Examining employees’ interpersonal relationships with their colleagues may contribute to explaining their professional life, and enhancing their happiness and subjective well-being, as past researches support (Aldrup, Klusmann, & Lüdtke, 2017; Aspinwall & Staudinger, 2003; Diener, Lucas, & Oishi, 2005; Seligman, 2002, 2005). Investigating, specially, their perceptions of the interpersonal relationships may help understand their professional and emotional lives and development, since happy workers and people are those who report fulfilling relationships (Buss, 2005; Claessens, Van Tartwijk, Van der Want, Pennings, Verloop, Den Brok, & Wubbels, 2017; Diener, 2000; Diener & Seligman, 2002; Fletcher & Thomas, 1996; Lucas, Dyrenforth, & Diener, 2008; Saphire-Bernstein & Taylor, 2013). Further, focusing on employees’ attributions for their interpersonal relationships with their professional colleagues may be important for understanding work and relationship behavior, and it may explain how these relations can develop and sustain (Fincham, 2001, 2003; Fitness, Fletcher, & Overall, 2005; Karney, McNulty, & Bradbury, 2003; Schunk & Zimmerman, 2006; Trope & Guant, 2005; Wang & Hall, 2018).
In education, the high quality of the wide variety of the interpersonal relationships, such as teacher and students, teachers and parents, school leaders and teachers, and teachers and their colleagues, are considered essential for the healthy development of teachers and students (Martin, 2014; Pennings, Brekelmans, Sadler, Claessens, van der Want, & van Tartwijk, 2018; Stephanou & Athanasiadou, 2020; Wubbels, Brekelmans, den Brok, Levy, Mainhard, & van Tartwijk, 2012). Further, positive relations among teachers are estimated as an important element of school functioning, and a potential source of school improvement (Moolenaar, Daly, Sleegers, & Karsten, 2014). However, although the high importance of the interpersonal relationships in education has been widely recognized, from a variety of perspectives, most of the existence literature devoted to studying the teacher-student relationship and its consequences on student outcomes, while the interpersonal relationships of teachers with their teaching colleagues have been hardly investigated (Friedman, 2000; Martin & Collie, 2019; Kyriacou, 2001; Pennings et al., 2018; Van Maele, Moolenaar, & Daly, 2015; Veldman, Van Tartwijk, Brekelmans, & Wubbels, 2013; Zandvliet, den Brok, Mainhard, & van Tartwijk, 2014).
Therefore, this study focuses on the teachers’ intuitive and attributional appraisals of their interpersonal relationships with their colleagues, since both appraisals have been central constructs in research in social and close interpersonal relationships and contribute into development and quality of these relationships (Collins, Ford, Guichard, & Allard, 2006; Fincham, 2003; Greitemeyer & Weiner, 2003; Harvey, 1987; Harvey & Omarzu, 1999; Harvey, Pauwels, & Zickmund, 2005; Karney et al., 2003; Stephanou, 2012; Stephanou & Athanasiadou, 2020; Wee, 2017; Weiner, 2014). Whether partners perceive their relationship as positive or negative, and which explanations or interpretations they make about a given relationship influence their emotions, motivation and behaviour (Blascovich & Mandess, 2000; Fincham, 2003; Fitness, Fletcher, & Overall, 2005; Fletcher, Fitness, & Blampied, 1990; Fletcher & Thomas, 2000; van Doorn, van Kleef, & van der Pligt, 2015; Wang & Hall, 2018). For example, attributing a good interpersonal relationship to self-internal factors leads to the emotions of confidence and pride, whereas external attributions are related to positive behaviors, such as help seeking, or negative responses, such as helplessness, avoidance and lack of persistence. On the contrarily, attributing a bad interpersonal relationship to inadequate self-factors predicts incompetence, shame, guilt and resignation, whereas attributing unsuccessful events to others causes aggression and vindictiveness (Fincham, 2003; Fitness et al., 2005).
This investigation also encompasses individual differences in interpersonal relationships because such factors, as a component of the cognitive schemas individuals develop of themselves and others, influence how they feel, cognitively interpret, and behave in relational situations, particularly in negative or ambiguous situations (Demir, 2008; Schoebi & Randall, 2015; Timmermans, Van Mechelen, & Kuppens, 2010). Forgiveness in interpersonal interactions is considered as an important source of “maintain relatedness with fellow humans in the face of being harmed by them” (Fincham et al., 2005). To maintain a positive relationship, it seems dysfunctional to hold the transgressor entirely responsible for an offense. Based on Lichtenfeld, Maier, Buechner and Fernández-Capo’s (2019) argument, forgiveness should lead to a change in causal attributions toward the offender. Further, forgiveness is one of the constructive ways of moderating workplace conflict and encouraging more positive cooperative behaviors (Butler & Mullis, 2001), and of repairing broken relationships with work colleagues and overcoming debilitating thoughts and emotions resulting from interpersonal injury (Aquino, Grover, Goldman, & Folger, 2003). Also, forgiveness is positively related to functioning at work (Thompson & Shahen, 2003). However, there is a limited research in forgiveness within the workplace and organizations, particularly in education (Aquino, Tripp, & Bies, 2001; Aquino et al., 2003; Boonyarit, Chuawanleeb, Macaskillc, & Supparerkchaisakul, 2013; Cameron & Caza, 2002). Therefore, this study examines the role of forgiveness in the cognitive appraisals of interpersonal relationships. Accurately, this investigation deals with trait forgiveness or forgivingness which is a general disposition to forgive one’s trespassers over time and across various situations (Berry, Worthington, Parrott, O’Connor, & Wade, 2001), expanding from past researches on situational forgiveness, which happens after a specific or certain offense. The dispositional perspective of forgiveness is also based on the increasing research interest in forgivingness, which conceivably is more powerful predictor of long-term behavioral patterns. In consistency with the conceptualization of forgiveness by Thompson, Snyder, Hoffman, Michael, Rasmussen et al. (2005), this study also differentiates forgiveness of self, of situations and of other, and it does not consider forgiveness merely as a global construct.
