Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Conflict Analysis and Resolution


Halmos College of Arts and Sciences - Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Ismael Muvingi

Second Advisor

Robin Cooper

Third Advisor

Judith McKay


conflict resolution, corporate investigations, organizational conflict, speaking up


Many organizations have long encouraged employees to speak up about wrongdoing, promoting cultures of open communication to ensure just environments; however, each year a significant proportion of workplace allegations are deemed unsubstantiated as a result of various factors, such as lack of evidence, subjectivity, false claims, and investigative limitations. Because researchers have focused on substantiated claims and reasons for reporting, they have discovered little about either the experiences of employees who speak up and have their claims deemed unsubstantiated or the potential impacts of such outcomes. This interpretative phenomenological study involved exploration of the lived experiences of 10 employees who filed formal allegations of harassment or retaliation with their organization, ultimately resulting in unsubstantiated determinations. Through qualitative data analysis, five significant themes emerged highlighting the impact of inadequate responses to complaints, gender and hierarchical disparities, and erosion of trust in organizational justice. The findings also revealed the emergence of feelings of hopelessness and helplessness among participants resulting from lack of support and lack of resolution of their conflicts. During semistructured interviews, participants described the emotional and psychological toll of workplace conflicts remaining unresolved, a finding that emphasizes the importance of timely and fair conflict resolution processes to mitigate adverse effects on employee well-being. The results of this study shed light on the cultural and psychological effects of unsubstantiated allegations.