Is it worse to steal money or ideas: impression formation and punishments for a motivated thief
Employee theft is widely recognized as an extremely problematic workplace phenomenon (Forbes, 2015). As such, a large body of research has sought to illuminate the factors surrounding theft (e.g. Greenberg, 1990; Greenberg, 2002). Theft research tends to operationalize theft in terms of tangible property, such as money and supplies (Wimbush and Dalton, 1997). With intellectual forms of property becoming increasingly relevant (Hughes, 1988; Amabile, 1996), this work explores the possibility that the interpersonal implications of stealing one form of property (i.e. tangible property, like money) compared to another (i.e. intellectual property, like ideas). In a series of experimental studies, I measure the warmth and competence perceptions of a thief who has stolen money vs. one who has stolen an idea. Three studies find that thieves who steal ideas are perceived to be significantly less warm and less competent than those who steal money. Study 2 shows that inferred instrumental motives mediate the relationship between type of theft and warmth and competence impressions, such that idea theft is thought to be more closely associated with selfish motives, thus resulting in “worse” impressions of a thief. Study 3 considers the downstream consequences for this effect, in terms of formal vs. informal punishments.
Innovation; Organizational behavior; Creativity; employee theft; idea theft; Pathology
Goncalo, Jack A.
Ferguson, Melissa J.; Sonnenstuhl, William James; Zitek, Emily M.
Industrial and Labor Relations
M.S., Industrial and Labor Relations
Master of Science
dissertation or thesis