Management Abusive Supervision
by
Michelle Duffy, Lingtao Yu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 November 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846740-0103

Introduction

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.

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    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.

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  • 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: 10.1177/0149206315573997Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

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  • 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.1888Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

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  • 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.2012.09.001Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

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

    DOI: 10.2307/1556375Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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).

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

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206307300812Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    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.

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

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    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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Antecedents of Abusive Supervision

Given such potentially negative consequences for subordinates, organizations, and for abusers themselves (see also Consequences of Abusive Supervision), why would supervisors engage in abusive behaviors? Previous theory and research identified a variety of antecedents to abusive supervision. Based on the sources of antecedents and the underlying theoretical foundations, current literature on this topic can be clarified into three categories: supervisor-related characteristics, subordinate-related characteristics, and environment-related characteristics. Various moderating effects on the link of antecedents to abusive supervision are also discussed. A meta-analysis focusing on antecedents of abusive supervision was conducted by Zhang and Bednall 2015 (cited under General Overviews).

Supervisor-Related Characteristics

Because abusive supervision is described as a dysfunctional interpersonal behavior that supervisors subject their direct reports to, it is no surprise that scholars began investigating its antecedents from the perspective of supervisors. Several theoretical perspectives emerge from the current literature. First, scholars invoke justice theory to explain why abusive supervision is likely to occur in the workplace. Tepper, et al. 2006 considers how supervisor-perceived procedural injustice leads to abusive supervision. Aryee, et al. 2007 proposes and tests that another form of injustice, supervisors’ perceived interactional injustice, is a reliable predictor of abusive supervision. Wei and Si 2013 further suggests that supervisors’ perceived psychological contract breach may also contribute to the perception of injustice, which then triggers abusive supervision. Second, researchers employ self-regulation theory or ego-depletion theory to explain that certain characteristics are likely to deplete supervisors’ finite self-regulatory resources, which also contributes to the occurrence of abusive supervision. Collins and Jackson 2015 explicitly examines supervisors’ attentional resource capacity as a potential predictor of supervisory abuse through self-regulation. Yam, et al. 2016 deepens the current thinking by exploring a cross-domain source of ego-depletion and supervisors’ customer interactions as an antecedent to abuse, as well as taking supervisors’ self-control as a potential buffer. Third, some scholars draw from theories on stress and emotions to examine this question. Burton, et al. 2012 finds supervisors’ stress as leading to abusive supervision and further suggested that high levels of exercise can curb this effect. Byrne, et al. 2014 provides additional evidence that supervisors’ depression symptoms, anxiety, and workplace alcohol consumption independently predicts supervisory abuse. Mawritz, et al. 2014 proposes a theoretical framework that supervisors’ feelings of anger and anxiety mediates the effect of difficult goals on the occurrence of abusive supervision. Johnson, et al. 2012 finds that leader identity was another predictor of both frequency and variation of supervisor abusive behaviors (cited under Dynamic Process of the Emergence of Abusive Supervision). Barnes, et al. 2015 proposes a new antecedent of abusive supervision—supervisor’s sleep quality (cited under Dynamic Process of the Emergence of Abusive Supervision). Scholars also investigated how supervisor’s family-related characteristics affect the occurrence of abusive supervision in the workplace. See discussions under Environment-related Characteristics.

  • Aryee, S., Z. X. Chen, L. Y. Sun, and Y. A. Debrah. “Antecedents and Outcomes of Abusive Supervision: Test of a Trickle-down Model.” Journal of Applied Psychology 92.1 (2007): 191–201.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.1.191Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article examines a trickle-down model that supervisors’ perceptions of interactional justice triggers abusive supervision (this effect is stronger for supervisors with an authoritarian leadership style), which then affects subordinates’ perceptions of interactional justice and, ultimately, negatively influences subordinates’ organizational citizenship behaviors.

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  • Burton, J. P., J. M. Hoobler, and M. L. Scheuer. “Supervisor Workplace Stress and Abusive Supervision: The Buffering Effect of Exercise.” Journal of Business and Psychology 27.3 (2012): 271–279.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10869-011-9255-0Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Supervisor-reported stress is identified as a predictor of abusive supervision, and this effect is lessened by supervisors taking more exercise.