Also, as employees enter into interpersonal interactions or relationships with their colleagues, their work experience and life experiences affect how they interact with the colleagues and how they construe their psychosocial world at workplace (Kalish & Robins, 2006; Moolenaar et al., 2014). This study involves life satisfaction and work satisfaction which, involving emotional states, feelings, affective responses, and cognitive evaluations of work (Irving & Montes, 2009), are related to the need for relationship and work interpersonal relationships (Hombrados-Mendieta & Cosano-Rivas, 2013; Stephanou, Gkavras, & Doulkeridou, 2013; Unanue, Gómez, Cortez, Oyanedel, & Mendiburo-Seguel, 2017). Accurately, based on the Bérubé, Donia, Gagné, Houlfort, and Koestner’ (2007) conceptualization of work satisfaction, the present investigation focuses on the cognitive appraisal of a person’s work situation rather than on specific job satisfaction. This approach is in consistency to Diener, Emmons, Larsen and Griffin’ (1985) notion of life satisfaction which refers to people’s conscious evaluative judgments of their lives using their own personal criteria. This approach to satisfaction is also considered the most appropriate for the present study, since the target group consists of employees with a certain teaching career in the certain domain of education (Bérubé, Donia, Gagné, Houlfort, & Lvina, 2016).
Conclusively, the present research extends existing empirical work on employees’ interpersonal relationships with their colleagues by focusing on the cognitive appraisals of these relationships and the role of dispositional forgiveness on the cognitive processes. The possible effects of life satisfaction and work satisfaction on the above appraisals were also examined.
1.1. Intuitive and Attributional Appraisals of Interpersonal Relationships
Theories on intimate relationships conceptualize how interdependent actions and their appraisal shape affective experience and related relationship behaviors (Schoebi & Randall, 2015). The theoretical basis of this study is the Weiner’s (2001, 2010, 2014) attribution theory which, incorporating cognitive appraisals, contributes to understanding interpersonal relationships (Fincham, 2003; Fitness et al., 2005; Schunk & Zimmerman, 2006; Stephanou, 2012; Wang & Hall, 2018). Weiner’s (1992, 2001, 2010, 2014) attribution theory is a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding motivation for achievement outcomes from the intrapersonal perspective, which refers to the attributions individuals make for their performance, and from the interpersonal perspective, which concerns the attributions made for outcomes experienced by others, and how perceptions of another’s responsibility for an outcome contributes to other-directed emotions (gratitude, sympathy, anger) and behaviors (punishment, support) (Fincham, 2003; Schunk & Zimmerman, 2006; Wang & Hall, 2018).
Individuals appraise an interpersonal relationship by evaluating and by attributing causes (Fincham, 2001; Leary, 2000; Smith & Lazarus, 1990; Trope & Gaunt, 2005; Schoebi & Randall, 2015). The appraisals reflect what the stimulus-relationship-means to the individual and whether it is good or bad (Fincham, 2003; Fitness et al., 2005). The valence of an event has an impact on the initial emotional response, such as a negative event produce happiness, while the negative one is linked to frustration and sadness, but the perceived dimensions underlying the causes of the event determine the specific affect experienced (Fincham, 2003; Weiner, 2014).
An interpersonal relationship could be attributed to infinite number of factors, but self, other person, situation, environment, self-other person interaction, and relationship itself are the dominant causes in describing positive and negative relationships (Argyle, 2001; Erber & Gilmour, 1995; Planalp & Rivers, 1996; Stephanou, 2012). However, as above mentioned, the causes per se are not crucial, as the location of the causes on attributional dimensions which have psychological and behavioral consequences which have psychological and behavioral consequences (Argyle, 2001; Berscheid & Ammazzalorso, 2003; Fletcher & Thomas, 2000; McAuley, Duncan, & Russell, 1992; Weiner, 2002, 2005). In Weiner’s (2002, 2014) theory, attributions are categorized into causal dimensions of locus of causality (internal/external to the person), stability (stable/unstable over time) and controllability (personal and external controllable/uncontrollable).
Findings to date have shown that the perceived quality of the relationship has an impact on the attributional pattern (Fiedler, Semin, Finkenauer, & Berkel, 1995; Fincham, 2003; Macnow, 2019). Specifically, partners exhibit self-enhancing and self-saving biases (Dix & Grusec, 1985), when making attributions for positive and negative interpersonal relationships or the other’s behavior. Specifically, individuals tend to attribute the positive interpersonal relationships to themselves (internal, stable, personal controllable, and external uncontrollable), and the negative relationships to the partner- and situational-related factors (Fitness et al., 2005; Gagné & Lydon, 2004; Stephanou, 2005, 2011; Stephanou & Athanasiadou, 2020; Weiner, 2001, 2002; Ybarra & Stephan, 1999). However, according to some theorists, although the attributional biases of partner, has been repeatedly found in different relationship situations (Fincham, 1985; Macnow, 2019), this bias may have affect satisfaction in relationships, or it could serve as a secondary indicator that the relationship is already distressed. Specifically, the more negative the interpersonal relationship the more the attributions to the other person’s constant negative properties (Argyle, 2001; Gilbert & Malone, 1995; Hewstone & Antaki, 2001; Williams & Gilmore, 2008). Gottman (1994: p. 184), examining what makes marital conflict dysfunctional supports “the response to one’s partner with criticism, disgust, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling”, which the one influences the other in that row.
As above mentioned, the research in education regarding teachers’ appraisals for their relationships with the teaching colleagues is extremely limited. The vast majority of studies in teachers’ interpersonal attributions have devoted to student achievement- and social-related behavior. The existence research in the field indicates that teachers tend to attribute a student failure to factors internal to the student (e.g., student ability, effort) or family influences than teacher- and school-related issues as well as they make internal to the students and stable attributions when explaining performance that matches their own original expectations toward the students (ability, consistent effort, student personality). In the case of success, although teachers take responsibility for student success (e.g., instructional quality), they, at the same time, give credit to students’ positive proprieties (e.g., student ability, effort) (see Wang & Hall, 2018 for a review). Stephanou and Athanasiadou (2020), examining teacher-student interpersonal relationships from the teachers’ perspective, revealed that the positive interpersonal relationships were predominately attributed to stable, personally controllable and self-student controllable factors, whereas the negative interpersonal relationships were in the most attributed to external, external controllable, unstable, and self-student controllable factors.
