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Vigilantes at Work: Examining the Frequency of Dark Knight Employees

15 Pages Posted: 2 May 2017  

Katy DeCelles

University of Toronto - Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

Karl Aquino

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Division of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources

Date Written: April 30, 2017

Abstract

Vigilantism, while conjuring up images of lone wolf crime-fighting heroes of the movies and self-appointed gangs in the Wild West, is a phenomenon that is alive and well today. We investigated to what extent vigilantism exists in the workplace, documenting a phenomenon we describe as the workplace vigilante syndrome. We define this syndrome as someone who, without any formal authority to do so, regularly brings claims to the attention of authorities, colleagues, or the general public that one or more persons in their organization has committed a moral violation, a breach of company policy, or an unjust act, and makes an effort to punish that person or persons directly or indirectly. Results of a large-scale survey of a wide cross-section of American workers showed that 57.9 percent had experience with at least one workplace vigilante, with 18 percent of workers currently working with a workplace vigilante, and 42 percent of workers having worked with one or more in the course of their career. We explore some of the organizational and individual characteristics associated with more frequent workplace vigilantism, and describe some of the apparent themes in over 1,200 stories of workplace vigilantes provided by participants. We conclude by calling for greater theoretical and empirical development of what appears to be a common and potentially costly phenomenon for organizations.

Keywords: Behavioral Ethics, Organizational Behavior, Vigilantism

Suggested Citation

DeCelles, Katy and Aquino, Karl, Vigilantes at Work: Examining the Frequency of Dark Knight Employees (April 30, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2960941

Katy DeCelles (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management ( email )

United States

Karl Aquino

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Division of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources ( email )

2053 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2
Canada

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