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Neither Bad Apple nor Bad Barrel: How the Societal Context Impacts Unethical Behavior in Organizations


Gonin, M; Palazzo, G; Hoffrage, U (2012). Neither Bad Apple nor Bad Barrel: How the Societal Context Impacts Unethical Behavior in Organizations. Business Ethics: A European Review, 21(1):31-46.

Abstract

Every time another corporate scandal captures media headlines, the 'bad apple vs. bad barrel' discussion starts anew. Yet this debate overlooks the influence of the broader societal context on organizational behavior. In this article, we argue that misbehaviors of organizations (the 'barrels') and their members (the 'apples') cannot be addressed properly without a clear understanding of their broader context (the 'larder').
Whereas previously, a strong societal framework dampened the practical application of the Homo economicus concept (business actors as perfectly rational and egocentric utility-maximizing agents without any moral concern), specialization, individualization, and globalization led to a business world disembedded from broader societal norms. This emancipated business world promotes a literal interpretation of Homo economicus among business organizations and their members.
Consequently, we argue that the first step toward 'healthier' apples and barrels is to sanitize the larder, that is, adapt the framework in which organizations and their members evolve.

Abstract

Every time another corporate scandal captures media headlines, the 'bad apple vs. bad barrel' discussion starts anew. Yet this debate overlooks the influence of the broader societal context on organizational behavior. In this article, we argue that misbehaviors of organizations (the 'barrels') and their members (the 'apples') cannot be addressed properly without a clear understanding of their broader context (the 'larder').
Whereas previously, a strong societal framework dampened the practical application of the Homo economicus concept (business actors as perfectly rational and egocentric utility-maximizing agents without any moral concern), specialization, individualization, and globalization led to a business world disembedded from broader societal norms. This emancipated business world promotes a literal interpretation of Homo economicus among business organizations and their members.
Consequently, we argue that the first step toward 'healthier' apples and barrels is to sanitize the larder, that is, adapt the framework in which organizations and their members evolve.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:08 University Research Priority Programs > Ethics
Dewey Decimal Classification:170 Ethics
Uncontrolled Keywords:Homo economicus Critics reason Ethics institution theory Education globalisation Pluralism Individualism specialization
Language:English
Date:January 2012
Deposited On:02 Apr 2012 09:06
Last Modified:16 Feb 2018 23:18
Publisher:Wiley
ISSN:1467-8608
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8608.2011.01643.x
Official URL:http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8608.2011.01643.x/abstract

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