Date of Award

Fall 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


Computer Information Systems

First Advisor

James F. Courtney

Second Advisor

Rebecca J. Bennett


Despite a recognized need for whistleblowing systems in academic research, little to no attention has been given to the necessary requirements for and specific design of effective whistleblowing systems. In order to increase the rate of reporting, it is critical for reporting systems to be designed with the intent to reduce employee fears and inhibitions by reducing the potential for retaliation. Therefore, the goal of this three-essay dissertation was to enhance a firm's ability to solicit and investigate concerns by proposing and evaluating a system aimed at fostering anonymous, two-way communication between employees and investigators of wrongdoing.

In essay one, design science (Hevner et al., 2004; March & Smith, 1995; Walls, Widmeyer, & El Savvy, 1992, 2004) was employed in order to theorize and justify the design of an anonymous reporting system artifact. In doing so, existing reporting systems were examined and modern technologies were incorporated into a proposed design of an anonymous, two-way ethics management reporting system.

Essay two reviewed existing theories in the extant whistleblowing literature and relied upon communication research, both inter-personal and computer-mediated, to address the limitations of prior theory regarding reduced perceptions of credibility for anonymous whistleblowers. The experiment tasked subjects with evaluating simulated two-way communication between an investigator and an employee attempting to blow the whistle on financial wrongdoing. The results provide strong evidence that two-way communication can reduce the credibility gap between perceptions of anonymous and identified whistleblowers.

Lastly, essay three assessed the system design proposed in essay one from the perspective of the organizational insider. The proposed system was also compared to other channels available to report wrongdoing, such as the use of open door policies and telephone hotlines. Two simultaneous online experiments tested user perceptions of anonymity protections provided by each channel, as well as the specific whistlebloweroriented design features proposed in the design. This essay provides evidence that online reporting systems are perceived to provide significantly higher anonymity protections than phone hotlines and open door policies, while select features of the proposed system impact user perceptions of anonymity.