Talk about organizational wrongdoing : an investigation of dimensions and predictors




Richardson, Brian Keith

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While organizational and societal costs of organizational wrongdoing are steadily increasing there is little research into understanding the underlying factors contributing to the creation, continuance, or cessation of such activity. This study investigated the dimensionality of witness’s talk about organizational wrongdoing, and examined the influence of several predictors on respondent’s position on these dimensions. Because there is a paucity of research aimed at understanding how organizational members communicatively respond to unethical activity in the workplace, this study attempted to characterize and test predictors of such talk. A study using a sample of 95 organizational members who had witnessed real or alleged organizational wrongdoing was utilized for understanding how respondents “talked about” the activity and their rating on individual and situational factors. These individual and situational factors were considered potential predictors of particular types of witness talk about organizational wrongdoing. Factor analysis results suggest there are five types of witness talk about organizational wrongdoing based upon frequency of use. These types are (a) Sensemaking, (b) Confronting, (c) Joking, (d) Rationalizing/Distorting, (e) and Excusing. This study proceeds to analyze several individual and situational factors’ relationships with these dimensions. Results indicate that none of the individual or situational variables predicted use of Sensemaking. However, it was found that use of Sensemaking talk and respondent’s age were predictors of Confronting. Organizational identification ratings inversely predicted use of Joking. None of the hypothesized individual or situational factors predicted Rationalizing/Distorting or Excusing. Based upon the results, theoretical contributions of the study and directions for future research are discussed.


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