Journal of Environmental Treatment Techniques  
2021, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages: 54-58  
J. Environ. Treat. Tech.  
ISSN: 2309-1185  
Journal web link:  
Determinants of Whistleblowing Intention in  
Azizan Mohamed-Isa *, Ahmed Razman Abdul Latiff , Mohammad Noor Hisham Osman ,  
Arman Hj Ahmad4  
Department of Management & Entrepreneurship, Universiti Kuala Lumpur Business School  
Putra Business School, Serdang, Malaysia  
Faculty of Economics and Management, Universiti Putra Malaysia  
Department of Marketing & International Business, Universiti Kuala Lumpur Business School  
Received: 25/07/2020  
Accepted: 03/10/2020  
Published: 10/10/2020  
Whistleblowers have been applauded for their heroic acts for disclosing unethical practices in organization worldwide such as Enron,  
Worldcom and Cambridge Analytica to name a few. Whistleblowing has been regarded as one of the internal control mechanisms to prevent  
organizational wrongdoings. Despite establishment and enhancement of law, policies and regulations enacted to whistleblowing, potential  
whistleblowers remain silent and reluctant to blow the whistle. It is therefore important to examine the factors that encourage individual to  
come forward to disclose the wrongdoing. This conceptual article reviews prior literature that examined determinants of whistleblowing  
intentions. Building from the theory and following the prior literature, the article expanded the review by looking into the interaction of  
determinants such as ethical leadership, emotional intelligence and whistleblowing intention. Hence, it is expected that study of such  
interaction would create new avenues for future research.  
Keywords: Whistleblowing intention, ethical leadership, emotional intelligence, organizational misconduct  
Protection of Public Interest Whistleblowers 2011) and Republic  
of South Africa (Protected Disclosures Act, 2000, Companies  
Act, 2008) (4). Meanwhile in England, English Parliament  
enacted the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA 1998) as  
a provision for whistleblowing in the country. In Malaysia, the  
regulations regarding reporting of wrongdoing (misconduct) can  
be found in Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2009,  
Capital Market and Service Act 2007, Company Act (as  
Amended) 2007 (1, 5).  
Nonetheless, despite the establishment of the whistleblowing  
regulatory framework and policies across countries,  
whistleblowing is not a common business practice (6). Employees  
whom witness misconduct in organization prefer not to come  
forward to disclose the wrongdoing and remain silent due to risky  
and ambiguity elements associated with the whistleblowing  
behaviour. Previous studies on whistleblowing has shown that  
among the factors why employees reluctant to report the  
misconduct is fear of retaliations, believe such effort will be futile,  
lead to negative appraisals, job loss, career jeopardy, and to the  
extent that an ongoing persecution (6-8).  
Whistleblowing is a disclosure of unethical practices of  
individuals or a group of individuals via designated avenues in the  
organization (1). Whistleblowing is regarded as valuable tool for  
curbing and detecting misconduct in organizations. Due to its  
importance role, major world organizations such as Organization  
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and  
European Commission are calling for implementation of  
whistleblowing policy and procedure. The downfall of US based  
companies such as Enron and Worldcom due to accounting  
scandals came to light as a result of whistleblowing (2). Based on  
survey assessed by the Association of Fraud Examiners has found  
that 40% of occupational fraud detected by whistleblowers (3).  
A whistleblower who reports the wrongdoing believed that  
any misconduct happened in the organizations should be  
conveyed to authorities or management for corrective measures.  
Many countries have prepared laws to facilitate and encourage  
more whistleblowers to step forward in reporting unethical  
practices occured in their organizations. Among countries which  
have been recognised to have  
a very comprehensive  
Given the aspect of whistleblowing as an important  
mechanism in exposing wrongdoing and misconduct in  
organization, it is vital for management to understand the factors  
that determine the likelihood of employees to whistleblow.  
Putting systems and regulations in place may not guarantee the  
whistleblowing legislations coverage in public and private sector  
are USA (Corporate and Auditing Accountability, Responsibility  
and Transparency Act 2002, commonly known as Sarbanes-  
Oxley Act), Japan (Whistleblower Protection Act 2004), Korea  
Corresponding author: Azizan Mohamed-Isa, Department of Management & Entrepreneurship, Universiti Kuala Lumpur Business School.  
Journal of Environmental Treatment Techniques  
2021, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages: 54-58  
employees to report misconduct, due to risk and uncertainties  
associated with the respective disclosure. For whistleblowing to  
happen effectively, key influential factors that may increase the  
likelihood of employees to report wrongdoing may derived from  
organizational and individual perspectives. Previous study posits  
that whistleblowing policy will only be effective if the leaders  
provide an environment, which encourages and reinforces the  
ethical behaviour (9).  
the attention of external parties, such as law enforcement  
agencies, political representatives, external advocacy groups,  
non-governmental organizations, mass media or journalists (16-  
18). Prior studies have shown that both internal and external  
channels have been employed to report wrongdoings. According  
to Miceli and Near (15, 19), almost all whistlebowers made an  
effort to disclose misconduct by way of internal channels prior to  
using external channels.  
