“If hierarchical, then corrupt”: Exploring people's tendency to associate hierarchy with corruption in organizations

Published

Journal Article

© 2018 Elsevier Inc. We propose that people associate organizational hierarchy with corruption. Nine studies (N = 1896) provide triangulating evidence for this tendency and its underlying mechanism. We find that people expect more corruption to manifest among the employees of relatively more hierarchical organizations, and judge an organization with a history of corruption more likely to be hierarchical than one without. Furthermore, we show that the lay belief that hierarchy and corruption are connected is driven by two related assumptions: (i) that the more hierarchical an organization is, the more likely it is that its employees are competitive with each other, and (ii) that the more competitive employees are with each other, the more likely they are to be corrupt. Finally, we connect these lay beliefs to behavioral outcomes involved in trusting people who work for very hierarchical organizations and those organizations themselves. Implications, limitations, and future directions are discussed.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Fath, S; Kay, AC

Published Date

  • November 1, 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 149 /

Start / End Page

  • 145 - 164

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0749-5978

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.obhdp.2018.10.004

Citation Source

  • Scopus