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Why or why not? Rationalizing corruption in organizations

Tanja Rabl (University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany)
Torsten M. Kühlmann (University of Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany)

Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal

ISSN: 1352-7606

Article publication date: 29 July 2009




The literature states that rationalization strategies contribute to a spread of corruption in organizations. They are supposed to serve not only as post hoc justifications but also as ex ante determinants of corrupt behavior. This empirical study aims at challenging this theoretical assumption.


The authors gained empirical data in a business simulation game where participants had the opportunity to act corruptly. The sample included both university and high school students.


The results show that post hoc rationalizations primarily highlight the “positive” intention behind corrupt action. As relationships with important person‐based determinants of corruption are lacking, it is questionable whether rationalization strategies possess potential as ex ante determinants of corrupt behavior.

Research limitations/implications

The design of the study only assesses rationalization strategies post hoc. Therefore it does not allow for examining causal effects, only the investigation of relationships. Future research should aim at addressing this issue, including both ex ante and post hoc assessment of rationalization strategies.


The paper is a first attempt to examine empirically the function of rationalization strategies in the context of corruption in organizations.



Rabl, T. and Kühlmann, T.M. (2009), "Why or why not? Rationalizing corruption in organizations", Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 16 No. 3, pp. 268-286.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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