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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Why managers don’t always do the right thing when delivering bad news : the effect of empathy, self-esteem, emotional intelligence, moral reasoning, and moral identity Patient, David Leonard


Previous research shows that some managers do not deliver bad news in ways deemed interactionally fair (with dignity, respect, and adequate explanations). In this dissertation I explore whether specific individual characteristics predict the tendency to deliver bad news in ways regarded as interactionally (un)fair: the communicator’s empathy, self-esteem, moral development, emotional intelligence, and moral identity. In Study 1, 173 practicing managers responded to a scenario task in which a layoff was to be communicated and their written messages were coded for interactional justice. Results showed that empathic concern, moral development, and strategic emotional intelligence each individually predicted interactional justice. However, these relationships were not significant when all of the predictors and proposed interactions were included. Moral development moderated the relationship between empathic concern and interactional justice. In Study 2, 81 students provided face-to-face feedback containing negative news to a confederate, and the videotaped feedback was coded for interactional justice. In Study 2, empathic induction was manipulated and moral identity was primed. Results showed that empathic induction increased interactional justice. Further, a significant three-way interaction showed that when moral identity was high, moral development moderated the effect of the empathic induction on interactional justice. Specifically, the interactional fairness of high (versus low) moral development communicators was lower in the control condition and increased by the empathic induction, whereas the interactional fairness of low moral development communicators was not affected by the empathic induction.

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