The literature on corruption and whistleblowing is increasing over the past years. However, the authors contend that individual reactions to a corrupt proposal could differ from the mentioned behaviours. On these grounds, the authors contend that a “grey zone” between accepting corruption and whistleblowing does exist. This paper aims to explore what are the behaviours defining this “grey zone” as nuanced behaviours adopted to react to a corrupt proposal.
The authors draw from Miceli and Near’s process of whistleblowing to open the scope for the comprehension of grey behaviours in the decision-making process following to a triggering event. The authors adopted a qualitative and explorative approach by interviewing 27 Italian public servants through open questions and storytelling to explore what kind of behaviours could define the grey zone.
The findings unveil nuanced behaviours in the grey zone configuring neither as corruption nor whistleblowing, ranging from ignoring the corrupt proposal to explicit contraposition. Also, they reveal different social and individual outcomes affecting future relationships in organizations. The findings allow to extend Miceli and Near’s process of whistleblowing to the wider spectrum of response behaviours to triggering events such as receiving or assisting to a corrupt proposal.
Limitations might be recognized in that the situations detected could be only a part of a possible wider “grey zone”. However, the authors believe that the findings could encourage future research to continue exploring the grey zone to enrich its comprehension. Also, the paper offers useful and interesting insights on an undebated issue that has a prominent value under the theoretical, practical, social and policymaking perspectives.
From the practical and policymaking perspective, the advancement of a debate contending the existence of a grey zone made of nuanced behaviours between corruption and whistleblowing could provide support both for organizations and policymakers to a better understanding of individual behaviours and improving actions and policies to prevent corruption and encourage whistleblowing.
As the authors are at least unaware of studies debating on the grey zone with specific reference to corruption and whistleblowing, the paper advances a discussion on the grey zone between corruption and whistleblowing as a continuum of nuanced behaviours that could provide a starting point for further fine-grained analyses.
The authors wish to acknowledge the valuable continuous feedback with the colleagues of the LIRMAC laboratory (Laboratorio interdisciplinare di ricerca su mafie e corruzione) from the University of Naples Federico II.
Tomo, A., De Nito, E., Canonico, P., Mangia, G. and Consiglio, S. (2020), "Stories of grey zone between corruption and whistleblowing: insights from the Italian public administration", Meditari Accountancy Research, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/MEDAR-11-2018-0405Download as .RIS
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