Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 81, Issue 4, pp 837–850 | Cite as

The Escalation of Deception in Organizations

  • Peter Fleming
  • Stelios C. ZyglidopoulosEmail author


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.


deception corruption escalation lying ethics 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queen MarryUniversity of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Judge Business SchoolUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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