Two Sides of the Same Coin: Punishment and Forgiveness in Organizational Contexts

Gijs van Houwelingen*, Marius van Dijke, Niek Hoogervorst, Lucas Meijs, D (David) De Cremer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Punishment and forgiveness are two very different responses to a moral transgression that both have been argued to restore perceptions of moral order within an organization. Unfortunately, it is currently unclear what motivates organizational actors to punish or forgive a norm transgressor. We build on social cognitive theory to argue that punishment and forgiveness of a transgressor are both rooted in self-regulatory processes. Specifically, we argue that organizational actors are more likely to respond to intentional transgressions with punishment, and to unintentional transgressions with forgiveness. However, these effects of transgressor intentionality should be found in particular among actors for whom moral identity is central (vs. peripheral). We find support for these predictions in a laboratory experiment and a field study among organizational leaders. By simultaneously studying punishment and forgiveness in organizational settings, we provide crucial insight in their shared motivational bases, as well as into important differences between the two.

Original languageEnglish
Article number908021
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2022 Van Houwelingen, Van Dijke, Hoogervorst, Meijs and De Cremer.


Dive into the research topics of 'Two Sides of the Same Coin: Punishment and Forgiveness in Organizational Contexts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this