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Comparing extrinsic and intrinsic processes of whistle-blowing: a multi-method approach

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Title: Comparing extrinsic and intrinsic processes of whistle-blowing: a multi-method approach
Author(s): Vadera, Abhijeet K.
Director of Research: Aguilera, Ruth V.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Aguilera, Ruth V.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Oldham, Greg; Pratt, Michael; Rupp, Deborah E.
Department / Program: Business Administration
Discipline: Business Administration
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Whistle-blowing Ethical decision-making
Abstract: The purpose of this thesis was to compare and contrast extrinsic and intrinsic processes of whistle-blowing. To be able to do this, I examined if observers of wrongdoing blew the whistle because they had strong, positive external outcome expectancies, i.e., they expected their potential act of whistle-blowing to result in occurrences of positive external outcomes and avoidance of negative outcomes, or because they were morally outraged, i.e., they experienced anger upon witnessing the wrongdoing. I adopted a sequential mixed methods design consisting of two distinct phases: Quantitative survey followed by qualitative semi-structured interviews with some of the survey respondents. I found strong support for the intrinsic processes of whistle-blowing. Specifically, my survey data showed that (a) the relation between wrongdoing intensity and whistle-blowing and (b) the relationship between the interaction of wrongdoing intensity and moral identity and whistle-blowing were mediated by moral outrage and not by external outcome beliefs. Additional analysis examining the relative effects of the two processes suggested that the indirect effects through moral outrage were significantly greater than those through external outcome beliefs for both relationships. In addition, I found that the joint effects of wrongdoing intensity and subunit ethical leadership on whistle-blowing were mediated by external outcome beliefs and not by moral outrage; however, further analysis investigating the relative indirect effects of external outcome beliefs and moral outrage for this relationship provided no significant differences between the two mediators. My qualitative analyses provided additional support for some of the quantitative results, contributed towards clarifying some of ambiguous results from the survey, and investigated the processes of whistle-blowing in more detail. Consistent with the proposed framework, the qualitative data suggested that inactive observers and whistle-blowers viewed themselves differently-- inactive observers had salient workplace identities, while moral identities seemed to be more central for whistle-blowers. Also, inactive observers engaged in moral avoidance upon witnessing the wrongdoing, while whistle-blowers, as predicted, experienced moral outrage. One additional and new finding based on the qualitative data was that inactive observers and whistle-blowers both highly identified with the organization. However, the basis of their attachments seemed to differ extensively. Inactive observers’ identification with the organization appeared to stem directly from their relationship with their supervisors, while none of the whistle-blowers articulated that they viewed their supervisors as legitimate representatives of the entire organization. These individuals identified with the organization based on their beliefs about congruency in values and beliefs with the organization itself and what it stood for. Another finding emerging from the qualitative data was that post whistle-blowing, most whistle-blowers underwent attitudinal or behavioral changes if they believed their actions were ineffective. My dissertation makes several contributions to theory. It extends research on whistle-blowing by systematically comparing and contrasting two processes of whistle-blowing. In contrast to the traditional approaches to whistle-blowing, I found that observers of wrongdoing blew the whistle because they were morally outraged upon witnessing the wrongdoing. Therefore, my dissertation is among the few studies which have investigated and found evidence in favor of the role of moral outrage in the whistle-blowing process. I also contribute to the scholarly work on organizational justice and behavioral ethics more broadly by addressing the recent debate regarding self-interested versus deontological reactions to injustice. In addition, I add to the research on the relationship between identity dynamics and ethical decision-making and to the extant scholarly work on moral identities.
Issue Date: 2010-06-29
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/16526
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Abhijeet K. Vadera
Date Available in IDEALS: 2010-06-29
2012-06-29
Date Deposited: May 2010
 

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