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  • Byrne, A., A. M. Dionisi, J. Barling, A. Akers, J. Robertson, R. Lys, J. Wylie, and K. Dupré. “The Depleted Leader: The Influence of Leaders’ Diminished Psychological Resources on Leadership Behaviors.” Leadership Quarterly 25.2 (2014): 344–357.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2013.09.003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors found that supervisors’ depressive symptoms, anxiety, and workplace alcohol consumption separated predicted the occurrence of abusive supervision.

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  • Collins, M. D., and C. J. Jackson. “A Process Model of Self-regulation and Leadership: How Attentional Resource Capacity and Negative Emotions Influence Constructive and Destructive Leadership.” Leadership Quarterly 26.3 (2015): 386–401.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2015.02.005Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that supervisors’ attentional resource capacity was significantly and negatively related to abusive supervision through supervisors’ self-regulation.

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  • Mawritz, M. B., R. Folger, and G. P. Latham. “Supervisors’ Exceedingly Difficult Goals and Abusive Supervision: The Mediating Effects of Hindrance Stress, Anger, and Anxiety.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 35.3 (2014): 358–372.

    DOI: 10.1002/job.1879Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Demonstrated that supervisors with exceedingly difficult goals were more likely to abuse their subordinates through experiences of hindrance stress and feelings of anger and anxiety.

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  • Tepper, B. J., M. K. Duffy, C. A. Henle, and L. S. Lambert. “Procedural Injustice, Victim Precipitation, and Abusive Supervision.” Personnel Psychology 59.1 (2006): 101–123.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2006.00725.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that supervisor’s procedural injustice triggered depression, which then led to abusive supervision, and this effect was stronger for subordinates with high negative affectivity.

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  • Wei, F., and S. Si. “Psychological Contract Breach, Negative Reciprocity, and Abusive Supervision: The Mediated Effect of Organizational Identification.” Management and Organization Review 9.3 (2013): 541–561.

    DOI: 10.1111/more.12029Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Showed that supervisors’ psychological contract breach was positively related to abusive supervision through organizational identification, and this mediating effect was stronger when supervisors held strong negative reciprocity beliefs.

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  • Yam, K. C., R. Fehr, F. T. Keng-Highberger, A. C. Klotz, and S. J. Reynolds. “Out of Control: A Self-control Perspective on the Link Between Surface Acting and Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Applied Psychology 101.2 (2016): 292–301.

    DOI: 10.1037/apl0000043Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that supervisor’s customer interactions (i.e., surface acting) were likely to lead to abusive supervision. This study considered the roles of both supervisors’ state and traits related to self-control. The effect was mediated by supervisor’s state self-control resources and stronger for supervisors with low levels of trait self-control.

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Subordinates-related Characteristics

Victims of abusive supervision are not selected at random. Recently, scholars have started to investigate what characteristics subordinates possess may trigger the occurrence of abusive supervision. Two theoretical perspectives have been employed in the current literature. First, drawing insights from trait activation theory, scholars explored the roles of subordinates’ personalities in the relationships with abusive supervision. For example, Henle and Gross 2014 provides evidence that among individuals big five—personalities, subordinates’ emotional stability, conscientiousness, and agreeableness—were separately related to abusive supervision. Neves 2014 examines another high-order personality construct: core self-evaluations. An interesting finding from this study was that not only employees with low core self-evaluations were more likely to perceive abusive supervision, but such effect was stronger in downsized organizations. Wu and Hu 2009 also finds a direct negative effect from subordinates’ core self-evaluations on perceived abusive supervision, as well as an indirect effect on subordinates’ emotional exhaustion through abusive supervision. Wang and Jiang 2014 deepens the current thinking on the roles of subordinates’ personality by suggesting that subordinates’ narcissism gave rise to the perceptions of supervisory abuse as well as strengthened the negative effect of abuse on supervisor-directed deviance. Second, victim precipitation theory has recently received considerable attention among abusive supervision scholarship. Tepper, et al. 2011 built and tested a new theoretical framework that subordinate-supervisor dissimilarity, perceived relationship conflict with subordinates, and subordinates’ low performance independently accounted for variances in explaining the occurrence of abusive supervision. Building on and expanding on their work, Liang, et al. 2015 developed a fine-grained process model to explain why subordinates’ low performance was likely to lead to abusive supervision. Walter, et al. 2015 examines the role of subordinate performance in both the emergence and the consequences of abusive supervision (cited under Task Performance).

