Date of Award

Spring 6-2-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (PhD)


Industrial/Organizational Psychology

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Dana Kendall

Second Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Kristen Thornton

Third Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Thane Erickson


whistleblowing, whistleblowing likelihood, organizational misconduct


As instances of corporate wrongdoing continue to rise globally, the opportunity and need for individual whistleblowers to act as a check on corporate power are also rising. Whistleblowing efforts represent a unique challenge to the power asymmetry that exists between an individual employee and the organization. Due to the serious, pervasive harm to employees and consumers that can stem from organizational misconduct, efforts to identify indicators of whistleblowing likelihood can potentially provide a significant means of prevention. This study used a vignette method to present two different levels of harm occurrence, by manipulating the timing of the consequences of a hypothetical and specific type of organizational wrongdoing. This was done to strengthen the causal inferences between the urgency to address the wrongdoing and whistleblowing likelihood. Across the two levels of harm, I anticipated that individual differences would be more pronounced in the highly ambiguous situation and would dissipate in the less ambiguous situation. Building on past research that found positive relationships between personality traits and both whistleblowing likelihood (Brink et al., 2015) and whistleblowing behavior (Bjørkelo et al., 2010), I predicted that two personality attributes of potential whistleblowers —agreeableness and conscientiousness— would moderate this relationship. A sample of 250 participants was recruited using the crowdsourcing platform, Prolific. To analyze the data, I ran several moderated multiple regressions to determine whether personality moderates the relationship between the occurrence of organizational misconduct and whistleblowing likelihood. The results indicated that agreeableness did not moderate the relationship between organizational misconduct and internal whistleblowing (IWB) preferences (Bharm occurrence*agreeableness = -.14, p = .54), or between misconduct and external whistleblowing (EWB) preferences (Bharm occurrence*agreeableness = -.07, p = .73). Similarly, conscientiousness did not moderate this relationship for IWB (Bharm occurrence*conscientiousness = .04, p = .82) or for EWB whistleblowing (Bharm occurrence*conscientiousness = -.03, p = .88). However, significant bivariate correlations were identified between both personality traits and IWB preferences (i.e., for agreeableness: r = .19, p =.003; and for conscientiousness: r = .23, p < .001). Practical implications stemming from the findings are discussed, including identifying the characteristics of individuals who are more sensitive to wrongdoing behavior and are willing to shoulder personal risk to stymie its deleterious consequences to human welfare. Finally, limitations of the current study are addressed along with a presentation of future directions for the scientific study of the relatively rare phenomenon of whistleblowing.