Accidental Wrongdoing

Donald Palmer

in Normal Organizational Wrongdoing

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199573592
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191738715 | DOI:
Accidental Wrongdoing

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This chapter presents the accident explanation of organizational wrongdoing. This explanation is the fourth of five alternative accounts of wrongdoing considered in the book. It is rooted in the assumptions that organizational environments are complex and organizational participants are boundedly rational, assumptions that underpin several of the alternative explanations of wrongdoing considered to this point. This chapter argues that complexity and bounded rationality sometimes cause people to make mistakes and that sometimes mistakes constitute wrongdoing. It examines the factors that can give rise to accidents that constitute wrongdoing, analyzing them as the product of system failures at four levels of social organization: the individual, the small group, the formal organization, and the organizational field. Further, it distinguishes between two types of causal factors: faulty system design or operation and unavoidable system complexity and tight coupling (i.e. normal accidents). The chapter concludes with an overall assessment of the accident explanation.

Keywords: organizational wrongdoing; complexity; bounded rationality; accidental wrongdoing; normal accidents

Chapter.  14370 words. 

Subjects: Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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