Zeitschrift für Betriebswirtschaft

, Volume 82, Supplement 6, pp 5–32 | Cite as

Do contextual factors matter?

An investigation of ethical judgments of corrupt acts
  • Tanja RablEmail author
ZfB-Special Issue 6/2012


Drawing on the moral intensity concept and attribution theory, this vignette study investigates the influence of contextual factors on people’s ethical judgments of others’ behavior in corruption situations. It examines differences regarding corruption occurring in a national or international context, in an environment where it is usual or unusual, with high or low bribes, initiatively or reactively, because of private or organizational motives, and in situations of financial sufficiency or deficiency. The results show that corruption in situations where it is usual, motivated by organizational reasons, and initiated because of financial difficulties is judged as significantly less unethical. The paper discusses the findings’ implications for the prevention of corruption in organizations.


Context Corruption Ethical judgment Situation Vignette study 

JEL Classification

D73 M14 M19 



The author thanks Ines Greffin for her help with the vignette development and data collection. Previous versions of this paper were presented at the 70th Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Montréal, Canada, 2010, and at the 73rd Annual Conference of the German Academic Association for Business Research in Kaiserslautern, Germany, 2011. The author is grateful to the respective anonymous reviewers, discussants, and conference participants for their constructive comments that helped to improve earlier drafts of this paper. The author also thanks the editors of this special issue and two anonymous reviewers for their useful suggestions.


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© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human Resource ManagementUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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