  • Henle, C. A., and M. A. Gross. “What Have I Done to Deserve This? Effects of Employee Personality and Emotion on Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Business Ethics 122.3 (2014): 461–474.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-013-1771-6Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offered evidence that subordinates’ emotional stability, conscientiousness, and agreeableness were negatively related to the negative emotions and lead to the perceptions of abusive supervision.

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  • Liang, L. H., H. Lian, D. Brown, D. L. Ferris, S. Hanig, and L. Keeping. “Why are Abusive Supervisors Abusive? A Dual-system Self-control Model.” Academy of Management Journal (2015).

    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2014.0651Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Authors tested a self-control framework to explain why and how supervisors abuse poor performing subordinates. Two experiments and one field study showed poor performers triggered supervisor’s feelings of hostility, which then lead to abuse. This effect was stronger when supervisors hold a hostile attribution bias and are less mindful.

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  • Neves, P. “Taking It Out On Survivors: Submissive Employees, Downsizing, and Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 87.3 (2014): 507–534.

    DOI: 10.1111/joop.12061Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Neves found that employees with low core self-evaluations were likely to perceive abusive supervision, and this effect became stronger when perceived coworker support was low and employees worked in downsized organizations.

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  • Tepper, B. J., S. E. Moss, and M. K. Duffy. “Predictors of Abusive Supervision: Supervisor Perceptions of Deep-level Dissimilarity, Relationship Conflict, and Subordinate Performance.” Academy of Management Journal 54.2 (2011): 279–294.

    DOI: 10.5465/AMJ.2011.60263085Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Integrating theories on workplace diversity, relationship conflict, and victimization, the authors investigated predictors of abusive supervision. A multiwave, multisource field study supported the theoretical model that supervisor-perceived deep-level dissimilarity and relationship conflict with subordinates (and subordinates’ low performance) were reliable predictors of supervisory abuse.

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  • Wang, R., and J. Jiang. “How Narcissistic Employees Respond to Abusive Supervision: Two Roles of Narcissism in Decreasing Perception and Increasing Deviance.” Psychological Reports 115.2 (2014): 372–380.

    DOI: 10.2466/01.21.PR0.115c22z2Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that narcissistic employees were more likely to perceive abusive supervision and that the positive effect of abusive supervision on supervisor-directed deviance was stronger for narcissistic employees.

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  • Wu, T. Y., and C. Hu. “Abusive Supervision and Employee Emotional Exhaustion Dispositional Antecedents and Boundaries.” Group and Organization Management 34.2 (2009): 143–169.

    DOI: 10.1177/1059601108331217Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Authors fund that subordinates with lower levels of core self-evaluations were more likely to perceive abusive supervision, which then led to higher levels of emotional exhaustion. In addition, subordinates’ perceived coworker support and susceptibility to emotional contagion moderated this indirect effect.

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Environment-related Characteristics

In the 21st century there has been increased interest in the exploration of environment-related characteristics in triggering abusive supervision. Current literature can be divided into two categories: work environment–related characteristics and family environment–related characteristics. In terms of the roles of work environment, for example, Harris, et al. 2011 investigates how supervisors’ perceived relationship conflict with coworkers leads to abuse directed at their direct subordinates. Mawritz, et al. 2014 examines the role of work climate and found that a hostile climate was significantly related to abusive supervision. In terms of the roles of family environment, for instance, Kiewitz, et al. 2012 provides initial evidence that supervisors’ experiences of family undermining during childhood significantly predicted their supervisory abuse toward subordinates as adults in the workplace. Later on, Garcia, et al. 2014 supplemented their previous study by showing that supervisors’ history of family aggression was positively associated with abusive supervision through supervisors’ hostile cognition and hostile emotion. Courtright, et al. 2015 proposes and tests a new theoretical framework showing that supervisors’ family-to-work conflict was another reliable source of abusive supervision at work.

