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Affirming who I am: effects of intrinsic and extrinsic affirmations on responses to interpersonal offenses in the workplace

Mianlin Deng (Department of Psychology, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai, China)
Xiujun Li (Department of Psychology, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai, China)
Feng Wang (Department of Human Resources Management, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai, China)
Wendian Shi (Department of Psychology, Shanghai Normal University, Shanghai, China)

International Journal of Conflict Management

ISSN: 1044-4068

Article publication date: 23 June 2022

Issue publication date: 26 September 2022

397

Abstract

Purpose

Previous research has demonstrated that affirming an individual’s self-worth in intrinsic, stable aspects (e.g. personal attributes) enhances their pro-relationship tendencies, as compared to affirming extrinsic aspects of the individual (e.g. performance). This is especially so among people in certain dissatisfying relationships (e.g. romantic relationships). Extending this finding to organizational contexts, the purpose of this study is to investigate the effects of affirmation type (intrinsic vs extrinsic affirmations) on responses to workplace offenses among employees with high versus low job satisfaction.

Design/methodology/approach

Studies 1 (N = 224) and 2 (N = 358) examined the effects of intrinsic versus extrinsic affirmations on responses to hypothetical and real workplace offenses. Furthermore, to compare the effects of intrinsic and extrinsic affirmations to the baseline level, Study 3 (N = 441) added a control condition and examined the effects of affirmation type (intrinsic vs extrinsic vs control) on responses to workplace offenses.

Findings

For employees with low (but not high) job satisfaction, (1) intrinsic (vs extrinsic) affirmations promoted more prosocial responses (forgiveness and reconciliation) to workplace offenses; (2) although not as effective as intrinsic affirmations, extrinsic affirmations (vs baseline) also triggered prosocial intentions toward workplace offenses.

Originality/value

First, the study enriches the literature on workplace offenses by focusing on an individual-level factor – self-worth – that can be intervened (e.g. affirming one’s self-worth) by organizations and managers so as to promote prosocial responses to workplace offenses. Second, the study expands the scope of the self-affirmation theory in organizational contexts by examining the effectiveness of intrinsic and extrinsic affirmations in coping with workplace offenses. Third, practically speaking, the study provides a brief intervention (the writing task of describing an intrinsic or extrinsic affirmation experience) that can boost pro-relationships in the workplace.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation of China (grant number 31900780) and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (grant number 2019M661575).

Citation

Deng, M., Li, X., Wang, F. and Shi, W. (2022), "Affirming who I am: effects of intrinsic and extrinsic affirmations on responses to interpersonal offenses in the workplace", International Journal of Conflict Management, Vol. 33 No. 5, pp. 829-859. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJCMA-08-2021-0123

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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