This article aims to explore the impact of ethical leaders in the  
employees’ organizational environment to increase the likelihood  
of whistleblowing (whistleblowing intention). In addition,  
whistleblowing may also depends on the individual aspect of  
employees. It is not an easy decision for employees to resort with  
whistleblowing (10). There are many states of emotion involve  
that lingers in the mind of employees when seeing misconduct  
2.2 Whistleblowing intention  
It is rather difficult to measure the actual whistleblowing by  
first hand observation due to infeasibility and complexity in  
performing investigations of misconducts in the work setting. It  
is preferable to study actual cases of whistleblowing actions and  
behaviours, nonetheless scholars examining whistleblowing are  
often limited to examining reporting intention due to its  
occasional characteristics (7, 20-22). Whistleblowing is a  
sensitive topic, thus it poses challenge in gaining entry into  
organizations and participants may fear their anonymity might be  
compromised (23). As such, previous studies used  
whistleblowing intention as a proxy for actual whistleblowing  
behaviour (24, 25). Therefore, this article considers  
whistleblowing intention as the main subject of the study and  
addresses both internal and external channels of reporting.  
The feeling such as anger, disbelief, upset in  
acknowledging the incidences. However, before the employee  
decide to disclose the misconduct, the feeling of fear, distress and  
anxious will exist knowing the negative consequences will take  
place soon after reporting. Employees with high level of  
emotional intelligence tend to exhibit more adaptive defence  
mechanism such as denial (11) and may have the ability to  
regulate own emotion effectively when encounter the risk,  
overcome fears, and thus will increase the likelihood of  
This article is structured in three parts. First, the article  
deliberates the literature based on two factors of whistleblowing  
that are organizational and individual. Second, from the  
respective findings, a conceptual framework of whistleblowing  
intentions is proposed. The final part of the article culminates the  
significance of whistleblowing intentions in the organizations.  
2.3 Ethical leadership and whistleblowing intention  
Ethical leadership plays such a central role in encouraging  
employees to report organizational wrongdoings. Corporate  
misconduct may be detected through whistleblowing and  
organizations and leaders may be able to encourage the  
whistleblowing action (26). Previous research illustrates drawing  
from social learning theory and social learning perspective of  
leadership, posit that leaders may affect ethical attitudes and  
behaviour by way of role modelling (27). Ethical leaders as moral  
managers will enhance the employees’ ethical consciousness and  
encourage their whistleblowing intention in several ways.  
First, leader is observed as an ethical role model by the  
employees. They are regarded as credible, trustworthy,  
responsible and speak up against inappropriate misconduct occur  
in organization. Employees observe those behaviours and  
influence them thus modelling the normatively appropriate  
behaviour. Employees are expected to report any observed  
unethical conduct and ethical leaders support this reporting  
Literature review  
The topic of whistleblowing has gained substantial interest  
from numerous researchers nearly forty years ago. Many  
researches have since been conducted in an attempt to provide  
framework for whistleblowing intention.  
The proposed  
framework illustrated the determinants which either influence  
and/or facilitate whistleblowing intention. Understanding these  
contributing factors would be able to provide insightful guidelines  
that may increase the likelihood for employees to whistleblow.  
This article explore the impact of ethical leaders and the personal  
attributes of employees on whistleblowing intention.  
Second, given the fact that the negative consequences  
associated with whistleblowing such as retaliation, employees  
probably are ready to accept those risk with the presence of ethical  
leaders. Ethical leaders may protect them against risk of  
retaliation and any risk associated with whistleblowing.  
Whistleblowers are regarded as helpful to organization and they  
should be given appreciation, support and rewards.  
Third ethical leaders are seen to establish standards, creating  
the appropriate norms and practices and hold direct reports  
accountable (28). They set expectation and support the reporting  
behaviour. Thus, it is proposed that:  
.1 Whistleblowing and whistleblowing intention  
Chiu (12), states that whistleblowing can be defined as “the  
voluntary release of information, as a moral protest by a member  
of an organization about illegal or immoral conduct in the  
organization that is opposed to the public interest”. MacNab and  
Worthley (13) state that “whistleblowing as a communication  
process in which the process itself focuses on voluntary reporting  
of potential or improper acts by an employee or ex-employee  
within an organisation to authorities”. There are two types of  
whistleblowing; internal and external. The act of disclosing  
unethical conduct happened in organizations or its members can  
be done internally or externally (14).  
Internal whistleblowing happens when a whistleblower  
reports the act of misconduct to someone of authority within an  
organization or through a confidential hotline (13, 15). External  
whistleblowing arises when a whistleblower discloses the illegal  
practices in the organization and decides to bring the matters to  
Proposition 1: Ethical Leadership positively influences  
whistleblowing intention  
.4 Emotional intelligence and business ethics setting  
Previous research has substantially investigated the role of  
Journal of Environmental Treatment Techniques  
2021, Volume 9, Issue 1, Pages: 54-58  
emotion in business ethics setting (29-33). Emotional  
intelligence, represent an importance personal attributes related to  
ethical decision making in whistleblowing. Only very recently,  
researchers started to investigate the effects of emotional  
intelligence on business ethics.  
