The Consequences of Interpersonal Forgiveness Following Trust Breach
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In organizational life, trust breach is a common but destructive phenomenon. This dissertation explores how a prosocial, virtuous response to trust breach -- interpersonal forgiveness -- might influence the behaviour and attitudes of teams and their members in the wake of such a breach. In a series of three manuscripts, the dissertation looks at the consequences of forgiveness for the person perceived to have broken a victim’s trust (the transgressor), and for the teammates who observe the breach and the response that follows it. Forgiveness is described as playing two important roles. For transgressors, we describe forgiveness as a favour, drawing on social exchange theory to argue that forgiveness triggers reciprocal helping directed at both the victim and the team at large. And for teammates, we argue that forgiveness serves as a powerful signal, communicating the cohesion and efficacy of the group. These predictions are tested experimentally with a laboratory study of transgressor-victim dyads (Chapter 2) and of transgressor-victim-teammate triads (Chapter 3), and a series of two vignette studies from the perspective of teammate observers (Chapter 4). Focusing on the linkages between forgiveness and justice, each study considers the interaction between forgiveness various transgressor-initiated and victim-initiated attempts at restoring justice, including apologies, punishment, and restorative justice practices. Chapter 5 discusses the mixed support found for our predictions, considers how the limitations of our studies might be addressed, and introduces a series of directions for future research.