Normal Organizational Wrongdoing: A Critical Analysis of Theories of Misconduct in and by Organizations
Oxford University Press

Instances of wrongdoing in and by organizations are prevalent in modern society, perhaps increasingly so in recent years.  Why do organizational participants—employees, managers, senior officials—engage in illegal, unethical, and socially irresponsible behavior?

The dominant perspective on organizational wrongdoing considers it to be an abnormal phenomenon, perpetrated by rational actors, who make discrete decisions, largely immune to the influence of their situational context. Palmer develops an alternative approach that views wrongdoing as a common occurrence, produced by boundedly rational actors whose behavior is often shaped by the immediate social context and frequently evolves over a period of time.

Normal Organizational Wrongdoing provides a comprehensive critical review of the theory and research on organizational wrongdoing. By using rich case study material, it illuminates different perspectives on wrongdoing, potential explanations of wrongdoing, and policy suggestions for the reduction of wrongdoing.

The book won the Best Book Award from the 2013 Social Issues in Management Division of the Academy of Management.

“Donald Palmer has developed a provocative argument about the inevitability of organizational wrongdoing. What we have here is a critical, inclusive, sociological analysis that takes the perspective of embedded wrongdoers…[The book] could easily be a basic text for organizational studies courses of any kind. Why? Basic positions are presented and compared. Ethics are not compartmentalized. Applications are not oversimplified. Readers understand more clearly why organizational participants may develop a cynical outlook.”

–Administrative Science Quarterly

“Palmer’s book is both important and timely… [and his] exploration of these questions covers a wide range of disciplines — sociology, psychology, social psychology, criminology, political science, economics, and philosophy – giving his book an impressive breadth. He provides thorough and careful descriptions and illustrations of eight specific explanations of organizational wrongdoing… Anyone with an interest in corporate scandals will find these case studies rich and compelling.”

–Contemporary Sociology

“…Palmer provides an overview of the underlying theories, drawing on a range of disciplines – sociology, economics, psychology, ethics and management – and provides examples showing how each explanation can be applied… the book is very useful for anyone interested in organizations and ethics. With his fine review of relevant theories and by providing a wealth of examples, Palmer is able to demonstrate that organizational wrongdoing is indeed ‘normal’, as his title suggests.”

–Work Employment Society Review


About Donald Palmer

Professor Donald Palmer is engaged in a series of studies in the area of corporate crime, ethics and social responsibility. His research examines why otherwise law-abiding, ethical and socially responsible people participate in wrongful courses of behavior; in particular, why such individuals join wrongful courses of action that are initiated by others.

In recent years, Palmer has presented his research at the University of Alberta, Simon Fraser University, New York University, Harvard University, Boston College and the University of California (Irvine and Berkeley campuses). He has served as Distinguished Visiting Scholar at INSEAD in France. Palmer served as editor of Administrative Science Quarterly from 2002 to 2008.