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2019 International Association for Conflict Management Conference

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Threat or Savior? Exploring How Gender and Legitimate Power Influence Retaliation against Moral Objectors

Keywords: Ethics, Morality, Gender, Conflict, Retaliation, Voice

Abstract: While generally encouraged by organizations, organizational members do not always respond positively to moral objection. Since moral objection is an agentic behavior that violates communal role expectations, women may be particularly likely to face retaliation. While some research suggests that increases in legitimate power may shield women from retaliation, other scholars have suggested that legitimate power does little to protect women. We test these competing theoretical predictions by exploring and elucidating a negativity bias towards individuals who break communal role expectations -- derived either from their gender or legitimate power. In doing so, we demonstrate that while men who morally object face less retaliation as they increase in legitimate power, women are likely to face similar levels of retaliation regardless of their legitimate power. Additionally, we suggest and find that this is because moral objectors who violate communal expectations are viewed as threatening to the organization.

Timothy Kundro, Wharton

Nancy Rothbard, Wharton


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