In sum, both empirical and theoretical work in attributions for interpersonal relationships support that the belief that a person—teacher—has about the causes of his/her interpersonal relationship influences his/her emotions for the partner—colleague—and his/her expectations for the quality of the relationship in the future (Fletcher, 2002; Siemer, Mauss, & Gross 2007; Stephanou, 2011; Wang & Hall, 2018; Weiner, 2001, 2014). Then, emotions and expectations influence the individual’s actual behavior toward the partner, and the relationship itself (Fincham, 2003; Fletcher & Clark, 2002; Fletcher & Thomas, 2000; Weiner, 2001, 2014). However, although all attributional dimensions are related to emotions for the partner’s (student) behavior and the relationship itself, their prevalence differs across the various emotions (Berndsen & Manstead, 2007; Weiner, 2005, 2006, 2014). Precisely, stability most impact on performance expectations and the emotions of hopefulness/hopelessness, controllability affects perceptions of personal responsibility and the social-related emotions, such as shame, anger and gratitude, while locus of causality mainly influences perceptions of personal competence and the self-related emotions, such as pride in success.
1.2. Association of Forgiveness with Cognitive Appraisals of Interpersonal Relationships
This study, extending previous studies on forgiveness after a specific offense, is interested in trait forgiveness, or forgivingness (Roberts, 1995), which is the global disposition to forgive across multiple offences occurring in a variety of relationships and interpersonal situations. Furthermore, expanding from the majority of research which has focused on forgiveness of another person for a specific transgression (Kaleta & Mroz, 2018; Webb, Bumgarner, Conway-Williams, Dangel, & Hall, 2017), the current study, in consistency with Thompson et al. (2005), conceptualizes forgiveness as a multidimensional construct composed of forgiveness of self, others, and situations beyond anyone’s control. Forgiveness is distinct from other related constructs, such as condoning, excusing and forgetting, as well as it differs from the various defense mechanisms, such as denial, dissociation and repression (see Freedman & Zarifkar, 2016 for a review).
The existence research has documented the beneficial role of forgiveness to various aspects of one’s life. High level of forgiveness is associated with benefits in anxiety and depression (Freedman & Enright, 1996; Reed & Enright, 2006; Rye & Pargament, 2002), and in physical, mental health and well-being (Berry & Worthington, 2001; Fincham et al., 2005; Lawler-Row & Piferi, 2006; Lawler-Row, Younger, Piferi, Jobe, Edmondson, & Jone, 2005; Thoresen, Harris, & Luskin, 2000; Toussaint, Shields, Dorn, & Slavich, 2016a; Witvliet, Phipps, Feldman, & Beckham, 2004). Forgiveness is also positively related to optimism, hope and gratitude (Hill & Allemand, 2010; Rye, Loaicono, Folck, Olszewski, Heim, & Madia, 2001; Szcześniak & Soares, 2011; Toussaint & Friedman, 2009; Wohl, DeShea, & Wahkinney, 2008), and to personality traits of agreeableness, extraversion and conscientiousness (Balliet, 2010; Brose, Rye, Lutz-Zois, & Ross, 2005), while it is negatively linked to neuroticism (Fehr, Gelfand, & Nag, 2010).
Similarly, several studies have revealed the link between forgiveness and high quality of close relationships (Fincham, Beach, & Davila, 2004), improved marital quality (Fincham & Beach, 2007), ongoing relationships (Rusbult, Arriaga, & Agnew, 2003), interpersonal adjustment (Tse & Yip, 2009) and restoring a social relationship (Raj & Wiltermuth, 2016; Tsang, McCullough, & Fincham, 2006).
The existence empirical evidence in organizational research indicates that forgiveness is related to better health and personal well-being at the organizational level, and it contributes to a more fulfilling workplace climate (Mróz & Kaleta, 2019; Stone, 2002; Thompson & Shahen, 2003). The organizational research, however, has mostly focused on revenge as a response to interpersonal offenses (Bies & Tripp, 1997; Skarlicki & Folger, 1997; Tripp & Bies, 1997), while there is a limited amount of research in forgiveness within the workplace (Aquino et al., 2001; Boonyarit et al., 2013; Bradfield & Aquino, 1999; Toussaint et al., 2016b).
As above mentioned, forgiveness has been found to increase the likelihood of quality of interpersonal relationships. Forgiveness becomes an essential consideration in the workplace context, where long term interpersonal relationships develop, and where an employee—teacher—who have been seriously harmed by a working colleague often have to continue interacting as a requirement of their jobs. Workers who forgive overcome debilitating thoughts and emotions resulting from interpersonal injury and are likely to repair damaged relationships with their colleagues (Aquino et al., 2001; Thompson et al., 2005).
Forgiveness has been linked to attributions that impact intimate relationships (Bell, Kamble, & Fincham, 2018; Friesen, Fletcher, & Overall, 2005; Lichtenfeld et al., 2019). Forgiveness and attributions have been examined previously as they relate to marital quality (Bell et al., 2018; Fincham, 2001). The existent empirical work reports the influential role of attributions in forgiveness in romantic relationships (Fincham, Paleari, & Regalia, 2002; Friesen et al., 2005; Hall & Fincham, 2006), and reveals the negative impact of the responsibility attributions on forgiveness (Bradfield & Aquino, 1999; Fehr et al., 2010; McCullough, Fincham, & Tsang, 2003). Fincham et al. (2002) found that, in married couples, forgiveness was directly and indirectly related to responsibility attributions via affective reactions and empathy. Also, greater perceptions of partner responsibility for transgressions were related to less forgiveness, and less-blaming male partners had more-forgiving female partners (Friesen et al., 2005). Similarly, in a sample of adult workers, Iwai and Carvalho (2020) revealed that attributions of behavioral stability to the offender play a mediating role in the relationship between implicit theories and forgiveness, while stability attributions do not decrease the victims’ desires to seek revenge against offenders. Generally, attributions may impact on explaining an event—causal attributions—or assigning accountability—responsibility attributions—for an event (Fincham, 2001).
