The Content Of Whistleblowing Procedures: A Critical Review Of Recent Official Guidelines

Wim Vandekerckhove from the University of Greenwich Business School, London, discussed a number of whistleblowing related guidelines and policy documents which have been produced by authoritative bodies.

He noted there has been an increasing recognition of the need to provide ways for people to raise concerns about suspected wrongdoing by promoting internal policies and procedures which offer proper safeguards to actual and potential whistleblowers.

Many organisations in both the public and private sectors in the UK and elsewhere now have such measures and these display a wide variety of operating modalities: in-house or outsourced, anonymous/confidential/ identified, multi or single tiered, specified or open subject matter et al.

Wim reviewed the following five documents from a management perspective, the first two deal with the principles upon which legislation might be based and the others describing good management practice:

  • the Council of Europe Resolution 1729 (COER);
  • Transparency International ‘Recommended Principles for Whistleblowing Legislation’ (TI);
  • European Union Article 29 Data Protection Working Party Opinion (EUWP);
  • International Chamber of Commerce ‘Guidelines on Whistleblowing’ (ICC); and
  • the British Standards Institute ‘Whistleblowing arrangements Code of Practice 2008 (BSI).

They all included suggestions of a number of different tiers at which concerns could be raised, that assistance could be both in-house and outsourced, how to deal with and allow for knowingly false reports and provision of advice. They also concurred on areas such as confidentiality and anonymity, protection and reprisals, involving stakeholders including trade unions and considerations of monitoring and review.

He then used a large table to illustrate a number of contradictions between the five documents such as who can avail of the whistleblowing procedures, some more limited than others, how issues should be reported (including verbal), how reports should be logged and recorded, whether whisteblowing was a right or a duty/obligation, whether good fait and honest belief was a requirement together with the motivation of the whistleblower, and who the key players should be.

Wim also observed gaps in the various documents, some more comprehensive in certain areas than others, and sometimes for understandable reasons in the circumstances. There appeared to be no pattern in some of the omissions.

The main pattern in the gaps evolved from a concentration on the whistleblower, but at the expense of inadequate attention to considerations of how management should deal with whistleblowing situations.


Moral Intensity and Organisational Commitment: Effects on Whistle-blowing Intention and Behaviour

Ching-Pu Chen is a professor in the Yuan Ze Universit in Taiwan where Chih-Tsung Lai is a doctoral student. They travelled a great distance to Dublin and were particularly pleasant and cheerful participants and residents of Trinity College’s character campus.

Prof Ching-Pu Chen’s research interests centre on decision-making, crisis management, business ethics, and whistle-blowing whilst Chih-Tsung Lai’s include organisational behaviour, human resource management, business ethics and whistle-blowing. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that their talk in Dublin concerned whisteblowing and particularly results of an online survey conducted between 25 February and 6 June, 2010 involving the ‘moral intensity’ of 533 participants.

The rationale for their research was Jones’s Ethical decision-making process (1991) which argued that strong moral intensity significantly influenced moral intention and induced employees to blow the whistle.

In early researches, scholars found an inverted U relationship between organisational commitment and whistle-blowing intention. More specifically, organisational commitment and organisational harm had an interactive effect on whistle-blowing intention. There are other scholars who argue that commitment has a significant direct affect on intention. Even though moral intensity and organisational commitment affect whistle-blowing behaviour, there were inconsistencies on their impacts.

The Taiwanese study argued that the effects of moral intensity on whistle-blowing behaviour are mediated by whistle-blowing intention with the organisational commitment as the moderator.

The survey used a short scenario to test moral intensity with regards to whistle-blowing intention, then the subjects were asked to respond to questions about the ethicality of their intention.

The study carried out multiple hierarchical regressions and moderated mediation analysis.

The results include:

  1. Moral intensity does significantly affect moral intention and behaviour.
  2. Moral intensity on whistle-blowing behaviour are mediated by whistle-blowing intention.
  3. There was enough evidence to show that in this path analysis their affects were moderated by organisational commitment (moderated mediation effect was significant).

The results showed that, facing an ethical dilemma, the employee with higher organisational commitment tends to report the wrongdoing through internal channels.

Their intention to blow the whistle are lower if their organisational commitment is lower.

Finally, they reported that the study also found that low organisational commitment will result in diffusion of unethical behaviour in the workplace.

They concluded by saying they hoped their findings might help managers to better manage whistle-blowing behaviour.


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