, Volume 78, Issue 1-2, pp 3-16
Date: 10 Mar 2007

Framing and Organizational Misconduct: A Symbolic Interactionist Study

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Abstract

This study expands theoretical understanding of organizational misconduct through qualitative analysis of widespread deceptive sales practices at a large U.S. life insurance company. Adopting a symbolic interactionist perspective, this research describes how a set of taken-for-granted interpretive frames located in the organization’s culture created a worldview through which deceptive sales practices were seen as normal, acceptable, routine operating procedure. The findings from this study extend and modify the dominant theoretical ‘pressure/opportunity’ model of organizational misconduct by proposing that the process engine driving misconduct is not amorally rational organization members, but rather is organizational members acting on socially constructed views of the organization that normalize misconduct.

Tammy L. MacLean is an assistant professor of management at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. She teaches in the areas of organizational behavior and managing diversity. Her research interests include how the process of decoupling organizational policies and programs from core organizational functions affects organizational behavior. Her research has been published in academic journals such as Academy of Management Review, Academy of Management Learning & Education, Journal of Management Inquiry, and Business & Society. She received a Ph.D. in Organization Studies in 2001 from Boston College.