, 2009), our results suggest that whistle-blowing intentions are higher when the reporting channel is administered externally than when it is administered internally. We also find that an externally-administered reporting channel mitigates the negative effect of bystanders on whistleblowing intentions. Implications are discussed.


Whistleblowing Bystander effect Reporting channel Sarbanes-Oxley 


  1. Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). (2005). Detecting and deterring fraud using hotlines. Continuing-education course . Austin, TX: ACFE.Google Scholar
  2. Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). (2008). Report to the nation on occupational fraud and abuse . Austin, TX: ACFE.Google Scholar
  3. Ayers, S., & Kaplan, S. E. (2005). Wrongdoing by consultants: An examination of employees’ reporting intentions. Journal of Business Ethics, 57, 121–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brabeck, M. (1984). Ethical characteristics of whistle blowers. Journal of Research in Personality, 18, 41–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chiu, R. K. (2003). Ethical judgment and whistleblowing intention: Examining the moderating role of locus of control. Journal of Business Ethics, 43, 65–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chung, J., & Monroe, G. (2003). Exploring social desirability bias. Journal of Business Ethics, 44, 291–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cohen, J., Pant, L., & Sharp, D. (1998). The effect of gender and academic discipline diversity on the ethical evaluations, ethical intentions and ethical orientation of potential public accounting recruits. Accounting Horizons, 12(3), 250–270.Google Scholar
  8. Cohen, J., Pant, L., & Sharp, D. (2001). An examination of differences in ethical decision-making between Canadian business students and accounting professionals. Journal of Business Ethics, 30(4), 319–336.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cortina, L. M., & Magley, V. J. (2003). Raising voice, risking retaliation: Events following interpersonal mistreatment in the workplace. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 8(4), 247–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Pub. Law No. 111-203, 124 Stat. 1376, 1612 (July 21, 2010).Google Scholar
  11. Dozier, J. B., & Miceli, M. P. (1985). Potential predictors of whistle-blowing: A prosocial behavior perspective. Academy of Management Review, 10(4), 823–836.Google Scholar
  12. Dworkin, T. M., & Baucus, M. S. (1998). Internal vs. external whistleblowers: A comparison of whistleblowering processes. Journal of Business Ethics, 17(12), 1281–1298.Google Scholar
  13. Ethics Resource Center. (2007). National Business Ethics Survey: An inside view of private sector ethics. Arlington, VA: Ethics Resource Center.Google Scholar
  14. Graham, J. W. (1986). Principled organizational dissent: A theoretical essay. Research in Organizational Behavior, 8, 1–52.Google Scholar
  15. Kaplan, S. E., Pany, K., Samuels, J. A., & Zhang, J. (2008). An examination of the association between gender and reporting intentions for fraudulent financial reporting. Journal of Business Ethics, 87, 15–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kaplan, S. E., Pany, K., Samuels, J. A., & Zhang, J. (2009). An examination of the effects of procedural safeguards on intentions to anonymously report fraud. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory, 28(2), 273–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kaplan, S. E., Pope, K. R., & Samuels, J. A. (2010). The effect of social confrontation on individuals’ intentions to internally report fraud. Behavioral Research in Accounting, 22(2), 51–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kaplan, S. E., & Whitecotton, S. M. (2001). An examination of auditors’ reporting intentions when another auditor is offered client employment. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory (Spring), 20(1), 45–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kaptein, M. (2011). From inaction to external whistleblowing: The influence of the ethical culture of organizations on employee responses to observed wrongdoing. Journal of Business Ethics, 98, 513–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Keenan, J. P. (1995). Whistleblowing and the first-level manager: Determinants of feeling obliged to blow the whistle. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 10(3), 571–584.Google Scholar
  21. King, G. (1999). The implications of an organization’s structure on whistleblowing. Journal of Business Ethics, 20, 315–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Latané, D., & Darley, J. M. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8(4), 377–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Latané, D., & Darley, J. M. (1970). The unresponsive bystander: Why doesn’t he help me?. New York, NY: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
  24. Lee, J. Y., Heilmann, S. G., & Near, J. P. (2004). Blowing the whistle on sexual harassment: Test of a model of predictors and outcomes. Human Relations, 57(3), 297–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lewis, D., & Kender, M. (2010). A survey of whistleblowing/confidential reporting procedures in the top 250 FTSE firms. London: SAI Global.Google Scholar
