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Socio-cultural capital in the Arab workplace: wasta as a moderator of ethical idealism and work engagement

Abraham Stefanidis (Department of Management, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, St. John’s University, New York, New York, USA)
Moshe Banai (Baruch College, The City University of New York, New York, New York, USA)
Grace K. Dagher (Department of Management Studies, Adnan Kassar School of Business, Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon)

Employee Relations

ISSN: 0142-5455

Article publication date: 19 August 2022

Issue publication date: 2 January 2023




This study refines theory of social capital by nesting it within a cultural context. More specifically, it aims at describing, explaining, and predicting the role of wasta, a social capital concept, as a moderator in the relationship between employees' ethical idealism and work engagement in Lebanon.


Based on a survey questionnaire translated from English into Arabic, 317 responses were collected from employees in Lebanon. Confirmatory factor analysis and hierarchical regression analysis were employed to test the hypothesized relationships among the examined variables.


Ethical idealism was found to be positively related to work engagement, and wasta was found to moderate the relationship between ethical idealism and work engagement. Work engagement levels of employees who displayed high levels of ethical idealism were less influenced by the negative effect of wasta than work engagement levels of employees who displayed low levels of ethical idealism.

Practical implications

Human resource managers, international negotiators, and global executives in Lebanon may use the findings of this study to update corporate human resources systems, such as employee recruitment and selection, handbooks, orientation, training programs, and performance appraisal, to better address employee attitudes toward the practice of wasta.


The study adds ethical idealism as an antecedent of work engagement, demonstrating the significant impact that wasta, with its positive and negative characteristics, has on the engagement of employees from the Arab world.



The authors received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.


Stefanidis, A., Banai, M. and Dagher, G.K. (2023), "Socio-cultural capital in the Arab workplace: wasta as a moderator of ethical idealism and work engagement", Employee Relations, Vol. 45 No. 1, pp. 21-44.



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