Blaming leaders for organizational accidents: Proxy logic in collective- versus individual-agency cultures

Yuriko Zemba, Maia J. Young, Michael W. Morris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

51 Citations (Scopus)


The current research investigates whether observers blame leaders for organizational accidents even when these managers are known to be causally uninvolved. Past research finds that the public blames managers for organizational harm if the managers are perceived to have personally played a causal role. The present research argues that East Asian perceivers, who are culturally oriented to focus on the causal influence of groups [Menon, T., Morris, M. W., Chiu, C., & Hong, Y. (1999). Culture and the construal of agency: Attribution to individual versus group dispositions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 701-717.], blame managers based on the behavior of the group, not only based on the behavior of the individual managers. We argue that perceivers first assign responsibility to the collectivity, the organizational unit or some group within it, and then extend responsibility to the manager representing it. We tested this proposal in a series of studies with a community sample in Japan and matched student samples of Japanese and Americans. Results show that perceivers who are culturally oriented to focus on collective-level causality (Japanese, more so than Americans; Asian Americans, more so than European Americans) blame leaders through proxy logic. Implications of this intuitive logic and of the cultural difference are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-51
Number of pages16
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006 Sep
Externally publishedYes



  • Accident
  • Attribution
  • Blame
  • Culture
  • Group
  • Managers
  • Organization
  • Proxy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Strategy and Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology(all)

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