  • Courtright, S. H., R. G. Gardner, T. A. Smith, B. W. McCormick, and A. E. Colbert. “My Family Made Me Do It: A Cross-domain, Self-regulatory Perspective on Antecedents to Abusive Supervision.” Academy of Management Journal (2015).

    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2013.1009Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Family-to-work conflict was introduced to explain why supervisors are abusive at work. One field study and one experience sampling study provided support that family-to-work conflicts led to supervisor’s ego depletion, which resulted in abusive supervision. The effect was stronger for supervisors who are female or worked in environments with greater situation control.

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  • Garcia, P. R. J. M., S. L. D. Restubog, C. Kiewitz, K. L. Scott, and R. L. Tang. “Roots Run Deep: Investigating Psychological Mechanisms Between History of Family Aggression and Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Applied Psychology 99.5 (2014): 883–897.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0036463Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Conducts three studies and found evidence that supervisors’ history of family aggression triggered abusive supervision through both hostile cognition and hostile affect. The indirect effect on hostile affect was moderated by angry rumination.

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  • Harris, K. J., P. Harvey, and K. M. Kacmar. “Abusive Supervisory Reactions to Coworker Relationship Conflict.” Leadership Quarterly 22.5 (2011): 1010–1023.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.07.020Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that supervisor experienced coworker relationship conflicts contributed to the occurrence of abusive supervision.

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  • Kiewitz, C., S. L. D. Restubog, T. J. Zagenczyk, K. D. Scott, P. R. J. M. Garcia, and R. L. Tang. “Sins of the Parents: Self-control as a Buffer Between Supervisors’ Previous Experience of Family Undermining and Subordinates’ Perceptions of Abusive Supervision.” Leadership Quarterly 23.5 (2012): 869–882.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.05.005Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Supervisors’ family undermining during childhood was tested to predict the occurrence of abusive supervision as adults, and this effect was stronger for supervisors with low self-control.

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  • Mawritz, M. B., S. B. Dust, and C. J. Resick. “Hostile Climate, Abusive Supervision, and Employee Coping: Does Conscientiousness Matter?” Journal of Applied Psychology 99.4 (2014): 737–747.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0035863Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study introduced hostile climate as a new antecedent to abusive supervision. Drawing on the transactional theory of stress, supervisor perceived hostile climate served as a stressor to trigger abusive supervision and subsequent subordinates’ organizational deviance and psychological withdrawal. Both supervisor and subordinate’s conscientiousness weakened the effect, respectively.

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Consequences of Abusive Supervision

Since Tepper 2000 (cited under General Overviews) introduced the concept of abusive supervision to management literature, most of the existing research has focused on the links between abusive supervision and various negative outcomes. According to the specific domain on which abusive supervision may generate deleterious effects, this section is organized into the following subcategories: health and well-being, work attitudes, task performance, organizational citizenship behaviors, deviance, and family life—where the category of deviance is further divided into supervisor-directed, coworker-directed, and organization-direct deviance. For each subcategory, evidence concerning the factors that may buffer those negative consequences will be discussed as well. Two meta-analyses focusing on consequences of abusive supervision were conducted by Schyns and Schilling 2013 and Mackey, et al. 2015, respectively (both cited under General Overviews).

Health and Well-being

A large body of research has provided evidence that abusive supervision has significant and negative effects on employees’ physical health, mental health, and psychological well-being. For example, Bamberger and Bacharach 2006 finds a positive relationship between abusive supervision and subordinates’ problem drinking, especially among those subordinates with low conscientiousness and agreeableness. Qian, et al. 2015 examines this issue among nurses, a population that is speculated to have high levels of vulnerability connected to abusive supervision. Their work demonstrated that abusive supervision negatively affected nurses’ mental health, and this negative effect was stronger when nurses’ job role ambiguity is high. Lin, et al. 2013 conducted a field study in China and results supported the argument that abusive supervision has a negative effect on employees’ well-being—but this effect was weaker among employees with high power distance orientation. Burton and Hoobler 2006 studies the effect of abusive supervision on subordinates’ self-esteem and found that subordinates experienced decreased self-esteem after encountering abusive supervision. Rafferty, et al. 2010 provides evidence that supervisory abuse significantly affected employees’ psychological distress and insomnia.

