Oops, I Did It (Again)! The Emotional Experience, Interpersonal Responses, and Relational Consequences of Social Gaffes in the Workplace

Chandra Pathki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

In line with the research on how specific episodes affect relationships, we advance workplace social gaffes—work episodes where employees think either their own or others' social behavior unintentionally violated interactional expectations and threatened the actor's relational value—as an event that can shape employees' workplace exchange relationships. Using a sensemaking lens, we explain when and why employees will believe they committed a social gaffe. In so doing, we advance a new definition of a social gaffe that outlines its necessary attributes. We then integrate sensemaking with the research on self-conscious emotions to theorize that on perceiving their social gaffe, employees can experience embarrassment, or guilt, or shame—based on how they make sense of the social gaffe. These emotions, in turn, are theorized to shape employees' subsequent interpersonal response (repair vs. withdrawal). Moving onto colleagues' reaction, we posit that whether or not colleagues view the initial employee action as a social gaffe will influence their reaction (benign vs. hostile) to employees' interpersonal response. Over time, this employee–colleague interaction pattern is theorized to influence the quality of their exchange relationship. We thus outline how even seemingly minor workplace social gaffes can have complex emotional, interpersonal, and relational consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1261-1281
JournalJournal of Organizational Behavior
Volume42
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2021

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