How Effective is an Apology in Resolving Workplace Bullying Disputes - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 61, No. 2
Suzy Fox is an associate professor at the Institute of Human Resources and Employment Relations, Graduate School of Business, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois. Lamont Stallworth is a professor at the same Institute. He is also the founder and chair of the Center for Employment Dispute Resolution (CEDR) in Chicago, and a member of the National Academy of Arbitrators. The authors thank the National Association of African-American Human Resources Professionals, Hispanic MBA Association, Loyola University Chicago Alumni Association, and the National Black MBA Association (Ill.), for their assistance with this study. The authors also thank Judith Bohac-Bergere of CEDR for typing the manuscript. CEDR and a Research Support Grant from Loyola University, assisted with funding for this study.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
It is almost impossible to read a newspaper or watch the news today without seeing or hearing that someone prominent in politics, academia or entertainment has apologized for one kind of bad behavior or another1 in the hope of bringing a controversy involving that person to an end. (The authors refer to this as a “utilitarian apology.”) Indeed, the phenomenon of offering a utilitarian apology is so common that one recent television news show asserted that it is “a sign of the times.”2 Yet it hardly seems that Americans are an apologetic type of people.
It is well known that far-eastern cultures like those of Japan and China are supportive of the custom and practice of offering an apology,3 but whether the United States has a culture supportive of apologies could be questioned since Americans are thought to be more egocentric and individualistic.4
Currently there is a very small number of published empirical research on the effectiveness of apologies in resolving workplace and some other types of disputes.5 The authors determined to fill that gap by examining that topic in the context of bullying disputes in the workplace. Their study was prompted by an article on the subject of apology by David Hoffman6 and by an EEO diversity conference co-sponsored by Loyola University-Chicago and the Center for Employment Dispute Resolution at which the theoretical effect of apologies was discussed. Also motivating this endeavor was author Lamont Stallworth’s experience as an EEO mediator handling a matter in which the “break-through” came when the employer’s human resources vice president offered an apology for the manner in which an older worker was terminated.7