In sum, attributions have been more widely considered as distinct construct affecting the forgiveness process rather than as features of it (Lichtenfeld et al., 2019). A limited amount of studies or theoretical models have ever considered the reciprocity of this relationship and examined if forgiveness predicts a victim’s attributions. For example, a study by Wenzel, Turner and Okimoto (2010) examined the effect of forgiveness on attributions via a longitudinal study. However, in this study, only the effect of forgiveness on attributions of severity, but not on responsibility attributions, were found. Hall and Fincham (2005) have proposed that self-forgiveness originate from shame and guilt that are caused by attributions and the severity of the transgressions. They further argued that guilt and conciliatory behaviours toward a victim and perceived forgiveness may facilitate or inhibit self-forgiveness.
Overall, both empirical and theoretical work suggests a relationship between attributions and forgiveness. However, it is not clear whether or not forgivingness precedes, results from, or merely correlates with attributions. This study expands findings and supports that attributions for the work interpersonal relationships are resulted from the employee’s disposition to forgive. It could be hypothesized that if a working teacher forgives a colleague or self or situation it seems adaptive to change his/her attributions about the event accordingly and serve the evolutionary goal of forgiveness to reestablish the relationship. Probably, a high-forgiving teacher attributes the negative interpersonal relationships to external, unstable and specific factors instead of internal, stable and global factors.
1.3. Association of Life Satisfaction and Work Satisfaction with Cognitive Appraisals of Interpersonal Relationships and Forgiveness
Life satisfaction refers to the judgment that an individual does about his/her life in several domains (Diener, Inglehart, & Tay, 2013; Diener & Tay, 2012), and it is rather a cognitive than a simple report of one’s feeling state, leading some researchers to label it “cognitive well-being” (Luhmann, Hofmann, Eid, & Lucas, 2012). Diener (1994) considers satisfaction to represent the cognitive component of one’s well-being, and affect to represent its emotional counterpart, while, according to Helliwell, Layard and Sachs (2013), life satisfaction is a significant contributor to subjective well-being. Similarly, work satisfaction refers to cognitive appraisal of a person’s work (Bérubé et al., 2016), and it differs from job satisfaction which refers to the employees’ feelings and thoughts about their specific work (Irving & Montes, 2009; Weiss, 2002). This research, in consistency with life satisfaction, and, considering that the participants have a certain career in the certain domain of education, focuses on work satisfaction. In the literature, job satisfaction and work satisfaction have been indiscriminately used each other.
Life satisfaction is positively related to several desirable companies’ results, such as career satisfaction, organizational commitment and, particularly, job satisfaction (Diener & Tay, 2012). Similarly, job satisfaction is a beneficious to various organization-related factors, such as job performance, work engagement and organizational citizenship behavior, and to life satisfaction (Erdogan, Bauer, Truxillo, & Mansfield, 2012; Heller, Judge, & Watson, 2002; Judge & Bono, 2001; Mafini & Pooe, 2013; Swaminathan & Jawahar, 2013), while it is inversely associated within underproductive, interpersonal and organizational behaviors (Mount, Ilies, & Johnson, 2006). Past researches in the working context of education evident that satisfied teachers display high levels of job commitment, are less at risk of leaving the profession (Gersten, 2001; Reeve & Su, 2014; Singh & Billingsley, 1996; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2011), experience low level of occupational stress (Klassen & Chiu, 2010; Van Houtte, 2006) and experience positive emotions for their work context (Stephanou et al., 2013).
Positive social and interpersonal relationships in workplace are beneficial for workers (Gagne, 2018; Kaleta & Mróz, 2018; Szostek, 2019). For example, Hombrados-Mendieta and Cosano-Rivas (2013) show that workplace support protects job satisfaction and life satisfaction against the negative effects of burnout, while Di Fabio and Kenny (2016) note that the need for relationship and the need for self-determination are significant contributors to workers’ well-being. Further indication that both constructs are associated with work interpersonal relationships comes from Unanue et al. (2017), underlying the impact of psychological needs as stated by self-determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2000) on the life-job satisfaction link. Similarly, interpersonal relationships in a key element in the work of teachers (Van Droogenbroeck, Spruyt, & Vanroelen, 2014). More precisely, working teachers’ positive relationships with co-workers, parents, and students mitigates some of the adverse effects of teaching work (Cano-García, Padilla-Muñoz, & Carrasco-Ortiz, 2005; Gavish & Friedman, 2010; Skaalvik & Skaalvik, 2011), and it is a key variable influencing their job satisfaction (Ghenghesh, 2013; Hargreaves, 2000; Luthans, 2005; Veldman et al., 2013), while the problematic teacher-student relationships are associated with teacher work stress and negative emotions (Friedman, 2006; Yoon, 2002).
However, it is not unclearly whether or not life or work satisfaction precedes, results from, or merely correlates with work interpersonal relationships, and the subsequent appraisal. Life satisfaction and work satisfaction, involving cognitive evaluation proceeds, might influence colleaguing interpersonal relationships and the appraisals of these relationships in an adaptive way. Besides, life and work experiences affect how employees interact with the colleagues and how they enter into interpersonal relationships with them (Moolenaar et al., 2014).
The association of forgiveness with life and work satisfaction beyond the aim of this study. However, it is mentioned that dispositional forgiveness is positively correlated to life satisfaction (Allemand, Hill, Ghaemmaghami, & Martin, 2012; Ayten & Ferhan, 2016; Szcześniak & Soares, 2011) and job satisfaction (Cox, 2011; Mróz & Kaleta, 2019). Further, forgiveness could enable an individual to maintain relation and leads to life satisfaction (Kaleta & Mróz, 2018). Also, Guchait, Madera and Dawson (2016) found that employees who perceived their organization to be forgiving of mistakes, errors, and offences were less likely to leave their jobs, and more likely to be connected to their organization and be satisfied with their job.
1.4. Aim and Hypotheses of the Study
The main aim of the present study was the examination of the employees’ attributions for their subjectively perceived interpersonal relationships with their colleagues as best or worst, and the role of dispositional forgiveness (self, other, situations) in the generation of the perceived interpersonal relationships as best or worst and the subsequent attributions. The possible effects of life satisfaction and work satisfaction in the above interpersonal relationships and in the subsequent attributions were also examined.
Based on the above literature review, the hypotheses of the study were the following.
