, Volume 81, Issue 4, pp 837-850

The Escalation of Deception in Organizations

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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␣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.

Peter Fleming is Professor of Work, Organization and Society Queen Mary College, University of London. He has held academic positions at Cambridge University and Melbourne University. His research interests center on the emerging politics of power, control and ethics in contemporary corporations. He has published extensively in academic journals including Organization Studies, Journal of Management Studies, Journal of Business Ethics, Sociology, Sociological Review, Work, Employment and Society and has just published a book (with Andre Spicer) entitled Contesting the Corporation: Power, Resistance and Struggle in Organizations with Cambridge University Press (2007).
Stelios Zyglidopoulos is a University Lecturer in Strategy at the Judge Business School of the University of Cambridge. Prior to that, he taught at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, and the Rochester Institute for Technology, in Rochester, NY. He received his PhD in Strategy and Organization from McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Dr. Zyglidopoulos has lived and worked in Greece, Canada, The Netherlands, and the United States. He has a number of years of business experience, mostly in sales and marketing, and is a reservist for the Greek Navy. His research interests focus on the management of corporate reputation; the evolution of corporate social performance; imprinting and organizational evolution; and the internationalization process of high-tech clusters.