Repair, Restoration, and Reintegration Following Work-Related Failures
Frey, Erin Lynn
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AbstractIt is almost inevitable that some organizational members will fall short of meeting important organizational standards, and organizations often have explicit procedures for disciplining employees after such violations. However, we know very little about what happens after discipline occurs, and specifically, how employees become reintegrated back into organizations following violations. Research on the aftermath of punishment is scarce, and what does exist is problematic in three significant ways. First, the preponderance of research to date has treated punishment as an outcome; not only has this prompted research efforts to assume that punishment restores a system to a functioning state, but it has also prevented scholars from asking questions about the long-run effects of punishment on violators. Second, most of the limited research that has been done on reintegration in the aftermath of punishment focuses on the interpersonal dynamics of reintegration, discounting both the role that the violator and the organization play in reintegration. Third, the reintegration literature fails to consider the violators’ perspective in the reintegration process, causing scholars to have very little understanding of what makes violators feel more or less reintegrated, and what ultimately makes reintegration more or less effective. The present research addresses these shortcomings and significantly revises our understanding of reintegration. By conducting a longitudinal, inductive, qualitative field study of how violators become reintegrated back into a military service academy following violations of organizational standards, I show that violations generate ruptures in violators’ sense of self-worth, support, and standing. Reintegration is the process by which violators repair their sense of self-worth, support, and standing. I show that reintegration does not simply return violators to a pre-violation state, as folk theory assumes; rather the process of reintegration creates a new “psychological contract” in the minds of the violators, specifying new expectations that the violators have of the organization. Some of these expectations are formal – expectations that are explicitly “promised” by the organization – while others are self-generated – expectations that are “filled in” by violators. I show that the extent to which violators feel reintegrated depends on the extent to which violators’ psychological contracts – comprising both formal and self-generated expectations – are fulfilled. When violators’ expectations are met and their psychological contracts are fulfilled, they feel repaired in their sense of self-worth, support, and standing, and more reintegrated over all. When violators’ expectations are not met and their psychological contracts are breached, violators feel unrepaired in their sense of self-worth, support, and standing, and they feel less reintegrated overall.
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