Sub-theme 53: Studying Organizational Wrongdoing, Corruption, and Scandals: Where Are We and Where Should We Go?

Marco Clemente
IÉSEG School of Management, France
Claudia Gabbioneta
Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Royston Greenwood
University of Alberta, Canada

Call for Papers

Today, media accounts are full of stories of organizations that engage in unethical or illegal behaviors. Corporate scandals such as Enron, WorldCom, and Parmalat have attracted massive attention, but, unfortunately, they are not isolated cases of ‘bad behaviors’. At the turn of the decade, for example, multinational corporations such as Amazon, Starbucks, and Google regularly hit the headlines for paying low levels of corporation tax, provoking a sense of outrage that went well beyond a small group of protesters (BBC News Magazine, 21/05/2013). Indeed, it is hardly the case of having a week passes without a front-page article involving some instances of bad behaviors.
This sharp increase in the number of reported cases of bad behaviors by and within organizations has provided considerable impetus to academic research in this area of investigation (including a Special Issue in the Journal of Management Inquiry in 2017 and an edited volume published by Cambridge University Press in 2016). Some scholars have focused on either organizational misconduct or organizational wrongdoing and have investigated their antecedents and consequences (Palmer, 2012; Schnatterly et al., 2018), as well as the role of social-control agents (Greve et al., 2010) and professional associations (Mohliver, 2019) in assessing, facilitating or spreading misconduct or wrongdoing. Other scholars have conceptualized bad behaviors as corruption, broadly defined as “as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain” (Transparency International, 2011). These scholars have investigated different aspects of corruption, including its normalization over time (Anand et al., 2004; Palmer, 2008; Spicer, 2009), the ways in which it spreads within organizations (Zyglidopoulos et al., 2009; Zyglidopoulos & Fleming, 2008; Pinto et al., 2008), and its relationship with ethical blindness (Palazzo et al., 2012) and moral disengagement (Moore, 2008). Other scholars have adopted a different perspective and have focused on corporate scandals, broadly defined as “publicized transgressions that run counter to established norms” (Piazza & Jourdan, 2018). These scholars have highlighted the impacts of scandals on the actors involved (Jensen, 2006), their affiliations (Pontikes et al., 2010), and the country where they occurred (Weeber, 2008), and have suggested that, as normative and moral events, scandals can become historical milestones for the collective society to reinforce social norms or transform and redefine these norms.
As a result, an established and growing community of scholars has investigated bad behaviors by and within organizations using different theoretical perspectives and considering different levels of analysis (individual, organization, and industry). This sub-theme aims to bring this community together in order to consolidate and renew this area of investigation. The sub-theme accepts submissions that either enhance our understanding of organizational misconduct, organizational wrongdoing, corruption, and scandals as stand-alone concepts or connect them one another. We welcome studying at different levels of analysis.
Submissions can cover, but are not limited, to the following questions:

  • Are existing conceptualizations and definitions of bad behaviors comprehensive and clear? To what extent do these conceptualizations and definitions overlap or diverge?

  • Why do organizations or individuals within organizations misbehave? Are available explanations complete and accurate? Do they account for the potential interplay within individual- and organizational-level motivations?

  • What are the consequences of misbehavior for individuals, organizations, industries, and society? What are the short-term and long-term consequences of misbehavior, and how are they connected?

  • Can individuals and organizations always recover from wrongdoing? If so, how? How does recovery – or the lack thereof – affect social norms and normative expectations?

  • Why do some instances of misbehavior translate into scandals, while others do not? What is the role of social-control agents such as the media and professional associations in this process? Can scandals be avoided?

More generally, the sub-theme welcomes theoretical, conceptual, review, comparative and empirical studies that shed new light on different forms and aspects of bad behaviors by and within organizations, as well as papers that hinge upon different theoretical perspectives and use different research methodology.
The sub-theme is connected to the overall Colloquium theme through the concept of responsibility. A better understanding of the nature, antecedents, and consequences of bad behaviors by and within organizations, in fact, can help to avoid, curb, or at least resist this type of behaviors and to envision and work towards more responsible ways of organizing.


