This week’s articles look at the impacts of whistle blowing and the phenomenon of over-trust, leading to scams and manipulation.

‘Whistleblowing triangle’: Framework and empirical evidence
This work empirically tests the concept of the ‘whistleblowing triangle,’ which is modelled on the three factors encapsulated by the fraud triangle (pressure or financial incentives, opportunity and rationalisation), in the Indonesian context. Anchored in the proposition of an original research framework on the whistleblowing triangle and derived hypotheses, this work aims to expand the body of knowledge on this topic by providing empirical evidence.

The sample used is taken from audit firms affiliated with both the big 4 and non-big 4 companies operating in Indonesia. The results of analysis using the PLS-PM method found a significant relationship between the components of the whistleblowing triangle and the intention of blowing the whistle.

The authors found that financial incentives are the most significant predictor of auditors’ intention to blow the whistle in Indonesia. Other components, such as opportunity and rationalisation, also play an important role in supporting auditors’ intention to blow the whistle. The findings also suggest that related pressures are the top priority for audit firms in Indonesia to consider in increasing whistleblowing intention.

The authors expand the previous literature on whistleblowing which has been derived from the components of the fraud triangle (Brown et al. in Account Public Interest 16(1):28–56, 2016; Smaili and Arroyo in J Bus Ethics,, 2017) by adding empirical evidence.

Hengky Latan, Charbel Jose Chiappetta Jabbour and Ana Beatriz Lopes de Sousa Jabbour. 2019. ‘Whistleblowing Triangle’: Framework and Empirical Evidence.
Journal of Business Ethics, 160(1), 189–204.


Using mental health as a weapon in whistleblower retaliation
What form does power take in situations of retaliation against whistleblowers? In this article, the authors move away from dominant perspectives that see power as a resource. In place, the authors propose a theory of normative power and violence in whistleblower retaliation, drawing on an in-depth empirical study.

This enables a deeper understanding of power as it circulates in complex processes of whistleblowing. The authors offer the following contributions. First, supported by empirical findings the authors propose a novel theoretical framing of whistleblower retaliation and the role of mental health, which draws upon poststructuralist psychoanalytic thinking. Specifically, the authors highlight how intra- and inter-psychic affective and ambivalent attachments to organisations influence the use of normative violence in cases of whistleblower retaliation.

The second contribution is empirical and builds upon the existing literature on whistleblower retaliation by highlighting how organisations position whistleblower subjects as mentally unstable and unreliable individuals, to undermine their claims. The authors conclude by highlighting the implications of normative power for the outcomes of whistleblower struggles.

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Kate Kenny, Marianna Fotaki and Stacey Scriver. 2019. Mental Heath as a Weapon: Whistleblower Retaliation and Normative Violence.
Journal of Business Ethics, 160(3), 801–815.


Scams and over-trust in organisations
Trust is a key ingredient of business activities. Scams are spectacular betrayals of trust. When the victim is a powerful organisation that does not look vulnerable at first sight, the authors can suspect that this organisation has developed an excessive trust, or over-trust.

In this article, the authors take over-trust as the result of the intentional production of gullibility by the scammer. The analysis of a historically famous scam case, the Elf “Great Sniffer Hoax,” suggests that the victim is made gullible by the scammer through a range of seduction and protection manoeuvers that prevent the victim from developing doubts and suspicions. An integrated framework of the production of gullibility in organisations is proposed in order to further our understanding of over-trust. The authors discuss how these insights might be extended, beyond the case of scams, to more ordinary contexts of business activities.

Hervé Laroche, Véronique Steyer and Christelle Théron. 2019. How Could You be so Gullible? Scams and Over-Trust in Organizations.
Journal of Business Ethics, 160(3), 641–656.


Reaping the fruits of another’s labour by social loafing
Despite the popularity of teams in universities and modern organisations, they are often held back by dishonest actions, social loafing being one of them. Social loafers hide in the crowd and contribute less to the pooled effort of a team, which leads to an unfair division of work.

While previous studies have mostly delved into the factors related to the task or the group in an attempt to explain social loafing, this study will instead focus on individual factors. Accordingly, the aim is to investigate the determinants of social loafing attitudes, namely moral meaningfulness and mindfulness in a university setting.

