Skip to main content

Please enter a keyword and click the arrow to search the site

When saying sorry may not help: transgressor power moderates the effect of an apology on forgiveness in the workplace


Human Relations


Organisational Behaviour

Authors / Editors

Zheng X;van Dijke M;Leuniissen J M;Giurge L M;De Cremer D

Publication Year



An apology, as an expression of remorse, can be an effective response from a transgressor to obtain forgiveness from a victim. Yet, to be effective, the victim should not construe the transgressor’s actions in a cynical way. Because low-power people tend to interpret the actions of high-power people in a cynical way, we argue that an apology (versus no apology) from high-power transgressors should be relatively ineffective in increasing forgiveness from low-power victims. We find support for this moderated mediation model in a critical incidents study (Study 1), a forced recall study (Study 2) among employees from various organizations and a controlled laboratory experiment among business students (Study 3). These studies reveal the limited value of expressions of remorse by high-power people in promoting forgiveness.


Apology; Cynicism; Forgiveness; Power; Remorse

Available on ECCH


Select up to 4 programmes to compare

Select one more to compare
subscribe_image_desktop 5949B9BFE33243D782D1C7A17E3345D0

Sign up to receive our latest news and business thinking direct to your inbox


Sign up to receive our latest course information and business thinking

Leave your details above if you would like to receive emails containing the latest thought leadership, invitations to events and news about courses that could enhance your career. If you would prefer not to receive our emails, you can still access the case study by clicking the button below. You can opt-out of receiving our emails at any time by visiting: or by unsubscribing through the link provided in our emails. View our Privacy Policy for more information on your rights.