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When apologies work: How matching apology components to victims' self-construals facilitates forgiveness

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  • Fehr, Ryan
  • Gelfand, Michele J.

Abstract

Apologies are useful social tools that can act as catalysts in the resolution of conflict and inspire forgiveness. Yet as numerous real-world blunders attest, apologies are not always effective. Whereas many lead to forgiveness and reconciliation, others simply fall on deaf ears. Despite the fact that apologies differ in their effectiveness, most research has focused on apologies as dichotomous phenomena wherein a victim either (a) receives an apology or (b) does not. Psychological research has yet to elucidate which components of apologies are most effective, and for whom. The present research begins to address this gap by testing the theory that perpetrators' apologies are most likely to inspire victim forgiveness when their components align with victims' self-construals. Regression and hierarchical linear modeling analyses from two studies support the primary hypotheses. As predicted, victims reacted most positively to apologies that were congruent with their self-construals.

Suggested Citation

  • Fehr, Ryan & Gelfand, Michele J., 2010. "When apologies work: How matching apology components to victims' self-construals facilitates forgiveness," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 113(1), pages 37-50, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jobhdp:v:113:y:2010:i:1:p:37-50
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Holmvall, Camilla M. & Bobocel, D. Ramona, 2008. "What fair procedures say about me: Self-construals and reactions to procedural fairness," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 105(2), pages 147-168, March.
    2. Tripp, Thomas M. & Bies, Robert J. & Aquino, Karl, 2002. "Poetic justice or petty jealousy? The aesthetics of revenge," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 89(1), pages 966-984, September.
    3. Johnson, Russell E. & Selenta, Christopher & Lord, Robert G., 2006. "When organizational justice and the self-concept meet: Consequences for the organization and its members," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 99(2), pages 175-201, March.
    4. Peterson, Randall S. & Behfar, Kristin Jackson, 2003. "The dynamic relationship between performance feedback, trust, and conflict in groups: A longitudinal study," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 102-112.
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    Cited by:

    1. ten Brinke, Leanne & Adams, Gabrielle S., 2015. "Saving face? When emotion displays during public apologies mitigate damage to organizational performance," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 1-12.
    2. Pollack, Jeffrey M. & Bosse, Douglas A., 2014. "When do investors forgive entrepreneurs for lying?," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 741-754.

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