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"The good news about bad news": Information about Past Organizational Failure and Its Impact on Worker Productivity

Failure in organizations is very common. Little is known about whether leaders should provide information about past organizational failure to followers and how this might affect their future performance. We conducted a field experiment in which we recruited temporary workers to carry out a phone campaign to attract new volunteers and randomly assigned them to either receive or not to receive information about a failed mail campaign pursuing the same goal. We find that informed workers performed better, regardless of whether they had previously worked on the failed mail campaign or not. Evidence from a second field experiment with students asked to support voluntarily a campaign for reducing food waste corroborates the finding. We explore the role of leadership tactics behind our findings in a third online survey experiment. We conclude that information about past failure is unlikely to have a negative impact on work performance, and might even lead to performance improvement. Implications for future research on the relevance of leadership tactics when giving such information are discussed.

15. June 2021

Authors Sabrina Jeworrek Vanessa Mertins Michael Vlassopoulos

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