Repairing Broken Trust Between Leaders and Followers: How Violation Characteristics Temper Apologies

Journal of Business Ethics 155 (3):853-870 (2019)
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Abstract

This study examines the conditions under which apologies help to elicit forgiveness and restore trust following trust violations between leaders and followers. The intentionality and severity of violations are examined in a critical incident study and a laboratory study. The results support a model in which forgiveness mediates the relation of apology quality and trust. More importantly, the moderation–mediation model shows that apology quality influenced forgiveness and subsequent trust following violations that were moderate in severity–intentionality combination. The effect of apologizing affects trust directly without forgiveness when the severity–intentionality combination held minor or extreme intensity. The results suggest a range in which apologies are effective and enrich understanding of the conditions under which trust can be recovered through an apology–forgiveness process in leader–follower relationships. The contribution of the study lies in elucidating that the combination of severity and intentionality of leaders’ trust violations has greater importance than either one separately.

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