Reframing whistleblowing intention: an analysis of individual and situational factors

Published date14 January 2022
Date14 January 2022
Subject MatterAccounting & finance,Financial risk/company failure,Financial crime
AuthorDian Anita Nuswantara
Reframing whistleblowing
intention: an analysis of individual
and situational factors
Dian Anita Nuswantara
Department of Accounting, Universitas Negeri Surabaya, Surabaya, Indonesia
Purpose This paper aims to reframe the whistleblowing process by examining the individual and
situational factors that have been overlooked by prior studies. Ethical climate, public service motivation
(PSM), organisationidentication and psychologicalsafety are inquired.
Design/methodology/approach The present study sample was drawn from a population of
Indonesian local governments locatedin east Java, Indonesia. Particularly, self-administered questionnaires
were hand-distributed to the employeesin the four local governments. Of 2,169 questionnaires distributed to
the employees, 1,687 questionnaires were returned to the researcher. However, the researcher removed 33
returned questionnaires because of poor data quality, such as incomplete answers. Thus, only 1,654
questionnaireswere analysed in this study.
Findings The ndings support the idea of an ethical climate that can encouragethe individual to blow the
whistle. However, its effect is indirect. The predictivepower of ethical climate on the individuals whistleblowing
intentions depends on the meditating roles of PSM, psychological safety and organisation identication.
Interestingly, the mediating effects of PSM, psychological safety and organisation identication are extremely
acknowledged when individualshave an opportunity to choose internal or external disclosures.
Originality/value This study produces a different approach to understanding peoples intentions to
report any wrongdoings.This study is dissimilar from prior studies in terms of the theoretical paradigm and
research design. Previous studies mostlyused students as their experiments. In contrast, the current study
recruited employeeswho work in local governments. This situation fundamentally affectsthe understanding
of the impact of an ethical climateon the individual intention to blow the whistle.
Keywords Ethical climate, Public service motivation (PSM), Organisation identication,
Psychological safety, Whistleblowing intentions
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Whistleblowing is the disclosure by current or former organisational members of wrongdoings
(illegal, immoral or illegitimate practices) (Near and Miceli, 1985). It is sometimes known as an
autonomous organisational characteristic of proactive, prosocial and ethical behaviour
(Rothschild, 2013). Because of the potential retaliation faced by whistleblowers, many
employees are unwilling to blow the whistle on peerswrongdoings (Miceli et al., 2012). As a
result, organisations miss the opportunity to self-correct their wrongdoings, and employees
may notify outsiders, potentially destroying the organisationsreputation, incurring legal costs,
etc. (Miceli et al., 2012). According to these situations, whistleblowing is an essential topic in
organisational ethics management, one that concerns why employees are willing or not wil ling
to whistle the blow and how to induce that behaviour (Valentine and Godkin, 2019).
Unfortunately, many existing recent studies do not explore the complicated process of
whistleblowing, which implies multi-causal relationships (Culiberg and Miheli
c, 2017;
Dungan et al., 2015;Andon et al., 2018). A few studies explored how individual and
Journalof Financial Crime
Vol.30 No. 1, 2023
pp. 266-284
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JFC-11-2021-0255
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
situational factors are related to whistleblowing intention (Jeon, 2017;Valentine and Godkin,
2019). By considering the relationships among personal and situational factors, the current
study explores how those factors are related to the decision-making process of whistleblowing.
From the methodological perspective, some studies investigating whistleblowing intention
used the experimental method based on hypothetical scenarios, which lacked external validity
(Dungan et al., 2019). The current research seeks to assure external validity by conducting
quantitative analysis based on a large-scale government employee survey.
With these advantages, this research seeks to answer the question, What factors
inuence whistleblowing intention within government agencies?The study is to identify
the determinants of whistleblowing and explore how they are related. Several factors,
including ethical climate, public service motivation (PSM), organisation identication and
psychological safety,are inquired (see Figure 1). This study brings different views that prior
studies should not directly examine ethical climates role on whistleblowing intention.
Several aspects inuence peoples choice to report any wrongdoing. The theoretical
perspectives are providedin the following discussion.
2. Research framework and hypotheses development
2.1 Whistleblowing as prosocial behaviour
There are no generally accepted denitionsof whistleblowing. The term whistleblowing can
be seen as an act of dissent (Dungan et al.,2015)ordened more precisely as an open
disclosure about signicant wrongdoing made by a concerned citizen predominantly
motivated by notions of public interest (Keenan, 2002). Essentially, whistleblowing may be
perceived as an effective response to the failure of the state to develop adequate public
accountabilitymechanisms (Anvari et al., 2019).
Some others argue that whistleblowing is viewed as voluntary and rational behaviour
(Miceli et al.,2012;Near and Miceli, 1985), often governed by assessments of costs and
benets (Miceli and Near, 1988). Fortunately, whistleblowers are sometimes considered
problem employeesbecause they alert others about wrongdoings, thus harming the
employersreputations (Khan and Howe, 2021). Alternatively, they can be recognised as
legitimate contributors who are worthy of protection (Lee and Xiao, 2018;Stubben and
Welch, 2020;Vandekerckhove and Phillips, 2019) because their actions are benecial and
alert inside/outside parties of wrongdoing. This notion is especially pertinent in the post-
Enron era, with whistleblowing being viewed favourably because of its role in preventing
nancial improprieties(Stolowy et al.,2019).
Whistleblowing is not withoutassociated costs and negative consequences for those who
report misconduct. The perceived costs to the whistleblower include physical trouble, risk
and discomfort behaviours (Yang and Xu, 2020;Park and Lewis, 2018). Another cost to the
whistleblower is organisationalretaliation. Dhamija and Rai (2018) nd that whistleblowers
Figure 1.
A research
Ethical Climate
Public Service

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