  • Anand, V., Ashforth, B.E., & Joshi, M. (2004): “Business as Usual: The Acceptance and Perpetuation of Corruption in Organizations.” The Academy of Management Executive, 18 (2), 39–53.
  • BBC News Magazine (2013): Google, Amazon, Starbucks: The rise of ‘tax shaming’, article published on May 21, 2013.
  • Greve, H.R., Palmer, D., & Pozner, J.-E. (2010): “Organizations Gone Wild: The Causes, Processes, and Consequences of Organizational Misconduct.” Academy of Management Annals, 4 (1), 53–107.
  • Jensen, M. (2006): “Should We Stay or Should We Go? Accountability, Status Anxiety, and Client Defections.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 51 (1), 97–128.
  • Mohliver, A. (2019): “How Misconduct Spreads: Auditors’ Role in the Diffusion of Stock-option Backdating.” Administrative Science Quarterly, 64 (2), 310–336.
  • Moore, C. (2008): “Moral Disengagement in Processes of Organizational Corruption.” Journal of Business Ethics, 80 (1), 129–139.
  • Palazzo, G., Krings, F., & Hoffrage, U. (2012): “Ethical Blindness.” Journal of Business Ethics, 109 (3), 323–338.
  • Palmer, D. (2008): “Extending the process model of collective corruption.” Research in Organizational Behavior, 28, 107–135.
  • Palmer, D. (2012): Normal Organizational Wrongdoing. A Critical Analysis of Theories of Misconduct in and by Organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Piazza, A., & Jourdan, J. (2018): “When the Dust Settles: The Consequences of Scandals for Organizational Competition.” Academy of Management Journal, 61 (1), 165–190.
  • 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 (3), 685–709.
  • Pontikes, E., Negro, G., & Rao, H. (2010): “Stained Red: A Study of Stigma by Association to Blacklisted Artists during the ‘Red Scare’ in Hollywood, 1945 to 1960.” American Sociological Review, 75 (3), 456– 478.
  • Schnatterly, K., Ashley Gangloff, K., & Tuschke, A. (2018): “CEO Wrongdoing: A Review of Pressure, Opportunity, and Rationalization.” Journal of Management, 44 (6), 2405–2432.
  • Spicer, A. (2009): “The Normalization of Corrupt Business Practices: Implications for Integrative Social Contracts Theory (ISCT).” Journal of Business Ethics, 88 (4), 833–840.
  • Transparency International (2011): The Global Coalition against Corruption;
  • Weeber, S.C. (2008): An International Perspective on Political Scandal; available at:
  • Zyglidopoulos, S.C., & Fleming, P.J. (2008): “Ethical Distance in Corrupt Firms: How Do Innocent Bystanders Become Guilty Perpetrators?” Journal of Business Ethics, 78 (1/2), 265–274.
  • Zyglidopoulos, S.C., Fleming, P.J., & Rothenberg, S. (2009): “Rationalization, Overcompensation and the Escalation of Corruption in Organizations.” Journal of Business Ethics, 84 (1), 65–73.
Marco Clemente is an Associate Professor of CSR at IÉSEG School of Management in Paris, France. Previously, he was Assistant Professor in Management at SKK GSB, Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea. His research focuses on the social and economic consequences of organizational wrongdoing and scandals. Marco has published in academic journals, including ‘Academy of Management Review’, ‘Journal of Management Inquiry’, and ‘Research in the Sociology of Organizations’. Marco has a book chapter (pp. 435–473) in the companion “Organizational Wrongdoing. Key Perspectives and New Directions” (Cambridge University Press, 2016), which specifically looks at the role of media attention and framing in influencing the scandal dynamics.
Claudia Gabbioneta is a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University Business School, United Kingdom. Her current research focuses on the socio-cognitive and institutional processes affecting the functioning of financial markets, with a particular emphasis on corporate and professional wrongdoing. Claudia has published in academic journals, including ‘Accounting, Organizations and Society, Human Relations, and the Journal of Management Inquiry and has a book chapter (pp. 141–175) in the companion “Organizational Wrongdoing. Key Perspectives and New Directions” (Cambridge University Press, 2016), which that looks at the role of professions in organizational wrongdoing.
Royston Greenwood is TELUS Professor of Strategic Management at University of Alberta School of Business, Canada, and Professorial Fellow at University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. His work has been spanning a broad variety of themes, including organizational change, professional service firms, institutional change, and – more recently – institutional logics and complexity. Royston’s CV lists 75 high-level journal publications, 32 book chapters and six books. He has been serving the community in various capacity, for instance, taking over leadership positions at OMT, or as editor or editorial board member of the most prominent academic outlets of our discipline.