Self-repair in the Workplace: A Qualitative Investigation

Journal of Business Ethics 182 (2):321-340 (2021)
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Abstract

Despite widespread interest in the topic of moral repair in the business ethics literature and in the workplace, little is currently known about moral repair with regard to the self—i.e., how and why individuals repair themselves in the aftermath of harming others within workplace contexts and what factors may influence the success of self-repair. We conducted a qualitative study in the context of health care organizations to develop an inductive model of self-repair in the workplace. Our findings reveal a set of factors, including reactions to the harm incident, motivating factors, and methods of self-repair that involve intrapersonal (e.g., self-compassion) and interpersonal (e.g., seeking feedback and support from co-workers and managers) actions. We discovered that self-repair, or what we characterize as “moral self-repair” is a complex process characterized by important ethical, emotional, and social dimensions and that the effectiveness of self-repair actions is moderated by the actions of those within the organization (e.g., co-workers, managers) and outside the organization (e.g., families, friends, counselors). These social actors can promote self-repair by offering encouragement and support, or undermine self-repair by communicating a lack of trust and respect that reinforces self-blame. This model of self-repair is intended to guide future ethics research on the topic of moral self-repair and offers insight to practicing managers.

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