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Apologizing without Felt Transgression: An Investigation of its Affective and Reconciliation Consequences
Apologizing after having caused harm is important for forgiveness, reconciliation, and the future of relationships. However, individuals may also often find themselves apologizing in situations where they do not feel they transgressed. In this paper, we explore this phenomenon of apologizing without felt transgression along with its affective and reconciliation outcomes from the transgressor’s perspective. Using a micro-narrative procedure with full-time working professionals (N = 151, UK participants) and an inductive data analytic approach, in Study 1 we explore why such apologizing without felt transgression occurs in the workplace and the broad affective and reconciliation consequences of it. In Study 2 (N = 153, US participants), we provide an immersive workplace scenario and measure participants’ specific emotions of anger and empathy along with restorative efforts and supportive behaviors. We find converging evidence of worse affective and reconciliation outcomes from apologizing without felt transgression. As such, in contrast to the well-documented restorative potential of apologies for conflicts in the workplace, apologizing when one does not feel having transgressed can incite negative feelings and damage, rather than reconcile, relationships.