Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore how a perceived ethical climate influences employees’ intention to whistle-blow through internal organizational channels and incorporates the mediating role of organizational identification and moral identity as well as the moderating role of individual risk aversion.
Organizational wrongdoing impairs the rights and benefits of employees, the organization and the wider public. When employees are effectively motivated by an organization to find and report wrongdoings in the workplace, wrongdoings are attenuated and, over time, corrected. Whistle-blowing is the disclosure by current or former organizational members of wrongdoings (illegal, immoral or illegitimate practices) (Near and Miceli, 1985), which is an organizational autonomous characteristic of proactive, prosocial and ethical behavior (Treviño et al., 2006). Because of the potential retaliation faced by whistle-blowers, many employees are unwilling to blow the whistle on peers’ wrongdoings (Miceli et al., 2009). As a result, organizations miss the opportunity to self-correct their wrongdoing and employees may notify outsiders, which could potentially lead to destroying the organizations’ reputation, incurring legal costs, etc. (Miceli et al., 2009). Therefore, whistle-blowing is a significant topic in organizational ethics management, one that concerns why employees are willing to whistle-blow and how to induce that behavior. Academic progress has been made in the literature, where scholars have found that particular personal features influence whistle-blowing decision making, e.g., “Big Five” personality, self-efficacy, proactive personality, situation-specific leverage and different demographic characteristics (MacNab and Worthley, 2008; Rehg et al., 2008; Bjørkelo et al., 2010; Miceli et al., 2012; Liu et al., 2016). Organizational factors, such as ethical leadership, transformational leadership, co-worker validation, ethical culture, communication culture, team norms and organizational support, have been shown to play important roles in the personal decision to be a whistle-blower (Keenan, 2002; Tavakoli et al., 2003; Edwards et al., 2009; Skivenes and Trygstad, 2010; Kaptein, 2011; Caillier, 2013; Latan et al., 2016).