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A Psychological Process of Bureaucratic Whistleblowing: Applying the Theory of Planned Behavior

Lee, Hongseok / KANG, Minsung Michael / Kim, Sun Young

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Abstract

Whistleblowing is a psychological process that involves the calculation of risks and benefits. While there exists a broad range of research on whistleblowing in the public sector, previous studies have not examined its entire process due to the limited focus on either whistleblowing intention or whistleblowing behavior. This study aims to fill this gap by applying the theory of planned behavior (TPB) to the whistleblowing context. Specifically, we examine how individual beliefs about the likely consequences of whistleblowing (attitude toward whistleblowing), others’ expectations about whistleblowing (subjective norm), and the capability of blowing the whistle (perceived behavioral control) influence public employees’ actual whistleblowing by way of their intention to report wrongdoings. A series of structural equation models are tested using data from the 2010 Merit Principles Survey. The findings show that the more the employees perceive that the consequences of whistleblowing are important, the more the key referents support whistleblowing, and the more the protections for whistleblowers are available, the more likely are their intentions to disclose wrongdoings and then actually engage in whistleblowing behavior. We conduct additional analyses for internal and external whistleblowers separately and find that there are both meaningful similarities and differences between the two groups. This study provides support for the validity of TPB as a theoretical framework for better understanding and explicating the psychological process of bureaucratic whistleblowing.

Issue Date
2021-07
Publisher
SAGE Publications
Keywords(Author)
Whistleblowing Intention; Whistleblowing Behavior; Theory of Planned Behavior; U.S. Federal Government; Structural Equation Modeling
DOI
10.1177/02750740211003345
Journal Title
American Review of Public Administration
Start Page
374
End Page
392
ISSN
0275-0740
Language
English
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