Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 120, Issue 3, pp 291–311 | Cite as

Culture Corrupts! A Qualitative Study of Organizational Culture in Corrupt Organizations

  • Jamie-Lee Campbell
  • Anja S. Göritz


Although theory refers to organizational culture as an important variable in corrupt organizations, only little empirical research has addressed the characteristics of a corrupt organizational culture. Besides some characteristics that go hand in hand with unethical behavior and other features of corrupt organizations, we are still not able to describe a corrupt organizational culture in terms of its underlying assumptions, values, and norms. With a qualitative approach, we studied similarities of organizational culture across different corrupt organizations. In this study, we performed content analysis on interviews of 14 independent experts about their experience with corrupt organizations. With this approach, we gained insights about different corrupt organizations spanning different branches (e.g., government, foreign trade, pharmacy, sports, building industry). We found that corrupt organizations perceive themselves to fight in a war, which leads to their taken-for-granted assumption that “the end justifies the means”. This assumption inspires many values and norms of the organizational culture. An important value in a corrupt organization is “security”, and an important norm is punishment of deviant (i.e., non-corrupt) behavior. Furthermore, managers and employees differ in their perception of organizational culture. While the management endorses values, such as success, results, and performance, and implements these values in their norms of goal setting, employees make use of rationalization strategies and endorse values of security and team spirit.


Corruption Corrupt organization Employee and manager values, norms, underlying assumptions Organizational culture 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Psychologie, Abteilung WirtschaftspsychologieFreiburgGermany
  2. 2.Psychologisches Institut Arbeits-, Betriebs- und OrganisationspsychologieWuerzburgGermany

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