Pilot Studies

Corruption in the Public Sector (CorPuS)

De Waele, L., Weißmüller, K.S., & van Witteloostuijn, A. (2021). 'Bribery and the Role of Public Service Motivation and Social Value Orientation - A Multi-site experimental study in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands', Frontiers in Psychology - Organizational Behavior. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.655964 [Open Access]

Bribery is a complex phenomenon rooted in both individual motives and the greater institutional context. Experimental research into causal mechanisms that drive bribing behavior is still scarce. To date, there is no empirical evidence on how the society-regarding motivational survey measure of Public Service Motivation (PSM) and the other-oriented motivational measure of Social Value Orientation (SVO) can help explain why some people are more susceptible to engage in the act of bribing than others. Based on a multi-site triple-replication, vignette-based research design, quasi-experimental evidence from Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands shows that both measures interact and that – paradoxically – people with higher SVO are more likely to be willing to engage in bribery.

Keywords Bribery Public Service Motivation, Social Value Orientation, Multi-site Design

Weißmüller, K.S., De Waele, L., van Witteloostuijn, A. (2020).PUBLIC SERVICE MOTIVATION AND PRO-SOCIAL RULE-BREAKING – An international vignettes study in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.’ Review of Public Personnel Administration [online first]. https://doi.org/10.1177/0734371X20973441

We theorize that people with high Public Service Motivation (PSM) are especially prone to engage in prosocial rule-breaking (PSRB) behavior, which ultimately leads to discriminatory practices, particularly for clients associated with positive affect. We conduct an original vignette study in three countries (Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands) with 928 observations in total. Our findings provide tentative behavioral evidence on a linear relationship between PSM and the likelihood of PSRB and a strong positive association with client likeability, which is an asymmetric relationship: Negative affect cues have a larger negative effect than positive affect cues have a positive effect on PSRB. Although our results vary across the three country studies regarding the effects of PSM, overall, the results imply that high-PSM individuals have a tendency to being more likely to engage in PSRB and that clients who are perceived as more favorable will receive a less strict application of bureaucratic rules compared to less favorable clients.

Keywords Prosocial Rule-Breaking, Public Service Motivation, Risk behavior, Multi-site design, Administrative behavior

De Waele, L. & Weißmüller, K.S. (2019). ‘Over de bureaucratische paradox en de effecten van Public Service Motivation op corruptie.Vlaams Tijdschrift voor Overheidsmanagement (Flemish Journal of Public Management) 24 (2): 43-56.

Dit artikel onderzoekt de effecten van Public Service Motivation (PSM) op pro-social en pro-self gerichte vormen van corruptie. Het onderzoek toont aan dat PSM ertoe kan bijdragen om pro-self gerichte vormen van corruptie te voorkomen. Echter, de analyses tonen tegelijkertijd aan dat een hoge mate van PSM publieke dienstverleners stimuleert om bepaalde regels en procedures te omzeilen, wat aanleiding geeft tot een bureaucratische paradox: Bureaucratieën trekken medewerkers aan met een hoge mate van PSM die vervolgens breken met bepaalde regels en procedures zodat het principe van gelijke toegang tot de publieke dienstverlening onder druk komt te staan. Bovendien lijken onderliggende motieven eerder gericht te zijn op het beschadigen van de organisatie terwijl het belang van de cliënt een veel meer ondergeschikte rol heeft. De resultaten van het onderzoek zijn gebaseerd op (semi)-experimenteel onderzoek dat werd gerepliceerd in België, Duitsland en Nederland. Aan het onderzoek namen een 600-tal respondenten deel.

Keywords Public Service Motivation, corruptie, bureaucratie

Weißmüller, K.S. & De Waele, L. (2019). ‘Would you bribe your lecturer? An international replication study on burnout and corruption in higher education.’ Under review. OSF Preprint, https://doi.org/10.31219/osf.io/csvkd

Bribery is a complex and critical issue in higher education (HE), causing severe economic and societal harm. Because of its delicacy and effects of social desirability, insights into the underlying causal mechanisms of HE bribery are virtually non-existent. This study investigates the connection between study-related burnout and university students’ willingness to offer bribes to their lecturers in order to pass important exams in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands and whether ethical considerations influence this intent.

The findings are based on an innovative quasi-experimental research design in which graduate students (N = 624) responded to systematically varied vignette-based scenarios that reveal the circumstances under which students found the use of different forms of bribery acceptable to achieve their ends. Results show that students differentiate sharply between different shades of bribery and that a majority accept using emotional influence tactics to pass (failed) exams. In contrast, offering a helping hand or money to their lecturer was less acceptable. Furthermore, the empirical results reveal a clear link between higher levels of burnout and the likelihood of engaging in bribery. Yet, we also found that a high commitment to the public interest might reduce the chances on engaging in acts of bribery.

In summary, this study provides solid empirical evidence that university students are likely to use emotional influence tactics violating both the ethical codes of conduct and the formalized bureaucratic procedures of HE examination. However, appealing to students’ commitment to the public interest might help reduce this likelihood. Consequently, HE institutions can benefit from implementing the four-eye principle and from launching awareness campaigns that enable lecturers to better recognize these tactics and engage students in creating a transparent environment for testing, grading, and collaboration that is resistant to bribery.

Keywords Higher Education, Bribery, Burnout, Commitment to the Public Interest