  • Bamberger, P. A., and S. B. Bacharach. “Abusive Supervision and Subordinate Problem Drinking: Taking Resistance, Stress and Subordinate Personality into Account.” Human Relations 59.6 (2006): 723–752.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726706066852Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The positive effect of abusive supervision on subordinate problem drinking was demonstrated through a field study, and this effect can be attenuated among subordinates with high conscientiousness and agreeableness.

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  • Burton, J. P., and J. M. Hoobler. “Subordinate Self-esteem and Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Managerial Issues (2006): 340–355.

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    Offered evidence that abusive supervision was negatively related to subordinates’ state of self-esteem, and this effect was stronger among female subordinates.

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  • Lin, W., L. Wang, and S. Chen. “Abusive Supervision and Employee Well‐being: The Moderating Effect of Power Distance Orientation.” Applied Psychology 62.2 (2013): 308–329.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1464-0597.2012.00520.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offered support that the negative effect of abusive supervision on employee well-being was weaker for employees with high power distance orientation.

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  • Qian, J., H. Wang, Z. R. Han, J. Wang, and H. Wang. “Mental Health Risks Among Nurses Under Abusive Supervision: The Moderating Roles of Job Role Ambiguity and Patients’ Lack of Reciprocity.” International Journal of Mental Health Systems 9.1 (2015): 22.

    DOI: 10.1186/s13033-015-0014-xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this study, the authors found that abusive supervision negatively affected nurses’ mental health, and this effect was stronger when nurses’ job role ambiguity was high and patients’ lack of reciprocity was high.

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  • Rafferty, A. E., S. L. D. Restubog, and N. L. Jimmieson. “Losing Sleep: Examining the Cascading Effects of Supervisors’ Experience of Injustice on Subordinates’ Psychological Health.” Work and Stress 24.1 (2010): 36–55.

    DOI: 10.1080/02678371003715135Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provided evidence that distributive injustice and interactional injustice predicted the occurrence of abusive supervision, which then gave rise to subordinates’ psychological distress and insomnia.

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Work Attitudes

Scholars have paid considerable attention to the relationships between abusive supervision and subordinates’ work attitudes. Several examples are included in this subsection. Duffy and Ferrier 2003 provided evidence that abusive supervision was negatively related to subordinates’ trust and organizational commitment. Mackey, et al. 2013 proposed and tested a model that abusive supervision was positively associated with employees’ job tension and negatively associated with employees’ job satisfaction and work effort. Kernan, et al. 2011 introduces the perspective of cultural values into the examination of abusive supervision—subordinates’ work attitudes relationships. Their work demonstrated that the negative effect of abusive supervision on subordinates’ work-related attitudes were different depending on subordinates’ cultural values in terms of achievement and benevolence.

  • Duffy, M. K., and W. J. Ferrier. “Birds of a Feather. . .? How Supervisor-subordinate Dissimilarity Moderates the Influence of Supervisor Behaviors on Workplace Attitudes.” Group and Organization Management 28.2 (2003): 217–248.

    DOI: 10.1177/1059601103028002003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The moderating role of supervisor-subordinate demographic dissimilarity was found to significantly affect the relationship between abusive supervision and subordinates’ trust and organizational commitment.

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  • Kernan, M. C., S. Watson, F. Fang Chen, and T. Gyu Kim. “How Cultural Values Affect the Impact of Abusive Supervision on Worker Attitudes.” Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal 18.4 (2011): 464–484.

    DOI: 10.1108/13527601111179528Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offered evidence that the effects of abusive supervision on employees’ work-related attitudes were moderated by Schwartz’s achievement and benevolence values but not power values.

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  • Mackey, J. D., B. P. Ellen, W. A. Hochwarter, and G. R. Ferris. “Subordinate Social Adaptability and the Consequences of Abusive Supervision Perceptions in Two Samples.” Leadership Quarterly 24.5 (2013): 732–746.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2013.07.003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provided evidence that subordinates with low social adaptability were more likely to respond to abusive supervision with high job tension and emotional exhaustion and low job satisfaction and work effort.

