Whistleblowing: Understanding the Reporting of Workplace Deviance

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Virginia Tech


Researchers have long studied the precursors to the reporting of deviant workplace acts. Previous research has often relied on descriptive studies utilizing survey research and/or simplistic models with one or two narrowly defined antecedents and demographic proxy variables. Results of these studies have resulted in inconsistent and even conflicting findings. The current study aimed to examine the causal antecedents of deviant act reporting in a more holistic way. Policy capturing was utilized to study intentions to report workplace deviant acts. Policy capturing is an idiographic approach where scenarios are used to establish the differential weighting of cues in judgment formation or behavioral intentions. Three causal antecedents were investigated. The locus of aggression and seriousness of the offense antecedents were based on the Robinson and Bennett (1995) typology of deviant acts. The third antecedent was the manipulation of the workplace offender (e.g., supervisor or peer). Subfacets of the Big Five characteristics previously found to be correlated with deviant behaviors were chosen for inclusion.

Participants were educators or administrators in higher education and were asked to rate how likely they would be to report a deviant incident via two different reporting options (e.g., internal vs. external). Each participant completed several demographic items, three subfacet personality inventories, and 32 hypothetical scenarios. Hierarchical linear model was utilized for the analyses. Results showed support for the hypotheses predicting that the three situational cues would affect intentions to report. For the internal model, the three situational cues and two-way interactions accounted for a 48.2% reduction in error variance; a 52.3% reduction for the external model. The minor/serious situational cue had the highest relative cue weight for both reporting avenues. Personality variables had little effect on reporting intentions. The only significant result was found in the internal model where more cooperative individuals were more likely to report an infraction.

This study serves as a baseline for future research on deviant act reporting. By utilizing the Robinson and Bennett (1995) typology, this research took an innovative approach to examining the reporting of acts within a classification system as opposed to previous studies which only examined specific behaviors.



Workplace Deviance, Whistleblowing, Policy Capturing