ABSTRACT

The SEC whistleblower bounty program's effectiveness in increasing external reports of illegal acts suggests that employers might increase internal whistleblowing by offering monetary awards. We propose and test a model that explores how monetary incentives affect trust, and ultimately whistleblowing intent, in both high and low retaliation threat environments. Results of a 2 (high/low retaliation threat) × 2 (money/no money) experimental study of 295 U.S. adults confirm that low (high) retaliation threat positively (negatively) relates to whistleblowing intent, mediated by trust. Monetary incentives moderate the relationship between retaliation threat and trust such that when retaliation threat is low, money increases organizational trust, leading to higher whistleblowing intent, but when retaliation threat is high, monetary incentives do not significantly influence trust. We also find that in a high retaliation threat environment with monetary incentives present, intrinsically motivated individuals report significantly lower levels of trust compared to trust levels reported by extrinsically motivated individuals. Our findings help managers understand how and when monetary incentives may be effective in increasing internal whistleblowing.

Data Availability: Data are available from the first author.

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