Reporting Self-Made Errors: The Impact of Organizational Error-Management Climate and Error Type
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- Gronewold, U., Gold, A. & Salterio, S.E. J Bus Ethics (2013) 117: 189. doi:10.1007/s10551-012-1500-6
We study how an organization’s error-management climate affects organizational members’ beliefs about other members’ willingness to report errors that they discover when chance of error detection by superiors and others is extremely low. An error-management climate, as a component of the organizational climate, is said to be “high” when errors are accepted as part of everyday life as long as they are learned from and not repeated. Alternatively, the error-management climate is said to be an “error averse” climate when discovery of errors invokes the laying of blame on those admitting to or found committing errors. We examine the effects of this error-management climate in a professional services environment where uncorrected errors may have severe consequences and discovery of work errors is crucial for organizational success. We find that error-management climate affects organizational members’ beliefs about what other members will report about discovered self-made errors, with a high error-management (versus error averse) climate leading to greater reporting willingness. We also find a significant interaction with a key contextual variable, error type (conceptual or calculation), that suggests the effect is more significant for conceptual errors than calculation errors. Our findings suggest that an organization’s error-management climate is an important factor in promoting ethical behavior of employees, especially junior employees, carrying out routine tasks whose failure to report errors discovered incidental to those tasks may have severe implications for their organizations.