An examination of whistleblowing from national and organisational culture perspectives and its association with employees’ work-related attitudes
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 03:02 authored by Moeen Umar Cheema
Whistleblowing refers to the disclosure of wrongdoings by members of organisations to persons or organisations that may be able to effect action. This thesis presents an examination of the effects of national and organisational cultures on the whistleblowing decisions of employees. The thesis also considers how remaining silent or blowing the whistle in response to observed wrongdoings affects employees’ key work-related attitudes. Mail surveys were used to collect data from 82 (Australian) and 198 (Pakistani) middle-level managers who were working in large-scale organisations in Australia and Pakistan respectively. The thesis employs the format of ‘thesis by publication’ and consists of three separate, yet interrelated, comprehensive research papers. Paper 1 addresses a major gap in the whistleblowing literature, which has been caused by generalisability issues of single-country studies, limited geographical coverage and the use of student samples and/or hypothetical scenarios by previous cross-cultural whistleblowing studies. Using Hofstede’s (1980) framework of national culture, the study examined the effects of three dimensions of national culture—individualism/collectivism, power distance and indulgence/restraint—on actual whistleblowing decisions of real-life employees. The results indicated a significantly higher frequency of whistleblowing in the individualistic national culture of Australia than in the collectivist national culture of Pakistan. Further, large power distance was found to be a hindrance for official reporting but not for the unofficial reporting of wrongdoings committed by superiors. Additionally, characteristics of restrained national culture were found to be a major reason for employees to remain silent regarding observed wrongdoings. The findings provide valuable insights for lawmakers, regulators and domestic and multinational organisations to understand the effects of national culture on the whistleblowing decisions of employees. The findings from the study presented in Paper 1 suggest that whistleblowing legislation and organisational whistleblowing policies should be customised to suit national cultures. Paper 2 provides empirical evidence regarding the association between organisational culture and whistleblowing. The results demonstrated a lower likelihood of whistleblowing in organisations that focused more on the cultural dimensions of respect for people, innovation and stability. Additionally, employees in organisations that focused more on cultural dimension of attention to detail were more likely to blow the whistle regarding observed wrongdoings. Outcome orientation and teamwork dimensions of organisational culture were not found to be associated with whistleblowing. These findings provide valuable insights for organisations to shape their organisational cultures to decrease the incidence of wrongdoings and increase the frequency of whistleblowing. Organisations with higher incidence of wrongdoings should focus on a culture of attention to detail, which may help them to reduce wrongdoings and increase the reporting of wrongdoings. Further, organisations with a focus on respect for people, innovation and stability should clearly communicate to employees that non-compliance of ethical, moral and legal standards will not be tolerated. Organisations should encourage employees to report observed wrongdoings by providing sufficient whistleblowing channels and by assuring employees that whistleblowers will not be accused of disloyalty or disruptive behaviour, that their identity will be kept confidential and that their welfare will be protected. Paper 3 presents an examination of the association of remaining as an inactive observer or becoming a whistleblower with four key work-related employee attitudes: turnover intentions, organisational commitment, job-related stress and job satisfaction. The findings revealed that inactive observers exhibited higher turnover intentions, lower organisational commitment, higher job-related stress and lower job satisfaction than non-observers. Further, compared with inactive observers, whistleblowers exhibited more negative work-related attitudes. The study contributes to the literature by providing the first empirical evidence of the effects of whistleblowing on the work-related attitudes of whistleblowers. Additionally, the study investigated the work-related attitudes of the larger and under-researched group of inactive observers. The findings will assist organisations to minimise the impact of whistleblowing on the work-related attitudes of employees. Organisations should improve their internal control systems, provide clear and unambiguous guidelines to employees and create ethical organisational environments with a focus on transparency and accountability, develop training programs aimed at improving ethical awareness of employees, provide confidential whistleblowing channels to protect whistleblowers’ identity, treat whistleblowers fairly and justly, thoroughly investigate all whistleblowing information and take corrective action.