Sexual Boundary Violations: Exploring How the Interplay Between Violations, Retributive, and Restorative Responses Affects Teams

Eva van Baarle*, Steven van Baarle, Guy Widdershoven, Roland Bal, Jan-Willem Weenink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Studying and discussing boundary violations between people is important for potentially averting future harm. Organizations typically respond to boundary violations in retributive ways, by punishing the perpetrator. Interestingly, prior research has largely ignored the impact of sexual boundary violations and retributive dynamics on teams. This is problematic as teams provide an obvious setting not only to detect and discuss troubling behavior by peers, but also for learning how to prevent future harm. Therefore, in this study we explore team-level experiences regarding sexual boundary violations and organizational responses to these incidents. Drawing on an in-depth case study, our findings shed light on the profound negative consequences of a retributive organizational response to sexual boundary violations. Additionally, our findings show how a restorative approach, inviting teams to reflect on the violations and their impact, can help teams to recover. Our main contribution involves a model that demonstrates how the interplay between sexual boundary violations, retributive, and restorative organizational responses affects teams. This model shows how combining these responses can acknowledge distress within teams, heal relationships between team members through dialogue, and open up the possibility to learn from these events. This model extends prior research focusing on individual actions and outcomes regarding violations. Additionally, by combining retributive and restorative organizational responses in one model, we extend the literature on restorative organizational responses to boundary violations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Early online date2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023

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