Diana Dakhlallah

Bribery in the Workplace: A Field Experiment on the Threat of Making Group Behavior Visible

  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Strategy and Management

Can reputational threat among coworkers reduce bribery in organizations? I exploit within- and across-organizational variation in bribery to design and implement a field experiment in the maternity wards of five Moroccan public hospitals. I test whether threatening to reveal information about ward workers’ involvement in bribery to their coworkers dissuades them from taking bribes from patients. Healthcare workers cut back on taking bribes in higher-incidence maternity wards but not in lower-incidence wards. Qualitative data show that bribery’s baseline incidence sets the costs of revealing. Workers tolerate only so much bribery in their wards before they face the negative social consequences of belonging to a work group that takes bribes. They thus correct their behavior when it crosses a threshold. Moreover, ineffective applications of the field interventions betrayed welfare-diminishing effects. I furnish evidence for a novel kind of policy lever against workplace bribery and shed new light on the dynamics of bribery inside organizations. Funding: Funding from different programs at Stanford University—Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship, Abbasi Program for Islamic Studies Summer Research Grant, Graduate Research Opportunity Grant, Sociology Research Opportunity Grant, Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society Grant, Freeman Spogli Institute’s Mentored Global Research Fellowship, and Stanford Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Developing Economies Fellowship—are gratefully acknowledged. Supplemental Material: The online appendices are available at https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2021.15264 .

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