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Trainers’ responses to errors matter in trainees’ learning from errors: evidence from two studies

Bin Zhao (Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada)
Jürgen Seifried (Business School, University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany)
Jost Sieweke (Department of Management and Organisation, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 11 June 2018

Issue publication date: 10 July 2018




Learning from errors is important for employees, particularly at early stages of their career. The purpose of this paper is to examine the influence of perceived trainer responses to errors on trainee learning from errors in a workplace setting. In Study 1, the authors test a model that examines the associations between perceived trainer responses to errors and trainee learning from errors, which are mediated by affective-motivational adaptivity. In Study 2, the authors further hypothesize that the link between perceived trainer responses and affective-motivational adaptivity is moderated by perceived error climate.


The authors test the hypotheses using data from 213 Swiss apprentices (Study 1) and 1,012 German apprentices (Study 2) receiving dual vocational training.


Study 1 suggests that negative trainer reaction impedes trainee learning from errors by impairing trainees’ affective-motivational adaptability. Trainer tolerance of errors and trainer support following errors were not related to trainee learning from errors. Study 2 indicates that perceived error climate is an important boundary condition that affects the relationship between trainer responses and trainee learning from errors.


This study contributes to research on learning from errors in three ways. First, it enriches the understanding regarding the role of trainers in enhancing learning from errors in organizations. Second, it extends research on learning from errors by investigating the interaction effects between perceived trainer responses and error climate. Third, it refines knowledge about the role of positive affect in learning from errors. Findings of this study also offer practical insights to trainers and managers regarding what they should do to encourage trainee learning from errors.



This research project is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC-Standard Research Grant 410-2010-1490).


Zhao, B., Seifried, J. and Sieweke, J. (2018), "Trainers’ responses to errors matter in trainees’ learning from errors: evidence from two studies", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 33 No. 3, pp. 279-296.



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