Bad for practice? Reconciling alternative views on managerial attitudes and their impact on organizational performance

Sergio Lazzarini, Gazi Islam, Luiz Mesquita

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to reconcile alternative managerial views regarding self-serving behavior in organizations: while some propose that such behavior is commonplace and detrimental to performance, and suggest policies to counteract such conduct, critics contend that such policies generate distrust and diminish performance. The authors integrate elements from agency and interactional justice theories, and hypotheses that managerial attitudes not related to self-interest can influence behaviors often attributed to the desire to curb self-interest, and vice-versa. Design/methodology/approach - The authors employ structural equation modeling based on survey data from 387 team-leaders from both Brazil and the USA. Findings - An asymmetric relation is found in the aforementioned theoretical “cross-talk:" managers concerned with self-interest tend to devise policies solely focused on curbing self-interest, while managers concerned with justice not only adopt justice-enhancing practices but also certain incentivizing agency-related practices which jointly increase performance. Research limitations/implications - By proposing and testing theoretical interactions between agency and justice theories, support is found for both enthusiasts and critics of self-interestedness, but pointedly they occur in different domains. Practical implications - The results suggest that managers should foster interactional justice, promoting incentivizing agency-related behaviors that may be interpreted as justice-seeking, while avoiding those that send a message of distrust. Originality/value - To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is one of the first empirical papers directly addressing the ongoing debate raised by Ghoshal and others on the merits of managerial theories based on the assumption of self-interest.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)208-225
Number of pages18
JournalManagement Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012


  • Agency theory
  • Brazil
  • Business policy
  • Interactional justice
  • Justice
  • Managers
  • Organizational performance
  • Self-interest
  • United states of america

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management


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