How Perceptions and Emotions Shaped Employee Silence in the Case of "Dr. Death" at Bundaberg Hospital
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Purpose: For over three decades, researchers have sought to identify factors influencing employees’ responses to wrongdoing in work settings, including organizational, contextual, and individual factors. In focusing predominantly on understanding whistle-blowing responses, however, researchers have tended to neglect inquiry into employees’ decisions to withhold concerns. The major purpose of this study was to explore the factors that influenced how staff members responded to a series of adverse events in a healthcare setting in Australia, with a particular focus on the role of perceptions and emotions. Methodology/approach: Based on publicly accessible transcripts taken from a government inquiry that followed the event, we employed a modified grounded theory approach to explore the nature of the adverse events and how employees responded emotionally and behaviorally; we focused in particular on how organizational and contextual factors shaped key employee perceptions and emotions encouraging silence. Findings: Our results revealed that staff members became aware of a range of adverse events over time and responded in a variety of ways, including disclosure to trusted others, confrontation, informal reporting, formal reporting, and external whistle-blowing. Based on this analysis, we developed a model of how organizational and contextual factors shape employee perceptions and emotions leading to employee silence in the face of wrongdoing. Research limitations/implications: Although limited to publicly available transcripts only, our findings provide support for the idea that perceptions and emotions play important roles in shaping employees’ responses to adverse events at work, and that decisions about whether to voice concerns about wrongdoing is an ongoing process, influenced by emotions, sensemaking, and critical events.
Emotions and Organizational Governance
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