Co-workers’ perceptions of and reactions to employee’s involuntary demotion
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© 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited.
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to investigate how individuals perceive and react to the involuntary demotion of a co-worker in their organisation.
Design/methodology/approach: The authors draw on 46 semi-structured in-depth interviews (23 dyads) with co-workers of demoted individuals.
Findings: The findings suggest that an individual’s observation of the demotion of a co-worker has three stages: their perception of fairness, their emotional reaction and their behavioural reaction. The perception of fairness concerned issues of distributive, procedural, interpersonal and informational justice. The emotional responses identified were feelings of disappointment/disillusion, uncertainty, vulnerability and anger. Finally, the behavioural reactions triggered by their emotional responses included expressions of voice, loyalty, exit and adaptation.
Originality/value: Perceptions of (in)justice perpetrated on others stimulate emotional and behavioural responses, which impacts organisational functioning. Managers should therefore pay attention to the way a demotion is perceived, not only by those directly concerned, but also by co-workers as observers.
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