The subjectively estimated interpersonal relationships as best will be in the main attributed to self-related factors (internal, personally controllable, stable), whereas the perceived interpersonal relationships as worst will be most ascribed to colleague-related or external factors (Hypothesis 1a). The group with the best interpersonal relationships will be predominately discriminated from the group with the worst interpersonal relationships by the attributional dimension of locus of causality than by the rest of the attributional dimensions (Hypothesis 1b).
Forgiveness, life satisfaction and work satisfaction, as a group, will have positive effect on the formulation of the estimated interpersonal relationships as best and worst but their influential power will vary between and within the best and the worst interpersonal relationships, with life satisfaction being the least favouring (Hypothesis 2a). Forgiveness (self, other, situation) will contribute into the generation of the best and the worst interpersonal relationships (Hypothesis 2b), while the valence of the prediction of forgiveness of self, forgiveness of other and forgiveness of situations will vary between and within the perceived best or worst interpersonal relationships, with forgiveness of other exhibiting the highest prediction (Hypothesis 2c).
Forgiveness, life satisfaction and work satisfaction, in combination, will explain an amount of the variance of the attributions for the best and worst interpersonal relationships (Hypothesis 3a). Forgiveness (self, other, situation) will contribute into the generation of an adaptive attributional pattern for the best and worst interpersonal relationships (Hypothesis 3b). The valence of the prediction of forgiveness of self, forgiveness of other and forgiveness of situations will vary between and within the attributional dimensions for the perceived best and worst interpersonal relationships (Hypothesis 3c). Forgiveness of self, forgiveness of situations and forgiveness of other will be a beneficial contributor most to locus of causality, external controllability and colleagues’ locus of causality respectively than to any other attributional dimension (Hypothesis 3d).
Both life satisfaction and work satisfaction will be beneficiary factors to the formulation of the attributions for the perceived best and worst interpersonal relationships but their predictive role will differ across and within attributional dimensions (Hypothesis 4).
The participants were 200 in service teachers who were recruited from 30 state secondary schools from various regions of Greece. They were of both genders (98 males, 102 females), aged from 29 to 60 years, and they had working experience from 2 to 28 years with balance among years of teaching experience. All respondents had been working at the current organization—school—for at least 2 years, and they teach various subjects, such as literature, mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, physical education, sociology and technology.
2.2.1. Perceived Quality of Interpersonal Relationships
The employees’ subjective evaluation of the quality of their interpersonal relationships with their colleagues at work were examined by responding to a five-point six items scale. The responses ranged from 1 = Not at all to 5 = Totally (e.g., “How satisfied are you with the interpersonal relationship with the specific colleague?”). The construction of the scale was based on past researches in interpersonal relationships (Fincham, Rogge, & Beach, 2018; Rogge et al., 2017; Stephanou, 2012), and in interpersonal relationships at work and school framework (Stephanou & Athanasiadou, 2020; Szostek, 2019), and on the Quality of Interpersonal Relationships in the Team Scale (QIRT-S, Szostek, 2019). The participants completed the scale twice; they completed, first, the scale for the worst interpersonal relationship, and, then, the scale for the best interpersonal relationship. Cronbach’s alpha value for the data of the present study was .72 and .75 for the best and worst interpersonal relationships, respectively.
2.2.2. Attributions for Interpersonal Relationships
The participants made separate attributions for their best and worst interpersonal relationships with their colleagues by responding to modified Causal Dimension Scale II (CDSII, McAuley, Duncan, & Russell, 1992). The modified version of the CDSII was based on past researches in interpersonal relationships (Fincham, 2003; Fletcher, 2002; Fletcher & Thomas, 1996), and it has proved a reliable and valid research instrument in examining attributions for intimate interpersonal relationships in Greek population (Stephanou, 2012; Stephanou & Athanasiadou, 2020). The scale allowed the employees to write down, according to their opinion, the most influential factor of their best or worst interpersonal relationship with their colleague, and, then, to classify that cause along the attributional dimensions of locus of causality (internal/external causes to him/herself), stability (stable/unstable cause over time), personal controllability (controllable/uncontrollable causes by himself/herself), external controllability (controllable/uncontrollable causes by others), colleague’s locus of causality (internal/external cause to the colleague), colleague’s controllability (personally controllable/uncontrollable cause by the colleague), self-colleague interactive locus of causality (internal/external causes to interaction of self-colleague) and self-colleague interactive controllability (controllable/uncontrollable causes by the interaction self-colleague). Each of the eight subscales consists of three items, ranging from the negative pole 1 = not at all (e.g., unstable) to the positive pole 9 = totally (e.g., stable). Cronbach’s alpha was .84 for locus of causality, .67 for stability, .76 for personal controllability, .68 for external controllability, .67 for colleague’s locus of causality, .77 for colleague’s controllability, .80 for self-colleague locus of causality, and .69 for self-colleague controllability.
Forgiveness was estimated by the Heartland Forgiveness Scale (HFS, Thompson et al., 2005) which is a self-report measure of dispositional forgiveness. It measures the extent to which a person has the general disposition to forgive, and it assesses forgiveness of self (6 items), forgiveness of other (6 items) and forgiveness of situations (6 items). Responses ranged from 1 = almost always false for me to 7 = almost always true for me (e.g., “Although I feel bad at first when I mess up, over time I can give myself some slack), with the higher scores indicating higher levels of forgiveness, and lower scores indicating lower levels of forgiveness. Cronbach’s alpha value for the data of the present study was .64, .75 and .58 for forgiveness of self, others and situations, respectively.
2.2.4. Life Satisfaction
Life satisfaction was examined by the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS, Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985). The SWLS consists of five items (e.g., “In most ways my life is close to my ideal”), and it assesses satisfaction with the individual’s life as a whole. Responses ranged from strongly disagree = 1 to strongly agree = 7, with the high score reflecting high level of life satisfaction. In this study, Cronbach’s alpha was .79.
2.2.5. Work Satisfaction
The Satisfaction With the Work Scale (SWWS, Bérubé et al., 2007; Bérubé et al., 2016) was used to examine the participants’ work satisfaction. This scale, which was adapted from the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener et al., 1985), is a reliable and valid measure of work satisfaction, and it focuses on the cognitive appraisal of a person’s work situation. The scale includes 5 items (e.g., “The conditions under which I do my work are excellent”), while the responses ranged from 1 = Strongly disagree to 7 = Strongly agree. Cronbach’s alpha was .81 in this research.