Emotional intelligence (EI) is defined as the skills to observe  
one’s own and others feelings, to distinguish among them and to  
utilize the information as a guidance on one’s thinking and action  
whistleblowing intention. This study applies quantitative  
approach with the adoption of Structural Equation Modelling  
using Smart PLS as the quantitative analytical tool. Survey  
method is adopted and this study utilizes self-administered  
questionnaires that match appropriately to measure the constructs.  
The research entailed using systematic random sampling  
techniques by collecting data obtained from Malaysian Anti-  
Corruption Commission (MACC) website.  
34, p.189). The definition was later honed and categorized based  
upon four dimension: identifying, facilitating, understanding, and  
regulating emotions.  
3.1 Proposed conceptual framework  
The concept of emotional intelligence has been used widely  
in the management research due to its practicality aspect in work  
environment such as performance, job satisfaction, absenteeism,  
organizational commitment, intentions, and leadership issues  
35). Emotional intelligence is an ability acquired by people  
whereby the set of of skills that can be taught, learned, and/or  
acquired. The intelligence skills may be developed through role  
models from organization and appropriate training (36).  
Figure 1. Conceptual framework for determinants of whistleblowing  
intention in organizations  
.5 Moderating role of emotional intelligence  
Emotional intelligence (EI) has been proposed to act as  
moderator for the relationships between ethical leadership and  
whistleblowing intention in this study. Much of the current  
literature pays particular attention to the direct influences of  
antecedents on whistleblowing and neglecting the possible  
moderating factors on these influences (37).  
EI is anticipated to moderate the relationship between ethical  
leadership and whistleblowing intention. Individual with EI may  
have a more positive expectation when disclose unethical  
practices and shows less concern about probable risks, and  
potentially involved in risk-taking events (38). Hence, individual  
with high level of EI hve the inclination that there is minimal risk  
involved in whistleblowing, and avoid harsh retaliation.  
High emotional intelligence individuals are more conscious  
of their own and others’ feelings (39). They have the ability to  
understand emotional information, pay attention to the  
relationships among them, and accurately managing feelings (40).  
Emotionally intelligent employees are able to address their  
supervisors unstated needs (41). They can easily strengthen the  
emotional connections with their supervisors thus intensify the  
ethical leadership impact (42). An employee would anticipate a  
lot of emotional responses before deciding to become potential  
whistleblower. Individuals whom possess high level of emotional  
intelligence are optimistic and remain focused on the outcome  
positive rather than negative ones.  
3.2 Instruments and measurement  
The items of the variables in the questionnaire were adapted  
from previous studies related with whistleblowing intention,  
ethical leadership, and emotional intelligence to go well with the  
research objectives of the study. Respondents will be requested  
to respond to the statement of the question using a six-point Likert  
scale ranging from 1 ‘‘strongly disagree’’ to 6 ‘‘strongly agree’’  
to record the degree of their assessment and perception on each  
The scale of “Whistleblowing Intention” will be adapted from  
Park and Blenkinsopp’s (43) 8-item scale. The first part measured  
whistleblowing intention and Whistleblowing intention was  
measured through a total of 8 items, asking the question “If you  
found wrongdoing in your workplace, how hard would you try to  
do the following?” A 6-point Likert-type scale was employed to  
rate statements that ranged from one (1) =Not at all to six (6) =  
Very hard.  
“Ethical Leadership” will be assessed utilizing scale  
developed by Brown et al. (27). Ten items of measurement  
reflecting individual perceptions of their leader’s ethical conduct.  
Examples of items include ‘(The leader in my organisation)  
disciplines employees who violate ethical standards’ and ‘(The  
leader in my organisation) sets an example of how to do things  
the right way in terms of ethics’. The reported internal consistency  
for this 10-item scale is 0.92 (27). Participants will respond along  
a 6-point Likert-type scale with anchors from 1 (strongly  
disagree) to 6 (strongly agree).  
“Emotional Intelligence” measurement scale consist of 16  
items instruments of four-dimensional classification of overall  
emotional intelligence proposed by Davies et al. (44). The  
construct of this measurement will be adopted from Law et al.  
(45) labeled as the Wong and Law EI Scale (WLEIS). The  
respondents is requested to indicate their level of agreement with  
each of the items on a 6-point agreedisagree scale. The higher  
score reflects higher level of emotional intelligence.  
This article proposed that the relationship between ethical  
leadership and whistleblowing intention will be moderated by  
emotional intelligence (EI), such that the relationship will be  
stronger for people with high EI than people with low EI.  
Proposition 2: The relationship between ethical leadership and  
whistleblowing intention is moderated by emotional intelligence  
in a way that ethical leadership positively impacts whistleblowing  
intention when the employees exhibit high degree of emotional  
This study employs descriptive approach because the purpose  
of this study is to describe the nature of relationships that exist  
among ethical leadership, emotional intelligence and