Encouraging Upward Ethical Dissent in Organizations: The Role of Deference to Embodied Expertise

Ryan S. Bisel, Elissa Adame

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


This article demonstrates that when supervisors encourage subordinates to defer to their embodied expertise, subordinates are more likely to voice explicitly moralized upward dissent to an unethical business request. Working adults (N = 312) were randomly assigned to respond to an unethical business request from their boss in one of three scenarios that varied by how much the supervisor was known for encouraging deference to (a) embodied knowing, (b) intellectual reasoning, or (c) neither (i.e., a baseline control condition). Analyses revealed that participants were more than twice as likely to voice their private moral concerns explicitly with their boss when the supervisor was known for valuing subordinates’ embodied expertise (e.g., “going with your gut feelings”). In addition, participants also reported feeling significantly less communication anxiety in that same condition. Implications for leading organizational ethics conclude the article.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalManagement Communication Quarterly
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018


  • ERO theory
  • mum effect
  • organizational communication ethics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management


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