2.2.6. Personal Factors
The employees responded to a set of questions regarding personal and demographical factors, such as age, gender, working experience and working experience in the current organization.
Data collection were performed in the middle of a school year, to ensure that the participants had enough time to form an impression about their interpersonal relationships with their colleagues. The employees filled out, initially, the scales of forgiveness, life satisfaction and work satisfaction, and, one week later, the scales of the perceived quality of their relationships with their colleagues and the subsequent attributions.
The participants themselves defined their interpersonal relationships with their colleagues at work as best or worst by responding to the interpersonal relationship scales twice. Accurately, they, first, wrote down the name of their colleague with whom they had the worst interpersonal relationship, and, then, filled out the scales that referred to this specific relationship. After that, they did the same for their best interpersonal relationship with their colleagues.
Oral and written information about the aim of this study were provided to the participants, and they were assured of anonymity and confidentiality. To match the questionnaires that were responded by the same teacher, the participants were asked to choose a code name and use it on across all of the scales.
3.1. Attributions for the Best and Worst Interpersonal Relationships
The results from the MANOVA analysis, using the Wilks’s lambda estimate, with the eight attributional dimensions as within-subjects factor and the perceived interpersonal relationship with the colleagues (best/worst) as between-subjects factor showed significant effect of the attributional dimensions, F (7, 192) = 38.60, p < .01, η2 = .32, significant effect of the perceived interpersonal relationship, F (1, 199) = 280.00, p < .01, η2 = .45, and significant multivariate effect, F (7, 192) = 21.35, p < .01, η2 = .27.
To clarify the above findings, ANOVAs and Discriminant Function analysis (using stepwise method), with the perceived interpersonal relationship (best/worst) as grouping variable and the attributional dimensions as predictor variables, were performed. Observation of the results from these analyses and the mean scores on Table 1 indicates that the employees made external to their colleagues, slightly external controllable and controllable by their colleagues, internal to self-colleague interaction, and, mainly, internal to themselves, personal controllable, stable and self-colleague controllable attributions for their best interpersonal relationships with their colleagues. On the contrary, they attributed their worst interpersonal relationships with their colleagues to internal to their colleagues, internal and controllable to self-colleague, external controllable, stable and, predominately, external to themselves, personal uncontrollable and colleagues’ controllable factors. In addition, the results from the discriminant analysis revealed that locus of causality, discriminating power = .59, followed by colleague’s controllability, discriminating power = .36, personal controllability, discriminating power = .25, and colleague’s locus of causality, discriminating power = .23, was the most powerful attributional dimension in discriminating the group with the best interpersonal relationships from the group with the worst interpersonal relationships. It was also found that the attributional dimensions of stability, external controllability and self-colleague interactive controllability had no significant contribution in discriminating the two groups of interpersonal
Table 1. Results from Discriminant Function analysis for the employees’ attributional dimensions for the estimated best and worst interpersonal relationships with their colleagues.
Note: F (1, 398) > 19.48, p < .01; F (1, 398) = .06, p > .05; *: no significant contribution in discriminating the two groups.
relationships, although these attributions differed between the two groups.
Accordantly, Hypothesis 1a was in the most confirmed by the above findings, while Hypothesis 1b was partly confirmed.
3.2. Effects of Forgiveness, Life Satisfaction and Work Satisfaction on the Estimated Interpersonal Relationships as Best and Worst
The findings from regression analyses, with life satisfaction, work satisfaction and forgiveness of self, of other and of situations as predictive variables and the employees’ perceived as worst or best interpersonal relationship with their colleagues as predicted variable, revealed that the three sets of predictors, in combination, explained a significant amount of the variance of the estimated interpersonal relationships as worst, R2 = .40, F (5, 194) = .30.00, p < .01, and, mainly of the estimated as best interpersonal relationships, R2 = .56, F (5, 194) = 67.00, p < .01.
Additionally, in the group with the best interpersonal relationships, it was found that (a) higher work satisfaction, b = .03, t = 3.22, p < .01, higher life satisfaction, b = .08, t = 14.20, p < .01, higher forgiveness of self, b = .15, t = 43.10, p < .01, forgiveness of other, b = .03, t = 3.22, p < .01, and, particularly, forgiveness of situations, b = .27, t = 61.00, p < .01, predicted higher quality of interpersonal relationships. Similarly, in the group with the worst interpersonal relationships, the employees, who were highly satisfied with their work, b = .24, t = 5.55, p < .01, and, who were highly likely to forgive themselves, b = .42, t = 15.10, other, b = .03, t = 2.98, p < .01, and situations, b = .46, t = 16.80, p < .01, estimated as less suffering that relationship, while life satisfaction had no unique effect on it, b = .01, t = 1.40, p > .05.
The above results in the most confirmed Hypotheses 2a and 2b, and partly Hypothesis 2c.
3.3. Effects of Forgiveness, Life Satisfaction and Work Satisfaction on the Attributions for the Interpersonal Relationships
The results from correlations coefficients analyses (Table 2) and a series of regression analyses (Table 3), with life satisfaction, work satisfaction and forgiveness of self, of other and of situations as predictive variables and each of the attributional dimensions as predicted variable, within each group of interpersonal relationship (best/worst), showed that the three sets of predictors had complementary and positive effects on attributions but their relative power in formulating them varied between best and worst interpersonal relationships and within each of the attributional dimensions. Notably, all the predictors, in combination, proved a more powerful influential factor in the generation of the attributional dimensions for the best interpersonal relationships than for the worst interpersonal relationships, with the exception being in colleague’s locus of causality which was better predicted in the worst interpersonal relationships. Similarly, each of the components of forgiveness was more strongly associated with the
Table 2. Results from correlations coefficients analyses for the associations of employees’ life satisfaction, work satisfaction and forgiveness (self, other, situations) with the attributional dimensions for the perceived best and worst interpersonal relationships with their colleagues.
Note: r-values ≤ .18, p < .05; r-values > .18, p < .01; -: r-values are not significant at the level of .05 level of significance.
Table 3. Findings from regression analyses for the effects of the employees’ life satisfaction, work satisfaction and forgiveness (self, other, situations) on the attributional dimensions for the perceived best and worst interpersonal relationships with their colleagues.
