Whistle-blowing following sexual harassment: Examining the intricacies of reporting within a planned behavior framework

Date of Completion

January 2010


Psychology, Industrial




Thousands of workers are targets of sexual harassment, yet very few decide to report, or 'blow the whistle,' on their experiences (Gutek & Koss, 1993). Sexual harassment researchers have demonstrated that negative outcomes of sexual harassment (e.g. anxiety, fear of retaliation, retaliation, depression) are often exacerbated by victim reporting and that reporting may not in fact be a "reasonable" course of action for most targets (Bergman, Langhout, Palmieri, Cortina, & Fitzgerald, 2002; Gruber & Smith, 1995). Grounded in the theory of planned behavior, the current study will explore what prompts targets of harassment to report their harassment experiences despite the risks and consequences involved. Relative weights analyses were conducted to determine the importance of stimulus (e.g. aspects of the harassment situation itself), contextual (e.g. aspects of the work environment), and individual difference variables (e.g. characteristics of the target) in predicting sexual harassment reporting. Results indicate that fear of retaliation and appraisal play the largest role in predicting reporting. Gender differences were found with emotional appraisal, fear of retaliation, cognitive appraisal and sexual harassment severity being the biggest predictors of reporting for women, while fear of retaliation, cognitive appraisal, token worker status and being the first of one's sex in a job were the biggest predictors of men's reporting. Additional moderation analyses conducted to capture the complexity of reporting experiences highlight the importance of considering contextual predictors with respect to appraisal and reporting behaviors. Implications of the current findings as well as suggestions for future research are presented.^