The Response to Guilt

Rachel Møller Nissen & Teresa Ngoc Thao Nguyen

Student thesis: Master thesis

Abstract

In a complex world organizations are dependent on their human resources to reinforce their competitiveness and position. In recent years many have tried to gain insight into how psychology is involved in economic models in order to explain and predict behavior. Behavioral economics consists of an interdisciplin between economy and psychology that seeks to understand an individual’s ability to make rational choices when feelings are involved. The purpose of this Master Thesis is to examine how the moral sentiment of guilt can be used as a tool to compliance in the relationship between the principal (topleader) and the agent (mid-level leader) within the public sector. This thesis seeks to identify how guilt can have a motivational effect as it can lead to compliance due to prosocial behavior, learning and social status. Lastly, the mid-level leaders are generally challenged hence they are pressured from both above (top leaders and organizational goals) and beneath (employees). We base our findings on the theory of critical realism. In order to examine the main purpose of our thesis, we apply a mixed method design with both quantitative and qualitative methods. The analysis of the primary data, which is the quantitative questionnaires, shows that midlevel leaders with less than 7 years of experience react stronger to guilt by learning, more so than leaders with more than 8 years of experience. Furthermore there is no statistical evidence in terms of mid-level leaders reaction to guilt depending on age. Last, we find support in relation to our third hypothesis, which points out that mid-level leaders with over 23 employees react to prosocial behavior. The secondary data which is the qualitative interviews presented that the positive effect of guilt is learning and prosocial behavior. The final results reveal that it is not possible for the human being to distinguish between guilt and shame in the organizational life. Finally as a consequence, the individual will be more prone to experience low self esteem and depression.

EducationsMSc in Psychology, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
LanguageDanish
Publication date2019
Number of pages125
SupervisorsCamilla Sløk