The effect of leader apology on leader avoidance of followers

Open Access
Cushenbery, Liliya
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
November 02, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Samuel Todd Hunter, Dissertation Advisor
  • Alicia Grandey, Committee Member
  • Rick R Jacobs, Committee Member
  • Stephen Erik Humphrey, Special Member
  • leadership
  • management
  • followers
  • recovery
  • mistake
  • failure
  • apology
  • justification
  • excuse
  • ignore
  • experiment
  • avoidance
Previous studies on the effectiveness of apologies have been mixed at best, but apology continues to be a popular strategy for recovering from mistakes. Apology may be especially important for leaders, who must continue to work with followers despite the effect that these mistakes can have on their relationships. Using Ren & Gray’s (2009) theoretical framework as a guide, this study examined the recovery methods that leaders choose after public and private mistakes and the resulting level of avoidance of their followers. A field sample of 278 leaders and a lab study of 92 participants in leadership roles suggest that leaders are more likely to apologize for mistakes that occur in public rather than in private contexts, and leaders who apologize are less likely to avoid their followers after the mistake. Furthermore, men were more likely than women to avoid followers after a mistake. The implications of these findings and the need to extend theory to include context and gender are also discussed.