Power, moral clarity, and punishment in the workplace

Power, moral clarity, and punishment in the workplace

By
Scott S. Wiltermuth, Francis J. Flynn
Academy of Management Journal. August
2013, Vol. 56, Issue 4, Pages 1002-1023

We propose that power increases how severely people punish transgressors. Further, we argue that this greater severity stems from an increased sense of moral clarity instilled by the psychological experience of power. We investigate the linkages among power, moral clarity, and punishment across multiple studies. Individuals with an increased sense of power advocated more severe punishments for transgressors than did those with a diminished sense of power. Further, moral clarity mediated the link between power and severity of punishment. We discuss the implications of these findings for managers in organizations and researchers interested in punitive reactions to moral transgressions.