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Task Performance

Since the concept of abusive supervision was introduced into management literature, both researchers and practitioners have been interested in the potential effects of abusive supervision on employees’ task performance. The predominant view is that abusive supervision is negatively related to subordinates’ various types of task performance, and this negative effect can be weakened by both individual and contextual factors. Harris, et al. 2007 conducted a field study and results supported this negative effect on employees’ task performance. They also proposed that employees’ perceived meaning of work can attenuate this negative effect to some extent. Nandkeolyar, et al. 2014 provides evidence that subordinates’ personality traits (e.g., conscientiousness) buffered the negative effect of abusive supervision on subordinates’ task performance. Mitchell and Ambrose 2012 takes both individual and contextual factors into account when examining the relationship between abusive supervision and subordinates’ behavioral responses, including problem solving. Some scholars have also suggested that supervisors may abuse employees for some strategic or instrumental goals, such as increasing employees’ task performance. By employing a field study and a scenario experiment, Walter, et al. 2015 examined this possibility. The results found that abusive supervision was not positively related to employees’ subsequent objective performance. Among various types of task performance, employees’ creativity has recently received increasing attention. Current literature returned mixed findings. Zhang, et al. 2014 proposes and tests a negative relationship between abusive supervision and employees’ creativity, and such negative effects were attenuated among employees with high core self-evaluations. However, Lee, et al. 2013 suggests a curvilinear relationship between abusive supervision and employees’ creativity. That is, employees showed the highest level of creativity when experiencing moderate levels of abusive supervision. Farh and Chen 2014 also found that both individual- and team-level abusive supervision generated negative influences on individual performance (cited under Implications of Abusive Supervision at Team Level).

  • Harris, K. J., K. M. Kacmar, and S. Zivnuska. “An Investigation of Abusive Supervision as a Predictor of Performance and the Meaning of Work as a Moderator of the Relationship.” Leadership Quarterly 18.3 (2007): 252–263.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.03.007Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study showed that abusive supervision had negative effects on employees’ job performance (i.e., supervisor-ratings and performance appraisal ratings), and this effect was moderated by the meaning of the work.

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  • Lee, S., S. Yun, and A. Srivastava. “Evidence for a Curvilinear Relationship Between Abusive Supervision and Creativity in South Korea.” Leadership Quarterly 24.5 (2013): 724–731.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2013.07.002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that an inverted-U-shaped relationship existed between abusive supervision and employees’ creativity. Employees exhibited more creativity when abusive supervision was at a moderate level.

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  • Mitchell, M. S., and M. L. Ambrose. “Employees’ Behavioral Reactions to Supervisor Aggression: An Examination of Individual and Situational Factors.” Journal of Applied Psychology 97.6 (2012): 1148–1170.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0029452Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Based on an experiment and two field studies, this article examined how both individual factors (i.e., locus of control) and situational factors (i.e., fear of retaliation and behavioral modeling) influenced employees’ behavioral responses (i.e., retaliation, coworker-displaced aggression, and problem solving) to abusive supervision.

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  • Nandkeolyar, A. K., J. A. Shaffer, A. Li, S. Ekkirala, and J. Bagger. “Surviving an Abusive Supervisor: The Joint Roles of Conscientiousness and Coping Strategies.” Journal of Applied Psychology 99.1 (2014): 138–150.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0034262Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that the negative effect of abusive supervision on subordinate performance was weaker when subordinates are high in conscientiousness, and this moderating effect was mediated by subordinates’ avoidance coping strategy.

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  • Walter, F., C. K. Lam, G. S. van der Vegt, X. Huang, and Q. Miao. “Abusive Supervision and Subordinate Performance: Instrumentality Considerations in the Emergence and Consequences of Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Applied Psychology 100.4 (2015): 1056–1072.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0038513Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing from moral exclusion theory, the authors adopted one field study and one experimental scenario study to examine the relationship between subordinate performance and abusive supervision. Results showed outcome dependence moderated the negative effect of subordinate performance on abusive supervision; abusive supervision negatively affected subordinate objective performance.

