We came across the article “Why do Employees Blow the Whistle” by Robin Singh, CFE, published in the March/April 2019 edition of Fraud Magazine. This article compiles results of research to explain the psychosocial factors that cause people to become whistleblowers. It is recognized that those who decide to become whistle blowers have a lot at stake. They will often lose their job or reputation, leading to a host of problems. The following sections will highlight the key findings mentioned in this article.
Qualities of Unethical Behavior
It was found that the severity of an unethical issue impacts the likelihood that it will be reported. Perhaps surprisingly, very sever cases of misconduct that can destroy a system are less likely to be reported. In addition, people are more likely to act as whistleblowers if a case of misconduct begins abruptly. If conduct becomes less ethical over a long stretch of time, it is less likely to be reported. Finally, unethical situations are more likely to be reported when the whistleblower senses a strong validity in his or her concern. This is because the ramifications for an invalid report are often very severe.
Research has shown that those with certain personal characteristics are more likely to become a whistleblower. As stated in the article, the typical profile of a whistle blower is highly educated, high performing in the workplace, and has a dominant and not always agreeable personality. A whistleblower is also likely to think that something can be done about unethical breaches.
Another psychological factor that impacts the decision to become a whistleblower is conflicting values. Notably, the values of ethics and loyalty fight during the decision-making process. The potential whistleblower will often have to choose between being loyal to their organization or supporting what is fair and just. Ultimately, the individual will have to determine which of these values are higher.
Demographic and Cultural Factors
It was found that status and culture influence the likelihood of becoming a whistle blower. The article notes that being a male employee, having increased tenure, increased pay, and increased education are all factors that are positively correlated with the likelihood of reporting misconduct. It was also noticed that members of some Asian cultures are less likely to favor whistleblowing than those who live in the United States. The article explains that this may be true due to the collectivist nature of some Asian cultures, which highly value loyalty to authority.
Additional Factors and Closing Notes
The article reports organizational factors that are predictors as to whether an employee will become a whistleblower. Not surprisingly, these include organizational encouragement for reporting unethical behavior and having a known mechanism for reporting concerns without fear of retaliation. The implementation of an anonymous ethics hotline, such as Red Flag Reporting, can address both factors. In sum, the act of whistle blowing takes courage despite it being the ethical thing to do. It is important to have an appreciation for those who report concerns before they get out of hand and to protect reporters through a strong anti-retribution policy. Steps can be taken to give all employees the ability to protect their organization by adressing unethical behavior.