The Things I Will Do For You: Investigating Gratitude's Effects on Prosocial Rule Breaking Willingness in Supervisor - Subordinate Relationships
Jennifer A Harrison
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Relationship-based gratitude (RBG), defined broadly as feelings of appreciation in relationships (Gordon, Impett, Kogan, Oveis, & Keltner, 2012), has been found to influence prosocial behaviours, or actions intended to benefit the parties of a relationship (e.g., Algoe, 2012; Algoe, Gable, & Maisel, 2010). Yet, little is known about the darker side of gratitude's prosocial action tendencies in relationships, particularly from the perspective of the organization, in the form of breaking rules to help another person, or prosocial rule breaking. This dissertation sought to address this limitation by investigating whether RBG leads to prosocial rule breaking willingness in supervisor-subordinate relationships. This dissertation draws on the Risk Regulation Framework (Murray, Holmes, & Collins, 2006) to shed light on how RBG functions in perhaps darker ways in supervisor-subordinate relationships. This theory suggests that gratitude can trigger a relationship-promotion path of behavioural regulation and a willingness to break organizational rules when faced with the opportunity to help the other party. Study 1 was a laboratory experiment of working professionals who were asked to complete a vignette task. The results suggest that manipulated RBG influenced rule breaking willingness for one's supervisor. In Study 2, the effects of Study 1 were replicated in a field study with existing supervisor-subordinate relationships by manipulating RBG and measuring rule breaking willingness at different points in time. In addition, a theoretically relevant moderator, moral disengagement, defined as a person's propensity to rationalize unethical behaviour (Bandura, 1990), was tested for influencing the relationship-promoting effects of RBG on rule breaking willingness. Overall, the results of Study 1 and Study 2 lend support to the notion that RBG's relationship-promoting effects can evoke a willingness to break organizational rules in supervisor-subordinate relationships.