Workplace corruption: a resource conservation perspective

Publication Date18 Oct 2019
AuthorBenjamin Kakavand,Jean-Pierre Neveu,Aria Teimourzadeh
SubjectHr & organizational behaviour,Global hrm
Workplace corruption: a resource
conservation perspective
Benjamin Kakavand
IAE, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens, France
Jean-Pierre Neveu
IAE, Université de Pau et des Pays de lAdour, Bayonne, France, and
Aria Teimourzadeh
IAE, Université de Picardie Jules Verne, Amiens, France
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to provide elements for human resource management to better
understand workplace corruption in order to prevent and to manage corrupt behaviors at work.
Design/methodology/approach In this study, a quantitat ive research methodol ogy (n¼575)
is used; the sample is selected from French public sector employees. Multiple regression analysis
assesses the impact on corrupt behaviors (e.g. bribary and property deviance) of selected
determinant psycholo gical resources (e. g. powerlessness, dis tributive and procedu ral justice and sense
of mastery).
Findings Main results highlight that sense of mastery, di stributive justice a nd procedural justice
have a negative impact o n workplace corrupti on, whereas powerle ssness has a positive imp act on
workplace corruption. The direct impact and relationships that are explored between selected
determinant psychol ogical resources and wo rkplace corruption c ontribute to the litera ture on corrupt
acts and conservation of resources (COR) theory. Sense of mastery, power, procedural and
distributive justic es are considered as pers onal resources for emplo yees at workplace. Ind ividuals
thoughtfully engage in corrupt acts and behaviors as a defensiv e move to protect perceiv ed threats on
valued motivation fact ors.
Research limitations/implications At an empirical level, the research is limited to a sample from public
sector employees. Similar to the structures of public and private organizations, which are different,
determinants of organizational corruption in public and private sectors are also different. Another main
limitation is the cross-sectional design. Investigating motivation-based dynamics of corruption would benefit
from longitudinal methodology.
Practical implications The present research suggests that a COR-based management of human
resources can be of functional use on at least two grounds. First, COR theory shifts the perspective from a
moral and macro-economic issues to a psychological plane. Second, and by staying in tune with motivational
processes, a COR-based management is suited to prevent corrupt mechanisms fueled by frustrated or
endangered motivational resources.
Originality/value On the basis of an original taxonomy of workplace corruption, a research model is
developed using the framework of COR theory (Hobfoll, 1989). As a non-inductive approach, corruption is
considered from the standpoint of a rational defensive attitude on the part of employees seeking to preserve
valued psychological resources. A COR-based perspective also allows for a preventive salutogenic
management style of corrupt behaviors.
Keywords Quantitative, Powerlessness, Distributive justice, Procedural justice, Workplace corruption
Paper type Research paper
Corruption is a well-known topic in the management literature. According to Vardi and
Weiner (1996), most of individuals engage into some form of corrupt acts and
misbehaviors at work. At the same time, corrupt behaviors are found to plague all types of
work organizations and to involve non-supervisory and staff personnel alike (Williams,
2000). Organizational corruption expresses a misuse of organizational power, position or
authority for personal or collective gain (e.g. group, organization or industry) (Anand et al.,
2004; Ashforth et al., 2008; Pinto et al., 2008), and a deviation from standards, norms and
modern bureaucracy measures (Alam, 1989).
Personnel Review
Vol. 49 No. 1, 2020
pp. 250-264
© Emerald PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/PR-08-2018-0303
Received 17 August 2018
Revised 9 March 2019
Accepted 8 June 2019
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