  26. 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
  27. Miceli, M. P., Dozier, J. B., & Near, J. P. (1991a). Blowing the whistle on data fudging: A controlled field experiment. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 21(4), 271–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Miceli, M. P., & Near, J. P. (1984). The relationships among beliefs, organizational position, and whistle-blowing status: A discriminant analysis. Academy of Management Journal, 27(4), 687–705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Miceli, M. P., & Near, J. P. (1992). Blowing the whistle: The organizational and legal implications for companies and employees. New York: Lexington.Google Scholar
  30. Miceli, M. P., Near, J. P., & Dworkin, T. M. (2008). Whistle-blowing in organizations. New York: Taylor and Francis Group, LLC. ISBN: 978-0-8058-5989-8.Google Scholar
  31. Miceli, M. P., Near, J. P., & Schwenk, C. R. (1991b). Who blows the whistle and why? Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 45(1), 113–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Moberly, R. E. (2006). Sarbanes-Oxley’s structural model to encourage corporate whistleblowers. Brigham Young University Law Review, 2006(5), 1107–1180.Google Scholar
  33. Near, J. P., & Miceli, M. P. (1996). Whistle-blowing: Myth and reality. Journal of Management, 22(3), 507–525.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Perry, J. L., & Wise, L. R. (1990). The motivational bases of public service. Public Administration Review, 50(3), 367–373.Google Scholar
  35. Piliavin, J. A., & Piliavin, I. M. (1972). Effect of blood on reactions to a victim’. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 23, 353–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879–891.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. PricewaterhouseCoopers. (2004). The emerging role of internal audit in mitigating fraud and reputation risks. New York, NY: PricewaterhouseCoopers.Google Scholar
  38. Read, W. J., & Rama, D. V. (2003). Whistle-blowing to internal auditors. Managerial Auditing Journal, 18, 354–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rehg, M. T., Near, J. P., Miceli, M. P., & Van Scotter, J. R. (2008). Antecedents and outcomes of retaliation against whistleblowers: Gender difference and power relationships. Organization Science, 19(2), 221–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Robinson, S. N., Robertson, J. C., & Curtis, M. B. (2012). The effects of contextual and wrongdoing attributes on organizational employees’ whistleblowing intentions following fraud. Journal of Business Ethics, 106, 213–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rothwell, G. R., & Baldwin, J. N. (2006). Ethical climates and contextual predictors of whistle-blowing. Review of Public Personnel Administration, 26(3), 216–244.Google Scholar
  42. Sarbanes-Oxley Act (Corporate and Auditing Accountability, Responsibility, and Transparency Act of 2002). (2002). PL 107-204, 116 Stat 745.Google Scholar
  43. Schultz, J. J., Jr, Johnson, D. A., Morris, D., & Dyrnes, S. (1993). An investigation of the reporting of questionable acts in an international setting. Journal of Accounting Research (Supplement), 31, 75–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schwartz, S. H., & Gottlieb, A. (1976). Bystander reactions to a violent theft: Crime in Jerusalem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34(6), 1188–1199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schwartz, S. H., & Gottlieb, A. (1980). Bystander anonymity and reactions to emergencies’. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(3), 418–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Seifert, D. L., Sweeney, J. T., Joireman, J., & Thornton, J. M. (2010). The influence of organizational justice on accountant whistleblowing. Accounting, Organizations & Society, 15, 707–717.Google Scholar
  47. Sims, R. L., & Keenan, J. P. (1998). Predictors of external whistleblowing: Organizational and intrapersonal variables. Journal of Business Ethics, 17, 411–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. The Network, Inc. (The Network). (2006, 2010). Corporate Governance and Compliance Hotline Benchmarking Report. Norcross, GA: The Network.Google Scholar
  49. Trevino, L. K., Weaver, G. R., Gibson, D. G., & Toffler, B. L. (1999). Managing ethics and legal compliance: What works and what hurts. California Management Review, 41(2), 131–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Vandekerckhove, W., & Lewis, D. (2012). The content of whistleblowing procedures: A critical review of recent official guidelines. Journal of Business Ethics, 108, 253–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weaver, G. R., & Trevino, L. K. (2001). The role of human resources in ethics/compliance management: A fairness perspective. Human Resource Management Review, 11, 113–134.Google Scholar
  52. Weaver, G. R., Trevino, L. K., & Cochran, P. L. (1999). Corporate ethics programs as control systems: Influences of executive commitment and environmental factors. Academy of Management Journal, 42, 41–57.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Renmin University of ChinaBeijingChina
  2. 2.Washington State UniversityPullmanUSA

Personalised recommendations