Toward a Theory of Whistleblowing Intentions: A Benefit-to-Cost Differential Perspective

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In order to rescue information technology (IT) projects when they go awry, it is critical to understand the factors that affect bad news reporting. Whistleblowing theory holds promise in this regard and a number of salient factors that may influence whistleblowing intentions have been identified. However, an integrative theory that explains how they influence whistleblowing intentions has been conspicuously absent. In this research, we introduce and test a middle-range theory of whistleblowing that can explain how and why a variety of factors may influence an individual's whistleblowing intentions. Drawing on the social information processing perspective, we propose that individuals holistically weigh the perceived “benefit-to-cost differential” and that this mediates the relationship between whistleblowing factors and whistleblowing intentions. Tests using data collected from 159 experienced IT project managers largely support our theoretical perspective, in which the central explanatory variable (benefit-to-cost differential) significantly mediates a majority of the proposed relationships. Implications of these findings for research and practice are discussed.