Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Industrial-Organizational Psychology

Committee Member

Thomas W Britt

Committee Member

Robert Sinclair

Committee Member

Patrick Rosopa

Committee Member

Cynthia Pury


Moral suffering occurs when employees feel constrained by organizational factors that are perceived as conflicting with their values. Moral suffering has been conceptualized through moral distress and moral injury, and while both terms have conceptually similar definitions, no study to date has empirically examined the distinction between the constructs. Thus, the current study examined the distinction between moral injury and moral distress, and whether perceived occupational stigma was a moderator of the relationship between moral suffering and mental health symptoms, meaningful work, and counterproductive work behaviors. Participants were 479 adults from 20 industries, who were recruited from Mturk to participate in the study at two time points. Results from the measurement model indicated a two-factor structure of witness- and perpetration-based moral suffering. The structural equation models indicated that witness-based moral suffering uniquely predicted higher mental health symptoms and lower meaningful work, while perpetration-based moral suffering predicted higher counterproductive work behaviors. The interactions between moral suffering and perceived occupational stigma predicting the outcomes exhibited evidence of suppression. The findings demonstrate that prior research may not be capturing the full domain of moral suffering by examining moral injury and moral distress separately. Results showed that both witness- and perpetration-based moral suffering predicted different factors that contribute to an individual’s wellbeing.



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