When in Rome, do as the Romans do: a case study of Odebrecht and the continuum of destructiveness
Abstract This research conducts a case study on Odebrecht, a heavy construction company, to answer the question of how an individual rationalizes crime in a corrupt organization? The study is based on the concepts of a corrupt organization, the continuum of destructiveness, moral disengagement, and rationalization. We analyze four books, artifacts on Odebrecht’s culture and videos on 49 executives that collaborated in the Car Wash corruption probe. The results describe the paths employees undertake in the organization by acquiring its internal set of values, beliefs, and assumptions. These paths lead to the rationalization of corruption. This case study shows that the continuum of destructiveness starts when employees encounter unethical behavior in the organization and that their rationalization mechanism changes with time in the corrupt culture. At any point, executives can quit or blow the whistle; however, with time, it becomes more challenging to exercise either of the options. By applying and refining the continuum, this research provides an understanding of how moral disengagement and rationalization to help employees to progress in the continuum in a corrupt culture.