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Managers at Risk: The Hidden Costs of Normatively Justified Harm Doing

Summary: In this article it is argued that the harm done to those who have lost their jobs due to downsizing is perceived as unjust by those who have suffered the loss. It is also argued that the decision-making, surviving managers are perceived by themselves and others as harm doers, and as such they suffer guilt feelings and harbor resentment and distrust toward the organization. These emotions and cognitions occur despite the fact that downsizing is normatively sanctioned by society.Guilt and other emotions follow normatively sanctioned decisions that harm others because there are two psychological processes associated with harm doing: one, a cognitive legal/logical one, and the there an almost automatic, intuitive, "humanistic" process.Typical defense mechanisms designed to mitigate feelings of guilt such as denial, redefining the event, and diffusing responsibility are shown to be ineffective. The most effective strategy is posited to be complete engagement of all who will be affected by the policy in the decision making and implementation relevant to that policy. Such a strategy reduces resentment in those harmed and maintains trust among the remaining participants.

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  • Topics:
  • Keywords: Decision making,Organizational design,Management styles,Downsizing
  • Author: Lerner, Melvin J.; Becker, Selwyn W.
  • Journal: Quality Management Journal