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    Effects of Incentive Scheme and Working Relationship on...
    research summary posted January 12, 2017 by Jennifer M Mueller-Phillips, tagged 04.0 Independence and Ethics, 04.06 Reporting Ethics Breaches – Self & Others, 14.0 Corporate Matters, 14.02 Corporate Whistle Blowers 
    Effects of Incentive Scheme and Working Relationship on Whistle-Blowing in an Audit Setting
    Practical Implications:

    The results of this study suggest that, while both types of incentive schemes are effective in promoting whistle-blowing behavior in the absence of close working relationships, the effectiveness of a rewarding incentive scheme is more likely to be undermined by the presence of close working relationships than a penalizing incentive scheme. 


    Boo, E., T. B. Ng, and P. G. Shankar. 2016. Effects of Incentive Scheme and Working Relationship on Whistle-Blowing in an Audit Setting. Auditing: A Journal of Practice and Theory 35 (4): 23 – 38. 

    reward and penalty, incentive scheme, working relationship, and whistle-blowing.
    Purpose of the Study:

    Prior research shows that providing an incentive, either in the form of a reward or a penalty, can help promote whistle-blowing behavior. Other studies show that close relationships between employees can exert a negative impact on whistle-blowing behavior. An important yet unanswered question is whether and to what extent the effectiveness of different types of incentive schemes to promote whistle-blowing could be undermined by the presence of close working relationships likely to be forged among team members in audit firms and other organizations. Furthermore, the current incentive system in the auditing profession is dominated by penalties; however, many are calling for a shift toward incorporating more ways to reward auditors rather than penalize them, suggesting the importance of understanding the implications of alternative incentive systems. Also, there has not been much research done on the effectiveness of punitive schemes, despite their prevalence in the profession. Finally, whistle-blowing has been found to be a significant means by which frauds and other forms of misconduct are detected, which suggests the crucial importance of understanding factors that could enhance or undermine its effectiveness. 

    Design/Method/ Approach:

    The authors conduct an experiment involving 90 auditors from a Big 4 firm in Singapore. The participants are presented with a hypothetical scenario in which an audit manager encountered a wrongdoing by the engagement partner who allowed the client to materially misstate sales revenue, and assess their propensity to report the act through the firm’s whistle-blowing hotline after making no headway despite having voiced concerns to the partner. 

    • The authors find that a rewarding incentive scheme, relative to the control group, increases auditors’ whistle-blowing propensity in the absence, but not in the presence, of a close working relationship.
    • The authors find that a penalizing incentive scheme increases auditors’ whistle-blowing propensity regardless of the presence of a close working relationship.
    • The authors find that auditors’ whistle blowing propensity is reduced by the presence of a close working relationship in the rewarding incentive scheme, but not in the penalizing incentive scheme or the control group. 
    Corporate Matters, Independence & Ethics
    Corporate Whistle Blowers, Reporting Ethics Breaches - Self & Others