Lenient reactions to misconduct: Examining the self-conscious process of being lenient to others at work

KATE P. ZIPAY, MARIE S. MITCHELL, MICHAEL D. BAER, HUDSON SESSIONS, ROBERT J. BIES

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

How employees address others' misconduct is a common aspect of organizational life. Although some employees adhere to punishment standards when addressing misconduct, not all do. Instead, some are lenient. We propose that being lenient generates a selfconscious affective process that has countervailing effects for grantors. Drawing from the theory of self-conscious emotions and moral psychology, we propose that leniency elicits feelings of pride that enhance engagement and also elicits feelings of guilt that enhance exhaustion. Taken together, we propose that leniency indirectly influences energy states through self-conscious emotions. A multistudy approach was utilized to test these predictions. The results from Study 1 (a multiwave field study of police officers in the United States) and Study 2 (an experiment) largely supported our predictions. In Study 3 (an experiment), we extended our model to consider a theoretically relevant moderator. Grantors' forgiveness was predicted to impact the extent to which feelings of pride and guilt are experienced from leniency. As predicted, our results showed that the impact of leniency on pride was strengthened by forgiveness and the impact of leniency on guilt was weakened by forgiveness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)351-377
Number of pages27
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Volume64
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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