Karl Weick on Organizational Wrongdoing

organizational_wrongdoingDonald Palmer: Normal Organizational Wrongdoing: A Critical Analysis of Theories of Misconduct in and by Organizations. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. 313 pp. $85.00, hardback.

Read the review by Karl E. Weick of the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, published in Administrative Science Quarterly:

Donald Palmer has developed a provocative argument about the inevitability of organizational wrongdoing. Here are two examples: ‘‘I came to the conclusion that even the most ethical, socially resp????????????????????????????onsible, and law-abiding people are at significant risk of becoming entangled in wrongdoing when placed in an organizational context’’ (p. 23), and ‘‘The position of the line separating right from wrong is a political product, a reflection of the balance of power among competing interests rather than a representation of moral imperative. . . . [That line] is eminently disputable and perhaps inherently suspect’’ (p. 264). What we have here is a critical, inclusive, sociological analysis that takes the perspective of embedded wrongdoers.

The normalcy of wrongdoing makes more sense theoretically as we move away from the dominant organizational perspectives of rational choice theory and organizational culture, both of which treat wrongdoing as abnormal, and move toward an alternative perspective that gives more prominence to ethical decision theory, administrative systems, situational social influence, the power structure, accidental wrongdoing, and the social control of organizational wrongdoing.

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