Encouraging Upward Ethical Dissent in Organizations: The Role of Deference to Embodied Expertise

Ryan S. Bisel, Elissa Adame

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    This article demonstrates that when supervisors encourage subordinates to defer to their embodied expertise, subordinates are more likely to voice explicitly moralized upward dissent to an unethical business request. Working adults (N = 312) were randomly assigned to respond to an unethical business request from their boss in one of three scenarios that varied by how much the supervisor was known for encouraging deference to (a) embodied knowing, (b) intellectual reasoning, or (c) neither (i.e., a baseline control condition). Analyses revealed that participants were more than twice as likely to voice their private moral concerns explicitly with their boss when the supervisor was known for valuing subordinates’ embodied expertise (e.g., “going with your gut feelings”). In addition, participants also reported feeling significantly less communication anxiety in that same condition. Implications for leading organizational ethics conclude the article.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
    DOIs
    StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

    Fingerprint

    Supervisory personnel
    expertise
    moral philosophy
    scenario
    anxiety
    communication
    Industry
    Communication
    Expertise
    Supervisors
    Dissent

    Keywords

    • ERO theory
    • mum effect
    • organizational communication ethics

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Communication
    • Strategy and Management

    Cite this

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    abstract = "This article demonstrates that when supervisors encourage subordinates to defer to their embodied expertise, subordinates are more likely to voice explicitly moralized upward dissent to an unethical business request. Working adults (N = 312) were randomly assigned to respond to an unethical business request from their boss in one of three scenarios that varied by how much the supervisor was known for encouraging deference to (a) embodied knowing, (b) intellectual reasoning, or (c) neither (i.e., a baseline control condition). Analyses revealed that participants were more than twice as likely to voice their private moral concerns explicitly with their boss when the supervisor was known for valuing subordinates’ embodied expertise (e.g., “going with your gut feelings”). In addition, participants also reported feeling significantly less communication anxiety in that same condition. Implications for leading organizational ethics conclude the article.",
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