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  • Zhang, H., H. K. Kwan, X. Zhang, and L. Z. Wu. “High Core Self-evaluators Maintain Creativity: A Motivational Model of Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Management 40 (2014): 1151–1174.

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206312460681Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Supported the prediction that abusive supervision is negatively related to creativity through intrinsic motivation, but such effect is buffered among employees high in core self-evaluations.

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Organizational Citizenship Behaviors

As one important subdomain of individuals’ global job performance—the other two are task performance, (see discussions under Task Performance) and counterproductive performance, (see discussions under Deviance), organizational citizenship behaviors received increasing interest in the investigations of the consequences of abusive supervision. Zellars, et al. 2002 provided initial evidence that abusive supervision had negative effects on subordinates’ organizational citizenship behaviors. Later on, researchers explored potential mechanisms that can explain the negative effects, as well as potential moderators that can buffer such negative effects, including both individual and contextual factors. Aryee, et al. 2007 found a trickle-down effect that supervisor-perceived interactional justice led to abusive supervision, which in turn, negatively affected subordinates’ organizational citizenship behaviors (cited under Supervisor-related Characteristics). For example, Xu, et al. 2012 examines the role of leader-member exchange in the abusive supervision—subordinates’ organizational citizenship behaviors (toward individuals and organizations). Gregory, et al. 2013 demonstrates that such negative effect was stronger when supervisor—subordinate tenure was longer. Ouyang, et al. 2013 shows that such negative effects were mediated by employees’ inside status and were stronger for female employees. Aryee, et al. 2008 finds that such negative effects were mediated by employees’ emotional exhaustion and was stronger in mechanistic rather than in organic work unit structures. Zhao, et al. 2013 offers a culture lens by showing that abusive supervision carried negative effect on employees’ citizenship behaviors through perceived psychological safety, and this negative effect was weaker by Chinese traditionality. Other forms of citizenship behaviors or prosocial behaviors have also been examined. For example, Rafferty and Restubog 2011 provides evidence that abusive supervision was negatively related to employees’ prosocial silence and prosocial voice.

  • Aryee, S., L. Y. Sun, Z. X. G. Chen, and Y. A. Debrah. “Abusive Supervision and Contextual Performance: The Mediating Role of Emotional Exhaustion and the Moderating Role of Work Unit Structure.” Management and Organization Review 4.3 (2008): 393–411.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1740-8784.2008.00118.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Supported the prediction that abusive supervision contributed to the lower levels of employees’ contextual performance through emotion exhaustion, and this mediating effect was stronger in mechanistic than in organic work unit structures.

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  • Gregory, B. T., T. Osmonbekov, S. T. Gregory, M. D. Albritton, and J. C. Carr. “Abusive Supervision and Citizenship Behaviors: Exploring Boundary Conditions.” Journal of Managerial Psychology 28.6 (2013): 628–644.

    DOI: 10.1108/JMP-10-2012-0314Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Showed that the negative relationship between abusive supervision and citizenship behaviors was stronger when the supervisor-subordinate tenure was longer and when the subordinates were less satisfied with compensation.

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  • Ouyang, K., W. Lam, and W. Wang. “Roles of Gender and Identification on Abusive Supervision and Proactive Behavior.” Asia Pacific Journal of Management (2013): 1–21.

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    Supported a model that abusive supervision was negatively related to employees’ proactive behavior through perceived inside status, and that effect was stronger for female employees.

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  • Rafferty, A. E., and S. L. D. Restubog. “The Influence of Abusive Supervisors on Followers’ Organizational Citizenship Behaviours: The Hidden Costs of Abusive Supervision.” British Journal of Management 22.2 (2011): 270–285.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2010.00732.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offered evidence that abusive supervision influenced employees prosocial silence and prosocial voice through interactional justice, organizational-based self-esteem, and the meaning of work.

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  • Xu, E., X. Huang, C. K. Lam, and Q. Miao. “Abusive Supervision and Work Behaviors: The Mediating Role of LMX.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 33.4 (2012): 531–543.

    DOI: 10.1002/job.768Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provided support that leader-member exchange mediated the relationship between abusive supervision and task performance and organizational citizenship behaviors (i.e., both toward individuals and organizations).

