Self-perceived misattributed culpability or incompetence at work

Robin Stanley SNELL*, Almaz Man-kuen CHAK, May Mei-ling WONG, Sandy Suk-kwan HUI

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Employees with self-perceived misattributed culpability or incompetence (SMCI) are on the receiving end of complaints, reprimands, or accusations which, from their perspective, incorrectly assume that that they have fallen short of required standards or outcomes. We analyzed an archive of 23 personal stories featuring SMCI, which had been provided by 16 Hong Kong Chinese employees. The stories indicated that the most severe impacts on employee morale had arisen from punitive and targeted feedback based on misrepresentations by superiors, who had engaged in blame deflection, politicking and manipulation, conflict and retaliation, and/or prejudice and stereotyping. We also identified organizational processes, such as soliciting and accepting voice and engaging in problem solving discussions that could attenuate any adverse emotional impact.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalAsian Journal of Business Ethics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

The research was funded by a Competitive Earmarked Research Grant LU 3013/02H from the Hong Kong University Grants Committee.


  • Misattributed culpability
  • Misattributed incompetence
  • Organizational justice

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