Organisational wrong-doing: Being bad is different in different cultures 

Organisational wrong-doing: Being bad is different in different cultures

organisational wrong-doing

Organisational wrong-doing: Being bad in different cultures

A recent study looking at attitudes towards five forms of information abuse made a fascinating and accidental discovery about how different cultures perceive organisational wrong-doing. The researchers uncovered that there are significantly different perceptions of organisational wrong-doing (perceptions of being bad) depending on where you come from…


This research briefing was sent to members in May 2017



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Computer information system abuse and a weird realisation about organisational wrong-doing 

A recent (2017) research study looking at attitudes towards five forms of information abuse:

  1. leakage of organisational information,
  2. use of pirated software,
  3. password sharing,
  4. use of an external device and
  5. staying logged into the system while the user is away from the terminal.

made an interesting discovery about how different cultures perceive wrong doing. For example software piracy isn’t seen in the same terms in the East as it is in the West. What the researchers accidentally uncovered was that there are significantly different perceptions of organisational wrong-doing depending on where you come from.


east west

Three pressures on employees

There are three main forms of pressures that are exerted on employees in any workplace setting:

1.   Normative
2.   Coercive
3.   Mimetic

The normative pressure is defined as socially espoused beliefs which constrain behaviour and thinking. For example there has been a change in normative pressure in much of the West regarding drink driving.

Coercive pressure is where the organisational culture is communicated to employees in much the same way as societal rules are outside of the organisation. IT security teams and HR departments for example often rely on coercive power in much the same way as the police do the law of the land.

Mimetic pressure is where people copy the behaviour of others either in their peer group or often, and more pervasive, copying the behaviours of people higher in the organisational hierarchy.


western wrong-doing


In the West, the chief pressure on employees is usually coercive in nature.

This study however found that in the East, normative and mimetic pressures have more of an impact on the employee than coercive pressures. Fear of breaking social norms is a major inhibitory factor for guiding behaviour more in the East than the West.

The study also found that people from the East are far more likely to influenced by the behaviour they observe, so if you see someone committing a computer offence for instance and getting away with it, it is more likely that you may commit the same offence, especially if the original offender is your manager or leader. This can lead to more widespread problem behaviour in organisations where bad behaviours can become endemic easily.
eastern wrong-doing

Management can get away with it…

In the East management tend to have a higher power distance between themselves and employees compared to the West. This means that often managers can become a law unto themselves. Additionally, in the East people tend to see their work colleagues as ‘other families’ due to working some of the longest hours in the world, they also see management as being beyond reproach and paternalistic within this ‘family’ context. This means that management can order things that are actually illegal and it is quite likely those under them will carry these orders out without question, comment or challenge.

Management actions

For people working in multinationals understanding these findings can be most useful. It certainly gives management a steer in terms of managing multi-cultural east-west teams and organisations.

Reference – available to members

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page

  • Annalieza Landa says:

    Thank you for sharing the findings of this important and insightful study! The timing could not have been better for me!

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