Note: All F-values are significant at the .01 level of significance; t > 2.35, p < .01, t ≤ 2.50, p <.05; t ---, p > .05.
attributions in the best than worst interpersonal relationships, but forgiveness of other, forgiveness of situations and forgiveness of self mainly evidenced link to colleague’s controllability, stability and both stability and locus of causality, respectively, for the worst interpersonal relationships.
In addition, the following findings were reported within each group of relationships.
In the group with the best interpersonal relationships of the employees with their colleagues, 1) the higher the satisfaction with life, the higher the satisfaction with work and the higher the forgivingness of self, of other and of situations were, the more internal (not association with forgivingness of others), personal controllable, stable, external uncontrollable, internal and personally controllable (not association with satisfaction) to the colleagues, and both controllable and internal to the self-colleague interaction the attributions were, 2) forgivingness of situations, as compared to forgivingness of self and of other, was more strongly related to most of the attributional dimensions except for the dimension of colleague’s controllability, and self-colleague locus of causality that were most strongly associated with the forgiveness of others, 3) life satisfaction, in comparison to work satisfaction, was more powerfully associated with the attributions expect for self-colleague locus of causality where the reverse was the case, 4) forgiveness, life satisfaction and work satisfaction, as a group, significantly contributed to the explained variance of the attributional dimensions, R2 ranged from .38 (colleague’s locus of causality) to .78 (stability), and 5) forgiveness rather than both life satisfaction and work satisfaction contributed into formulation of the attributions, with work satisfaction being the lowest powerful contributor.
In the group with the worst interpersonal relationships of the employees with their colleagues, 1) higher forgiveness of self, other and situations were associated with higher external (not association with forgivingness of other), personal uncontrollable, unstable, external controllable, external to the colleagues, personally uncontrollable to the colleagues (not association with forgivingness of other and situation), external to self-colleague, and controllable to self-colleague (only association with forgiveness of situation) attributions, 2) the more satisfied they were with their life and their work the more likely to make external, unstable, external uncontrollable and self-colleague uncontrollable attributions, 3) the more satisfied they were with their life the higher the personal uncontrollable and self-colleague uncontrollable the attributions were, 4) forgivingness of situations, of self and of other, as compared to each other, was more powerfully associated with the locus of causality (both self and self-colleague) and stability, external controllability and colleague’s controllability, and controllability (both self and self-colleague) respectively, 5) forgiveness, life satisfaction and work satisfaction, as a group, accounted for 9% (self-colleague controllability) to 75% (stability) of the observed variation in attributional dimensions and 6) forgiveness of self, of other and of situation evidenced unique contribution in the generation of the attributions, in consistency with the association pattern, while life satisfaction and work satisfaction proved weak predictor of attributions.
Hypotheses 3a and 3b were totally confirmed, while Hypotheses 3c, 3d and 4 were partly confirmed by the above findings.
This study examined the employees’ attributions for their subjectively perceived best and worst interpersonal relationships with their colleagues, and addressed the possible impact of dispositional forgiveness (self, other, situations) on the intuitive and attributional appraisals of the same relationships. Additionally, the role of life satisfaction and work satisfaction in the same appraisals was investigated.
4.1. Attributions for the Colleaguing Interpersonal Relationships
The findings regarding the scheme of the attributional appraisal of the worker-colleague interpersonal relationships in the most reinforced past empirical evidence and confirmed the research Hypotheses. Employee teachers proved motivated to understand the causes of their interpersonal relationships with their colleagues, by ascribing them to various attributional dimensions (Weiner, 2001, 2014; Wang & Hall, 2018). Also, colleaguing interpersonal relationships proved very important for the participants as the high variability of the attributions indicates, in consistency with past research which has supported that individuals search for causes to explain the high ego involvement tasks (Argyle, 2001; Wang & Hall, 2018; Weiner, 2014). Similarly, the attributional pattern within and between the estimated as best and worst interpersonal relationships hinds the working teachers’ desire and values of good relationships (Harvey et al., 2005; Karney et al., 2003; Weiner, 2002, 2005, 2010), and complimented previous research which has reported a strong link between attributional processes and relationship satisfaction (Fincham, 2003; Thompson & Snyder, 1986).
The employees boosted themselves, rose their expectations for a good relationship, multiplied the possibilities of being good the relationship in the future, facilitated relationship engagement and multiplied the longevity of their relationship, by attributing the good interpersonal relationships to stable and personal positive properties along with the self-colleague positive dispositions (Fiedler et al., 1995; Fincham, 2003; Fletcher & Clark, 2002; Lauermann & Karabenick, 2013; Rusbult, Arriaga, & Agnew, 2003; Weiner, 2001). The attributional pattern for the worst colleaguing interpersonal relationships seems not to be complete adaptive. Accurately, although the working teachers protected their ego by making external attributions, attributing the negative relationships to stable factors and to colleague’s responsibility, reduced positive expectations, produced the feeling of hopelessness and was likely to lead to learned helplessness, a sense that none effort can lead to good relationship (Fletcher, 2002; Fitness et al., 2005; Peterson & Steen, 2005; Planalp & Rivers, 1996; Seligman, 2002; Weiner, 1995, 2001). Further, it seems that the employees had formed expectations for their colleague dispositional behaviour and the content of the interpersonal relationship. Accordantly, teachers implicated stable factors for the best and the worst colleaguing interpersonal relationships that were consistent with their initial expectations, confirming similar past researches (Berscheid & Ammazalorso, 2003; Bless, 2003; Fincham, 2003; Trope & Gaunt, 2005; Wang & Hall, 2018).
Rewarding other studies and Weiner’s (2002, 2005) interpersonal attribution theory, the group of the best interpersonal relationships was discriminated from the group of the worst interpersonal relationships predominately by the attributional dimension of locus of causality. Locus of causality, followed by colleague’ controllability, personal controllability and colleague’s locus of causality, was the most powerful factor in discriminating the two groups of the employees, while none of the other attributional dimensions further differentiated the two groups. This specific finding probably reflects the workers’ tendency of self-focus in identifying themselves as good partners and effective professionals, and their tendency of other-focus in the case of undesirable workplace relations and situations (Macnow, 2019; Williams & Gilmore, 2008). However, research needs to clarify this speculation.
