Blame game theory: scapegoating, whistleblowing and discursive struggles following accusations of organizational misconduct
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Roulet, T., & Pichler, R. Blame game theory: scapegoating, whistleblowing and discursive struggles following accusations of organizational misconduct. Organization Theory https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.58673
Research on organizational misconduct has examined how audiences generate discourses to make sense of behavior that may transgress the line between right and wrong. However, when organizations are accused of misconduct, the resulting ambiguity also opens opportunities for organizations and their members to generate discourses aimed at deflecting blame. Little is known about how actors who are at risk of being held responsible actively respond to misconduct accusations by engaging in discursive strategies. To address this question, we build on crisis communication and discourse theory to integrate processes of scapegoating and whistleblowing into a holistic model. We develop a blame game theory – conceptualizing the sequence of discursive strategies employed by an organization and its members to strategically shift blame by attributing responsibility to others or denying misconduct. Our model identifies four blame game pathways as a function of two types of ambiguity: moral ambiguity and attributional ambiguity. We highlight accusations of misconduct as pivotal triggering events in the social construction of misconduct. By conceptualizing the discursive dynamics of strategic reactions to accusations of misconduct, our blame game theory contributes to the literature on organizational misconduct and has implications for research on social evaluations.
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.58673
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/311581
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