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When & How Do Employees Forgive the Transgressions by Authoritarian Leaders?

April 19 @ 12:15 - 13:15

When & How Do Employees Forgive the Transgressions by Authoritarian Leaders?
The Mediating Role of Attributions and the Moderating Role of Severity



How can organizations mitigate the negative impact of leader transgressions on employee outcomes and foster forgiveness? This has been one of the major questions in the leadership and ethics literature. Previous research has identified several answers to this inquiry, but it is still unknown what happens when authoritarian leaders who possess a formal authority and legitimate power in organizations engage in transgressions toward their employees. Employees may perceive that leaders show these offenses either to enhance their performance (i.e., performance promotion) or to purposely harm them (i.e., injury). Yet, under what circumstances employees make these attributions is not clear. To this end, the current study proposes employee attributions as cognitive mediating mechanisms and severity of an offense as a moderator shaping these attributions and the resulting forgiveness reactions. A three-wave field study was carried out with 217 white-collar employees. The results revealed that the severity of an offense conducted by an authoritarian leader shaped the attributions of followers regarding the leader’s intentions for committing the transgression and their forgiveness tendencies. Specifically, followers were less likely to forgive authoritarian leaders for major and severe offenses, as they attributed these transgressions to intentions to harm. Yet, minor and less severe offenses displayed by authoritarian leaders were forgiven since they were attributed to performance promotion motive. Our research contributes to leadership, attribution and forgiveness literatures by pointing to some unethical consequences of authoritarian leader transgressions and implying some solutions to mitigate them.

Keywords: Authoritarian leadership; Leader transgressions; Performance promotion motive; Injury initiation motive; Forgiveness.


Speaker: Zahide Karakitapoglu-Aygün



Zahide Karakitapoglu-Aygün is an associate professor at Faculty of Business Administration at Bilkent University. She received her PhD in Social Psychology (2002) from Middle East Technical University. She has been working at Bilkent University Faculty of Business Administration since 2003. She was a visiting Scholar at the Department of Psychology, University of Michigan (2000-2002) and at the School of Business, Portland State University (2018-2019). Both of her visits in the U.S. and her other cross-cultural studies were supported by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey.

Her research interests include commitment, leadership, dark side of leadership, organizational justice, individual and team innovative behavior. She published in several journals such as Human Resource Management, Journal of Business Ethics, Business Ethics: A European Review, Journal of Product Innovation Management, Journal of Business Research, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, European Journal of Social Psychology, Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies. She is a member of Academy of Management, and European Academy of Management. 


April 19
12:15 - 13:15


Aula 8

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