The Escalation of Deception in Organizations

Journal of Business Ethics 81 (4):837-850 (2008)
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Abstract

Drawing on a number of recent high-profile cases of corporate corruption, we develop a process model that explains the escalation of deception in corrupt firms. If undetected, an initial lie can begin a process whereby the ease, severity and pervasiveness of deception increases overtime so that it eventually becomes an organization level phenomenon. We propose that organizational complexity has an amplifying effect. A‚ź£feedback loop between organization level deception and each of the escalation stages positively reinforces the process. In addition, moderators are proposed that will halt escalation at various stages. By conceptualizing corporate deception as a social process, the paper contributes to a growing body of research that looks beyond 'bad' individuals for the causes of corporate illegality.

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