Owning it or Feeling it? Blame and Remorse in the Wake of Failure

30 Pages Posted: 26 Jun 2011

Date Written: June 26, 2011

Abstract

In the wake of negative organizational events, research directs the involved actors to apologize. However, apologies often communicate two, distinct messages: responsibility (they take blame) and regret (they express remorse). Though theoretically and practically distinguishable, taking blame and expressing remorse, independently, have not received much research attention. This leaves an important gap, as organizational actors often do one without the other. My research compares the effectiveness of the two statements following a collective failure. Consistent with hypotheses, Study 1 revealed a preference for blame-taking and documented a reason: taking blame demonstrated more character than expressions of remorse did. Study 2 replicated these effects in a behavioral setting; it also documented a limit: taking blame was less helpful for intentional, versus unintentional, failures. Overall, this research sheds the first light on an important difference between taking blame and expressing remorse. Following a collective failure, people appear to hold a fairly strong preference for blame-taking.

Suggested Citation

Gunia, Brian, Owning it or Feeling it? Blame and Remorse in the Wake of Failure (June 26, 2011). IACM 24th Annual Conference Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1872852 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1872852

Brian Gunia (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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