In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Abusive Supervision

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews

Management Abusive Supervision
Michelle Duffy, Lingtao Yu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0103


Many employees have been exposed to organizational authorities acting abusively against them, including receiving harsh criticism, ridicule, promise breach, privacy invasion, or the silent treatment. This phenomenon about supervisory abusive behaviors is described as abusive supervision. The concept of abusive supervision was introduced into the management literature by Tepper 2000 (cited under General Overviews), and it has quickly become a vibrant research field. Evidence concerning the various antecedents to, deleterious consequences of, and a variety of coping strategies to abusive supervision has burgeoned in the 21st century. The 21st century has also seen a dramatic increase in the investigations of the fine-grained process of abusive supervision, including its implications across levels and structures of organizations, the dynamic emergence process, roles of motivations behind abusive supervision, and vicarious abusive supervision.

General Overviews

According to Healthy Workplace Bill, more than a third of US employees reported having experienced abusive supervision. Tepper 2000 defined abusive supervision as subordinates’ perceived sustained hostile verbal and non-verbal supervisory behaviors, excluding physical contact. In this seminal work, Tepper also developed a scale and tested its consequences in the workplace. Tepper 2007 was a qualitative review in which Tepper summarized key findings regarding both antecedents and consequences of abusive supervision since 2000, proposed an overarching theoretical framework, and suggested future research directions. By including and analyzing more recent publications, Martinko, et al. 2013 built on and expanded Tepper’s review, pointed out major concerns in the current literature, and provided suggestions for the future research. To our knowledge, Schyns and Schilling 2013 was the first meta-analysis on abusive supervision. Mackey, et al. 2015 conducted an updated meta-analysis with more studies included, and Zhang and Bednall 2015 conducted another meta-analysis with emphasis on the relationships between various antecedents and abusive supervision.

  • Healthy Workplace Bill.

    A website summarizes the progress on the health workplace bill across all US states. It also provides statistics, scientific evidences, and examples about various counterproductive workplace behaviors, including abusive supervision.

  • Mackey, Jeremy D., Rachel E. Frieder, Jeremy R. Brees, and Mark J. Martinko. “Abusive Supervision: A Meta-analysis and Empirical Review.” Journal of Management (2015).

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206315573997

    A meta-analysis on the relationships between abusive supervision and antecedents and outcome variables. An interesting finding is that the design of features of studies affects the magnitude of the relationships. There are 112 studies included.

  • Martinko, M. J., P. Harvey, J. R. Brees, and J. Mackey. “A Review of Abusive Supervision Research.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 34.1 (2013): S120–S137.

    DOI: 10.1002/job.1888

    This paper builds on Tepper 2007 by providing an updated qualitative review on abusive supervision literature (at least sixty-two articles were published after 2007). The authors also discuss concerns and provide suggestions for future research.

  • Schyns, B., and J. Schilling. “How Bad Are the Effects of Bad Leaders? A Meta-analysis of Destructive Leadership and Its Outcomes.” Leadership Quarterly 24.1 (2013): 138–158.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.09.001

    Using fifty-seven studies, this meta-analysis examines the relationships between various forms of destructive leadership (i.e., abusive supervision) and outcomes (i.e., attitudes, performance, deviance, and well-being). Results reveal that the highest correlation arises between abusive supervision and subordinates’ attitudes toward supervisors and followed by the abusive supervision—subordinate counterproductive behaviors relationship.

  • Tepper, B. J. “Consequences of Abusive Supervision.” Academy of Management Journal 43.2 (2000): 178–190.

    DOI: 10.2307/1556375

    Tepper introduces a new concept—abusive supervision—into management literature. He defines the construct, develops a scale, and discusses its consequences at work (i.e., quitting, job and life satisfaction, commitment, work-family conflict, and psychological stress).

  • Tepper, B. J. “Abusive Supervision in Work Organizations: Review, Synthesis, and Research Agenda.” Journal of Management 33.3 (2007): 261–289.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206307300812

    Offers a qualitative review on abusive supervision literature (from 2000 to 2007), summarizes key findings regarding the antecedents and consequences of abusive supervision, proposes a theoretical framework, and suggests future research directions.

  • Zhang, Y., and T. C. Bednall. “Antecedents of Abusive Supervision: A Meta-analytic Review.” Journal of Business Ethics (2015): 1–17.

    A meta-analysis focusing on four categories of antecedents of abusive supervision: supervisor-, subordinate-, organization-, and demographic-related characteristics. Subordinates’ negative affectivity is a reliable predictor. There are seventy-four studies included.

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