4.2. Effects of Forgiveness, Life Satisfaction and Work Satisfaction on the Intuitive and Attributional Appraisals for the Colleaguing Interpersonal Relationships
Interestingly, forgiving employees used adaptive attribution pattern in explaining their colleaguing relationships, and the working teachers who were highly likely to forgive, compared to working teachers who were low likely to forgive, enjoyed more and suffered less for their best and worst colleaguing interpersonal relationships respectively, supporting previous research evidence documenting the high forgive individuals use optimistic and adaptive reappraisal for a variety of relationships and stressor situations (Hill & Allemand, 2010; Raj & Wiltermuth, 2016; Szcześniak & Soares, 2011; Toussaint & Friedman, 2009), repair broken relationships with work colleagues and overcome debilitating thoughts and emotions resulting from interpersonal injury (Aquino et al., 2003). Also, forgiveness proved a robust precursor of the intuitive and attributional (except colleague’s locus of causality) appraisals for the best than the worst interpersonal relationships, a consistent finding with existent researches reporting the positive correlations of forgiveness with improvement of relationships and its link to greater relationship satisfaction and fewer problems in less troubled relationships (Aquino et al., 2003; Fincham & Beach, 2007; Fincham, Jackson, & Beach, 2005; McCullough, 2000; McNulty, 2010). Along similar findings (e.g., McCullough, 2000), this specific finding may also result from contextual variables of colleaguing interpersonal relationships regarding low closeness and commitment (Berscheid & Ammazzalorso, 2003; McCullough, 2000).
The three components of forgiveness had a significant impact on the appraisals for the best and the worst interpersonal relationships, in consistency with past researches showing that forgiving persons think flexibly (Thompson et al., 2005) and are effective in problem solving and conflict resolution in workplace (Aquino et al., 2001), However, the power of the prediction of forgiveness of self, of other and of situations on the intuitive and the attributional appraisals for the colleaguing interpersonal relationships varied between and within attributional dimensions as well as it varied between and within worst and best interpersonal relationships. This specific finding is an indication that the potential source of transgressions “self”, “other” and “situations” are unique to conceptualization of forgiveness (Thompson et al., 2005), and highlights the importance of examining the three components of forgiveness. Relative to forgiveness of self and forgiveness of other, forgiveness of situations more strongly influenced the appraisals for colleaguing interpersonal relationships, reinforcing the notion that the predisposition of forgiveness of situation deals adaptively with the different adversities in the working environment, including the interpersonal relationships. Forgiveness of other, as could be expected, most impacted colleague-related attributional dimensions. However, despite these differences, attention should be given to three constructs of forgiveness because neither is more adaptive. Also, investigation needs to verify their relative role in workers’ interpersonal relationships-related procedures.
The three components of forgiveness, life satisfaction and work satisfaction, as a group, proved a powerful beneficiary factor to stability than to any other attributional dimension, in both worst and best interpersonal relationships. This specific result seems reasonable thinking that in this study forgiveness is considered as a trait factor, and life satisfaction and work satisfaction is perceived as a cognitive appraisal of an individual’s whole life and work respectively.
The pattern of the impact of life satisfaction on the appraisals for the colleaguing relationships is, probably, due to its result from forgivingness, as investigations suggest (Allemand et al., 2012; Kaleta & Mróz, 2018; Thompson et al., 2005), and due to the high decisive role of forgiveness in the relationships formulation. Accordantly, life satisfaction, in the most had an indirect effect on the appraisals of the relationships through forgiveness. Specifically, life satisfaction was a weak predictor of the generation of the best interpersonal relationships and it did not uniquely impact on the worst interpersonal relationships. Similarly, file satisfaction weakly accounted for unique variance in most of the attributional dimensions in the best interpersonal relationships, and it predicted only self-colleague controllability in the worst interpersonal relationships.
Also, unexpectedly, work satisfaction, perhaps, as it is related to both life satisfaction (Luthans, 2005; Veldman et al., 2013) and dispositional forgiveness (Cox, 2011; Law, 2013), appeared to be weak predictive of the appraisals of the employees’ interpersonal relationships with their colleagues, particularly in the worst interpersonal relationships.
4.3. Limitations, and Implications of the Findings into Colleaguing Interpersonal Relationships and Future Research
This study constitutes a critical effort towards understanding colleaguing relationships through the examination of the associated cognitive processes and cognition. The attribution pattern underlines that employees’ interpersonal relationships with their colleagues constitute a significant aspect of their professional life. Strengthening, then, the positive teacher-colleague relationships beneficiates their happiness and well-being, and the organization itself. Interventions, based on attributional retraining (Seligman, 2002), facilitate to change maladaptive attributional pattern of interpersonal relationships. In line with this, familiarizing the nature and function of the attributions within good/bad interpersonal relationships is essential.
Also, as individual factors influence interpersonal relationships, this investigation included dispositional forgiveness which proved a critical construct to understand how employees develop and appraise interpersonal relationships with their colleagues. High forgiving workers reported adaptive attributional appraisal for their interpersonal relationships. Hence, forgiveness should be addressed by organizational theorists and practicing managers. In doing so, attention should be given to forgiveness of self, of other and of situations. However, it should be mentioned that, although forgiveness had positive impacts on the appraisals for the colleaguing relationships, the question as to whether forgiveness serves a positive overarching outcome seems to be dependent on the closeness of the partners and the context in which the transgression takes place. Future studies need to examine the possible moderating or mediating role of such variables in the link forgiveness-cognitive appraisals of workplace relationships.
In this study, life satisfaction and, particularly, work satisfaction, compared to forgiveness, proved less powerful contributor to cognitive appraisals of interpersonal relationships. Further research is needed to examine the causal directions of the links between forgiveness and relationship cognition and satisfaction.
This study focused on working teacher-colleague interpersonal relationships at one point of time. To better understand these relationships future researches should use longitudinal designs to investigate how they develop, and how the certain cognitive appraisals function in that procedure. Also, while the examined personal factors played an important part in explaining the workplace interpersonal relationships, environmental factors are crucial determinants in the generation of the success or failure of these relationships, and, consequently, should be included in future research.
Nevertheless, this study contributes to and expands the extant research in interpersonal relationships in workplace.
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