The Scandalization of Organizational Misconduct
Management & Human Resources
Speaker: Julien Jourdan
PSL- Paris Dauphine University
HEC Campus - Jouy-En-Josas - Buil. S - Room S210
We develop and test a theory of the scandalization of organizational misconduct: that is, of the process through which an act of wrongdoing becomes widely publicized through media broadcast - thereby giving rise to a scandal and causing the downfall of the implicated social actors - or, conversely, does not move past rumor and remains dormant, with little or no consequences for the offending parties. To this end, we leverage data on sex abuse cases in the United States Catholic Church, exploring the geographical heterogeneity in misconduct and its subsequent coverage across communities over time. We identify three community-level attributes having an impact on whether misconduct is scandalized: 1) the prominence of the offending social actor in the community, because the more clout the social actor holds, the less misconduct is likely to be reported to outsiders such as the media; 2) cohesion, because less cohesive communities are characterized by lower trust, which in turn facilitates the diffusion of damaging information; and 3) social capital, since the availability of socialization spaces may also facilitate information diffusion. We elaborate on the implication of our findings for the broader literature on negative evaluations of social actors, as well as for economic sociology as a whole.