The authors further examine the relationship between attitudes and intentions and introduce the moderating role of motivation in the attitude–intention link. The findings from a sample of 319 business students reveal that both mindfulness and moral meaningfulness are negatively related to loafing attitudes, while attitudes positively predict social loafing intentions. In addition, the authors find that extrinsic motivation strengthens the relationship between social loafing attitudes and intentions.

Katarina Katja Mihelič and Barbara Culiberg. 2019. Reaping the Fruits of Another’s Labor: The Role of Moral Meaningfulness, Mindfulness, and Motivation in Social Loafing.
Journal of Business Ethics, 160(3), 713–727.


Appointing veterans to the Board of Directors
Given the vital importance of the board of directors, firms seek to staff their boards with competent individuals who bring valuable skills and expertise to assist a firm. Especially following crises, firms should be interested in appointing directors who possess not only superior decision-making skills under pressure, but who also may be inclined to behave more ethically to prevent future breaches of stakeholder trust.

Applying a social identity perspective, the authors argue that directors with U.S. military experience are decidedly valuable to firms because of their human capital. Using a sample of 144 U.S. based, publicly-traded firms that experienced a Securities Class Action Lawsuit between 2002 and 2012, the authors test hypotheses predicting that following crises, firms are more likely to appoint directors with military experience.

The findings extend the social identity view of an individual from the self or how individuals view themselves to include how others may view them.

Joseph Simpson and Ana Marcie Sariol. 2019. Squared Away: Veterans on the Board of Directors.
Journal of Business Ethics, 160(4), 1035–1045.


A righteous undocumented (informal) economy
The academic literature commonly exposes large components of informal economies housed in developed countries as nefarious systems designed to help people evade taxes or carry on other illegal activities. However, this community-based participatory action study uncovered a significant element of a social and economic system that was largely undocumented, but was viewed as far more righteous than dishonourable and immoral.

The research involved approximately 375 participants from seven communities spread across a large and sparsely populated geographic region in the northern part of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The purpose for the research was to explore how entrepreneurship contributes to the good life, well-being, and prosperity by building social and economic capacity across a rural business ecosystem.

The authors found that an important, yet undocumented part of the business ecosystem was grounded in history, culture, and tradition. When considered through a legitimacy theory lens, this perspective challenges the implication drawn from some of the academic literature that those who participate in informal business systems in developed countries usually do so for immoral reasons that might warrant a legal penalty.

Further, the authors propose that researchers, policy makers, and community development professionals use the term undocumented economy rather than expressions like informal, hidden and underground economy to distinguish components of economic systems based on righteous motivations and activities from those founded on iniquitous practices and non-existent or unofficial record keeping.

The authors begin this article with a definition for the undocumented economy in which the authors describe why the authors consider it to be righteous.

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Lee A. Swanson and Vincent Bruni-Bossio. 2019. A Righteous Undocumented Economy.
Journal of Business Ethics, 160(1), 225–237.


External whistleblowers’ experiences of workplace bullying by superiors and colleagues
The purpose of this study was to investigate external whistleblowers’ experiences of workplace bullying by superiors and colleagues, and to analyse how the bullying was influenced by factors such as the support they received from government or NGOs, and whether colleagues understood the reasons for the whistleblower’s actions.

For bullying by colleagues, the authors also examined to what extent this was influenced by superiors’ behaviour towards the whistleblower. The authors reviewed the relevant literature on workplace bullying and whistleblowers’ experiences of negative or retaliatory actions and developed three hypotheses, which the authors tested using data gathered from Korean external whistleblowers.

Results revealed that external whistleblowers experienced work-related bullying by superiors and social relation-related and person-related bullying by colleagues more frequently, and found it more distressing, than other types of workplace bullying. Superiors’ bullying was a dominant factor affecting bullying by colleagues. Colleagues’ understanding of the reason for the whistleblower’s actions was significant in reducing bullying frequency while support from government and NGOs was not significant in reducing it. Based on these findings, practical implications are discussed.

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Heungsik Park, Brita Bjørkelo & John Blenkinsopp. 2020. External Whistleblowers’ Experiences of Workplace Bullying by Superiors and Colleagues.
Journal of Business Ethics, 161(3),  591–601.