Bad for practice?

Sergio Lazzarini (Insper Institute for Education and Research, São Paulo, Brazil)
Gazi Islam (Insper Institute for Education and Research, São Paulo, Brazil)
Luiz Mesquita (Department of Management, W.P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA and Insper Institute for Education and Research, São Paulo, Brazil)

Management Research

ISSN: 1536-5433

Publication date: 9 November 2012



The purpose of this paper is to reconcile alternative managerial views regarding self‐serving behavior in organizations: while some propose that such behavior is commonplace and detrimental to performance, and suggest policies to counteract such conduct, critics contend that such policies generate distrust and diminish performance. The authors integrate elements from agency and interactional justice theories, and hypotheses that managerial attitudes not related to self‐interest can influence behaviors often attributed to the desire to curb self‐interest, and vice‐versa.


The authors employ structural equation modeling based on survey data from 387 team‐leaders from both Brazil and the USA.


An asymmetric relation is found in the aforementioned theoretical “cross‐talk:” managers concerned with self‐interest tend to devise policies solely focused on curbing self‐interest, while managers concerned with justice not only adopt justice‐enhancing practices but also certain incentivizing agency‐related practices which jointly increase performance.

Research limitations/implications

By proposing and testing theoretical interactions between agency and justice theories, support is found for both enthusiasts and critics of self‐interestedness, but pointedly they occur in different domains.

Practical implications

The results suggest that managers should foster interactional justice, promoting incentivizing agency‐related behaviors that may be interpreted as justice‐seeking, while avoiding those that send a message of distrust.


To the best of the authors' knowledge, this is one of the first empirical papers directly addressing the ongoing debate raised by Ghoshal and others on the merits of managerial theories based on the assumption of self‐interest.



Lazzarini, S., Islam, G. and Mesquita, L. (2012), "Bad for practice?", Management Research, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 208-225.

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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