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Seminar: Compassion in discretion: Leveraging operations managers’ guilty conscience to mitigate suffering on the shop floor.

Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Addressing the pervasive problem of suffering on the shop floor, we investigate the impact of compassion and guilt in operations managers on their decision-making regarding the trade-off between decent working hours and traditional operational outcomes. While performance incentives and industry characteristics often force decision makers to sacrifice employee wellbeing for profit or productivity, operations managers also have discretion in this trade-off. Targeting this discretion, we follow management and organizational behavior theory suggesting that the emotions of such decision makers can significantly alter this decision-making. We first develop a theoretical model where both compassion and guilt lead to the prioritization of decent working hours, then expand our model across three studies. We test our hypotheses via a time-lagged cross-sectional survey of operations managers (N1 = 360) and two controlled, scenario-based vignette experiments (N2 = 987, N3 = 321). We not only confirm that both compassion and guilt influence the prioritization of decent working hours, but also find that when forced to feel guilty over situations with little discretion, decision makers actually de-prioritize worker wellbeing. In contrast, compassion fosters the prioritization of decent working hours through guilt but only when operations managers feel decision-making autonomy in the workplace. When operations managers feel both compassion for their workforce, and autonomy in their decisions, their emotions drive their decision-making. Thus, by encouraging managerial compassion and discretion, companies can foster decent working hours and mitigate suffering on the shop floor.

In het Mandeville building T-09-67 te volgen of online.


  • Emily Dickey (Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg)


Thomas Morelaan,
3062 PA Rotterdam