When are Misdeed Committers Accepted as Advisors?

Ethics and Responsibility


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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

When are Misdeed Committers Accepted as Advisors?

People that made a severe mistake in the past sometimes feel the need to help others to avoid making these same mistakes. And indeed, one could say that people that have experienced the making of such a mistake themselves are in a way qualified to give good advices to other people.
In some cases the advices of misdeed committers are socially accepted. However, the advices of error-makers are often not accepted and disseminated. Rather, their words sometimes are met with charges of hypocrisy.

When is it socially acceptable to advice others based on your own errors? Conditions

Effron and Miller (2015) find that the likelihood that people will accept and listen to advice of someone who committed a misdeed increases if he/she is material suffering from his/her earlier misdeed. Examples of "MATERIALLY SUFFERING" are job losses, disease and losses of financial capital. What are the main causes for this?
  • RIGHT TO OFFER ADVICE: It was found that not accepting the advice of someone who has committed a misdeed does not always come from the fact that the wisdom of the misdeed committer is doubted. Rather, feelings of hypocrisy towards misdeed committers often results from the question whether the advisors have the right or legitimacy to offer such advices. Material suffering raises the perception that offering advice is legitimate and decreases the negative stands from advice-receivers. Besides, it also makes advice-givers more comfortable giving the advice.
  • COMPENSATING FOR INCONSISTENCIES: People do not like inconsistencies between what someone says and what he/she is doing (preaching). Suffering is in a way a punishment for failing to practice what someone is saying, and as such compensates for the inconsistency between words and deeds.
These are the 2 ways in which material suffering from misdeeds increases the likelihood that advice-receivers will accept the advice from those who committed a misdeed.
Source: Effron, D.A. and Miller, D.T. (2015) Do as I say, Not as Ive Done: Suffering for a Misdeed Reduces the Hypocrisy of Advising Others Against it Journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes Vol. 131 pp. 16-32

  Jaap de Jonge
Editor, Netherlands

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