Formal and Informal Social Controls of Employee Deviance*


  • *

    An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meetings of the Southern Sociological Society at Louisville, Kentucky, April 9, 1981. This research was assisted under grants #7S-NI-AX-0014 and #79-NI-AX-0090 from the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice. The authors thank Peter Parilla, John Stahura, and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive criticism and assistance. Richard C. Hollinger's address is Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907.


Using the phenomenon of deviance by employees against the rules of the formal work organization as the behavior of interest, the differential saliences of both formal (i.e., management) and informal (i.e., co-worker) sanction severity are empirically compared. As hypothesized, the perceived threat of informal sanctions by one's fellow co-workers explains both property deviance and production deviance far better than the perceived severity of the more formal responses initiated by management. Further, if the two forms of social control are causally ordered, we find that management actions to constrain deviant employees do have an effect, albeit indirect, in that formal sanctions operate on deviance indirectly by shaping the informal sanctions.