Institutional Complexity in Professional Service Firms and Dysfunctional Behaviors: Evidence from a Multi-Country Study

In most organizational fields worldwide, we observe a permanent coexistence of multiple and
sometimes conflicting institutional logics, a phenomenon known as institutional complexity. Prior research has viewed institutional complexity as problematic, but recent institutional scholarship recognizes several benefits. The behavioral implications of institutional complexity have only recently been studied. This study presents theoretical claims about how sustained institutional complexity through organizational design influences individual dysfunctional behavior. It is posited that organizations sustaining institutional complexity through their organizational designs provide structural assurance that may legitimize behavior that deviates from norms. These theoretical claims are tested through a field study in the accounting industry across three countries, a context in which dysfunctional behaviors can have global consequences. The study provides evidence that the perceived presence of institutional complexity can stimulate perceived dysfunctional behaviors. By considering the interplay of institutional complexity and individual dysfunctional behavior, this research offers a refreshing perspective on possible unintended behavioral consequences of sustained institutional complexity. 

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This paper is published in Management International

Author: Jorien Louise PRUIJSSERS 

Jorien Louise PRUIJSSERS, professor

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