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Workplace Expression of Emotions and Escalation of Commitment1


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    Study 1 was completed in partial fulfillment of a dissertation requirement. I would like to thank my advisor (Charles O'Reilly) and my reading committee members (Lara Tiedens and Maggie Neale) for their invaluable comments and suggestions regarding my work. I am grateful to Daniel Feldman, Melenie Lankau, Robert Hirschfeld, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on a previous draft of this manuscript.

Olivia A. O'Neill, who is now at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104. E-mail:


These studies examined the effects of expressions of anger and guilt in the workplace on escalation of commitment. Study 1 examined the relationship between employees' reports of coworkers' emotion expressions and continued investment in a poorly performing subordinate. Study 2 tested the effects of leader expressions of anger and guilt on continued investment in a failing project. Results of both studies demonstrate that expressions of anger lead to greater escalation of commitment, while expressions of guilt lead to de-escalation. Experimental results indicate that the effects of emotion expressions on escalation are strongest when individuals are collectively responsible for the initial decision, a finding that was mediated by feelings of psychological safety.