Corruption in Organizations: Ethical Climate and Individual Motives

The aim of this research was to examine how organizational and individual factors, in concert, shape corruption. We examined whether the ethical climate of organizations is related to corruption, and if so, whether it affects corruption through individual motives for corruption.

A large-scale questionnaire study was conducted among public officials (n = 234) and business employees (n = 289) who were in a position to make corrupt decisions. The findings suggest that public and private sector employees who perceive their organizational climate as more egoistic and less ethical are more prone to corruption. This relationship was fully mediated by individual motives, specifically by personal and social norms on corruption. These results indicate that employees who perceive their organization’s ethical climate as more egoistic and less ethical experience weaker personal and social norms to refrain from corruption, making them more corruption-prone. Hence, strategies addressing the interplay between organizational factors and individual motives seem promising in curbing corruption. To effectively withhold employees from engaging in corruption, organizations could deploy measures that strengthen an organizations’ ethical climate and encourage ethical decision-making based on concern for the wellbeing of others, as well as measures increasing the strength of personal and social norms to refrain from corruption. 


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