Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 140, Issue 1, pp 147–160 | Cite as

Establishing the Normative Standards that Determine Deviance in Organizational Corruption: Is Corruption Within Organizations Antisocial or Unethical?



Despite universal agreement that corruption is norm-deviant, the criteria required to ascertain deviance remain elusive. The problem is even more pronounced for organizational corruption, not least because the construct remains somewhat ambiguous and is often conflated with proximate management constructs like antisocial or unethical organizational behavior. In this article, I identify the suitable criteria for the determination of deviance in organizational corruption and determine whether it is, indeed, antisocial or unethical. In order to minimize ambiguity, I first limit the scope of organizational corruption to corruption within, rather than by, organizations, which is most conceptually challenging insofar as the aforementioned questions are concerned. I then conclude that organizational corruption should be specified solely with respect to the focal organization’s normative framework; it is anti-organizational rather than antisocial. Higher level normative prescriptions that arise from the organization’s embedding within its social context remain relevant, but only insofar as they are incorporated within the organization’s normative framework. Moreover, I argue that organizational corruption is not necessarily unethical, since the moral evaluation of an organizational act is, in principle, distinct from the determination of its deviance to organizational norms.


Organizational corruption Deviance Antisocial behavior Unethical behavior Hypernorms 


  1. Aguilera, R. V., & Vadera, A. K. (2008). ‘The dark side of authority: Antecedents, mechanisms, and outcomes of organizational corruption. Journal of Business Ethics, 77, 431–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alatas, S. H. (1990). Corruption, its nature, causes and functions. Aldershot, UK: Avebury.Google Scholar
  3. Albanese, J. S. (1988). Organizational offenders: Understanding corporate crime. Niagara Falls, NY: Apocalypse.Google Scholar
  4. Anand, V., Asfhorth, B. E., & Joshi, M. (2004). Business as usual: The acceptance and perpetuation of corruption in organizations. Academy of Management Executive, 18, 39–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aquino, K., & Douglas, S. (2003). Identity threat and antisocial behavior in organizations: The moderating effects of individual differences, aggressive modeling, and hierarchical status. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 90, 195–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Argandoña, A. (2003). Private-to-private corruption. Journal of Business Ethics, 47, 253–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ashforth, B. E., & Anand, V. (2003). The normalization of corruption in organizations. Research in Organizational Behavior, 25, 1–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ashforth, B. E., Gioia, D. A., Robinson, S. L., & Treviño, L. A. (2008). Re-viewing organizational corruption. Academy of Management Review, 33, 670–684.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Balci, A., Özdemir, M., Apaydin, C., & Özen, F. (2012). The relationship of organizational corruption with organizational culture, attitude towards work and work ethics: a search on Turkish high school teachers. Asia Pacific Education Review, 13, 137–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bandura, A. (1990). Selective activation and disengagement of moral control. Journal of Social Issues, 46, 27–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bartunek, J. (2003). Presidential address: A dream for the academy. Academy of Management Review, 28, 198–203.Google Scholar
  12. Baucus, M. S., & Near, J. P. (1991). Can illegal corporate behavior be predicted? An event history analysis. Academy of Management Journal, 34, 9–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. BBC News. (2012). Rolls-Royce in bribery talks with the serious fraud office. Retrieved December 6, 2012 from
  14. Braithwaite, J. (1984). Corporate crime in the pharmaceutical industry. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  15. Brass, D. J., Butterfield, K. D., & Skaggs, B. C. (1998). Relationships and unethical behavior: A social network perspective. Academy of Management Review, 23, 14–31.Google Scholar
  16. Brown, A. J. (2006). What are we trying to measure? Reviewing the basis of corruption definition. In C. Sampford, A. Shacklock, C. Connors, & F. Galtung (Eds.), Measuring corruption (pp. 57–79). Surrey, UK: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  17. Campbell, J.-L., & Göritz, A. S. (2013). Culture corrupts! A qualitative study of organizational culture in corrupt organizations. Journal of Business Ethics. doi: 10.1007/s10551-013-1665-7.Google Scholar
  18. Coleman, J. W. (1987). Toward an integrated theory of white-collar crime. American Journal of Sociology, 93, 406–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Daboub, A. J., Rasheed, A. M. A., Priem, R. L., & Gray, D. A. (1995). Top management team characteristics spiraling down into corruption and corporate illegal activity. Academy of Management Review, 20, 138–170.Google Scholar
  20. den Nieuwenboer, N. A., & Kaptein, M. (2008). Spiraling down into corruption: A dynamic analysis of the social identity process that cause corruption in organizations to grow. Journal of Business Ethics, 83, 133–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. (1994). Toward a unified conception of business ethics: integrative social contracts theory. Academy of Management Review, 19, 252–284.Google Scholar
  22. Donaldson, T., & Dunfee, T. (1999). The ties that bind. Boston: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Fleming, P., & Zyglidopoulos, S. C. (2008). The escalation of deception in organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 81, 837–850.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gaviria, A. (2002). Assessing the effects of corruption and crime on firm performance: evidence from Latin America. Emerging Markets Review, 3, 245–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gopinath, C. (2008). Recognizing and justifying private corruption. Journal of Business Ethics, 85, 747–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Granovetter, M. (1985). Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91, 481–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gray, C. W., & Kaufman, D. (1998). Corruption and development. Finance & Development, 35, 7–10.Google Scholar
  28. Greve, H. R., Palmer, D., & Pozner, J. (2010). Organizations gone wild: The causes, processes, and consequences of organizational misconduct. Academy of Management Annals, 4, 53–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heidenheimer, A. J., & Johnston, M. (2002). Introduction to part I. In A. J. Heidenheimer & M. Johnston (Eds.), Political corruption: Concepts & contexts (3rd ed., pp. 3–14). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
  30. Johnston, M. (1996). The search for definitions: The vitality of politics and the issue of corruption. International Social Science Journal, 48, 321–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jones, T. M. (1991). Ethical decision making by individuals in organizations: An issue-contingent model. Academy of Management Review, 16, 366–395.Google Scholar
  32. Lange, D. (2008). A multidimensional conceptualization of organizational corruption control. Academy of Management Review, 33, 710–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lawrence, T. B., & Robinson, S. L. (2007). Ain’t misbehavin: workplace deviance as organizational resistance. Journal of Management, 33, 378–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Luo, Y. (2004). An organizational perspective of corruption. Management and Organizations Review, 1, 119–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Misangyi, V. F., Weaver, G. R., & Elms, H. (2008). Ending corruption: The interplay among institutional logics, resources, and institutional entrepreneurs. Academy of Management Review, 33, 750–770.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Moore, C. (2008). Moral disengagement in processes of organizational corruption. Journal of Business Ethics, 80, 129–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Patterson, T. (2009). Siemens bribery deal close. The Independent. Retrieved December 3, 2009 from
  38. Philp, M. (1997). Defining political corruption. Political Studies, XLV, 436–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Philp, M. (2006). Corruption definition and measurement. In C. Sampford, A. Shacklock, C. Connors, & F. Galtung (Eds.), Measuring corruption (pp. 45–56). Surrey, UK: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  40. Pinto, J., Leana, C. R., & Pil, F. K. (2008). Corrupt organizations or organizations of corrupt individuals? Two types of organization-level corruption. Academy of Management Review, 33, 685–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rabl, T. (2011). The impact of situational influences on corruption in organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 100, 85–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Rabl, T., & Kühlman, T. M. (2008). Understanding corruption in organizations—Development and empirical assessment of an action model. Journal of Business Ethics, 82, 477–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Robinson, S. L., & Bennett, R. J. (1995). A typology of deviant workplace behaviors: A multidimensional scaling study. Academy of Management Journal, 38(2), 555–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rose-Ackerman, S. (1996). Democracy and ‘grand’ corruption. International Social Science Journal, 48, 365–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rose-Ackerman, S. (2010). The law and economics of bribery and extortion. Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 6, 217–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Scott, J. C. (1972). Comparative political corruption. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  47. Shleifer, A., & Vishny, R. W. (1993). Corruption. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 108, 599–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stachowicz-Stanusch, A., & Simha, A. (2013). An empirical investigation of the effects of ethical climates on organizational corruption. Journal of Business Economics and Management, 14(Supplement 1), S433–S446.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Suddaby, R. (2010). Editor’s comments: Construct clarity in theories of management and organization. Academy of Management Review, 35, 346–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Thomas, K., & Schmidt, M. S. (2012). Glaxo agrees to pay $3 billion in fraud settlement. The New York Times. Retrieved July 2, 2012 from
  51. Treviño, L. K., & Weaver, G. R. (2001). Organizational justice and ethics program ‘‘follow through’’: Influences on employees’ harmful and helpful behavior. Business Ethics Quarterly, 11, 651–671.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Treviño, L. K., Weaver, G. R., & Reynolds, S. J. (2006). Behavioral ethics in organizations: A review. Journal of Management, 32, 951–990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Uhlenbruck, K., Rodriguez, P., Doh, J., & Eden, L. (2006). The impact of corruption on entry strategy: Evidence from telecommunication projects in emerging economies. Organization Science, 17, 402–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Umphress, E. E., & Bingham, J. B. (2011). When employees do bad things for good reasons: Examining unethical pro-organizational behaviors. Organization Science, 22, 621–640.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Vadera, A. K., & Pratt, M. G. (2013). Love, hate, ambivalence, or indifference? A conceptual examination of workplace crimes and organizational identification. Organization Science, 24, 172–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Vardi, Y., & Weitz, E. (2004). Misbehavior in organizations: Theory, research, and management. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  57. Vardi, Y., & Wiener, Y. (1996). Misbehavior in organizations: A motivational framework. Organization Science, 7, 151–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Vaughan, D. (1983). Controlling unlawful organizational behavior: social structure and corporate misconduct. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  59. Voliotis, S. (2011). Abuse of ministerial authority systemic perjury, and obstruction of justice: Corruption in the shadows of organizational practice. Journal of Business Ethics, 102, 537–562.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Warren, D. E. (2003). Constructive and destructive deviance in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 28, 622–632.Google Scholar
  61. Warren, M. E. (2004). What does corruption mean in a democracy? American Journal of Political Science, 48, 328–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Wiseman, R. M., Cuevas-Rodríguez, G., & Gomez-Mejia, L. R. (2012). Towards a social theory of agency. Journal of Management Studies, 49, 202–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zyglidopoulos, S. C., & Fleming, P. J. (2008). Ethical distance in corrupt firms: How do innocent bystanders become guilty perpetrators? Journal of Business Ethics, 78, 265–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zyglidopoulos, S. C., Fleming, P. J., & Rothenberg, S. (2009). Rationalization, overcompensation and the escalation of corruption in organizations. Journal of Business Ethics, 84, 65–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ALBA Graduate Business School at the American College of GreeceAthensGreece

Personalised recommendations