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  • Zellars, K. L., B. J. Tepper, and M. K. Duffy. “Abusive Supervision and Subordinates’ Organizational Citizenship Behavior.” Journal of Applied Psychology 87.6 (2002): 1068–1076.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.87.6.1068Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offered the first empirical test for the relationship of abusive supervision and subordinates’ organizational citizenship behavior (OCB). Results showed that the relationship was negative for subordinates who defined organizational citizenship behavior as extra-role behavior and fully mediated through procedural justice and OCB role definition.

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  • Zhao, H., Z. Peng, Y. Han, G. Sheard, and A. Hudson. “Psychological Mechanism Linking Abusive Supervision and Compulsory Citizenship Behavior: A Moderated Mediation Study.” Journal of Psychology 147.2 (2013): 177–195.

    DOI: 10.1080/00223980.2012.680522Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Provided support that abusive supervision triggered compulsory citizenship behavior through psychological safety, and that mediating effect was weaker by Chinese traditionality.

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Deviance

Compared to the effects of abusive supervision on task performance (see discussions under Task Performance) and organizational citizenship behaviors (see discussions under Organizational Citizenship Behaviors), the relationships between abusive supervision and subordinates’ deviant behaviors received considerable attention in the early 21st century. Depending on the targets of deviant behaviors, most 21st-century studies examined three types of subordinates’ deviant behaviors: supervisor-directed, coworker-directed, and organization-directed deviance, each of which is discussed in this section. The potential mechanisms and factors that either strengthen or weaken the abusive supervision—subordinates’ deviance relationship is discussed.

Supervisor-directed Deviance

The existing literature supports the argument that subordinates were likely to engage in supervisor-directed deviance in response to abusive supervision. Scholars have examined different mechanisms and boundary conditions to better understand this positive effect. Tepper, et al. 2009 finds that this positive effect was stronger when subordinates’ intention to quit was high. Thau, et al. 2009 provides support that such positive effect was stronger when authoritarian management style was low. Lian, et al. 2014 deepened the current thinking on this positive relationship by explaining that subordinates retaliated because of feelings of hostility, and this positive effect was stronger among subordinates who had low self-control capacity and low motivation to self-control. Dupré, et al. 2006 replicates previous findings regarding the positive effect among teenage employees. Liu, et al. 2010 conducted a field study from a multicultural perspective. They found that such positive effect can be explained by the revenge cognition and becomes stronger among low traditionalists. Inness, et al. 2005 takes a different approach by conducting a within-person, between-job study. Based on a sample of employees who work for two different jobs (each of job has a supervisor), they found that abusive supervision rather than individual differences (i.e., self-esteem, family history of aggression) explained more variance in employees’ supervisor-directed aggression. Decoster, et al. 2013 provides competing evidence that abused subordinates were less likely to gossip about their supervisors when they hold a strong organizational identification.

  • Decoster, S., J. Camps, J. Stouten, L. Vandevyvere, and T. M. Tripp. “Standing by Your Organization: The Impact of Organizational Identification and Abusive Supervision on Followers’ Perceived Cohesion and Tendency to Gossip.” Journal of Business Ethics 118.3 (2013): 623–634.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-012-1612-zSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that abused subordinates had a stronger perceived team cohesion and were less likely to gossip about their supervisor when they had a strong organizational identification.

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  • Dupré, K. E., M. Inness, C. E. Connelly, J. Barling, and C. Hoption. “Workplace Aggression in Teenage Part-time Employees.” Journal of Applied Psychology 91.5 (2006): 987–997.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.91.5.987Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explored whether abusive supervisor-directed aggression relationship existed among teenage employees. Results supported this relationship and found that teenage employees’ reasons for working (i.e., financial and personal fulfillment) moderated this relationship.

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  • Inness, M., J. Barling, and N. Turner. “Understanding Supervisor-targeted Aggression: A Within-person, Between-Jobs Design.” Journal of Applied Psychology 90.4 (2005): 731–739.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.90.4.731Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Based on a sample of moonlighters (employees working two jobs, each with a different supervisor), this study found that abusive supervision explained more variance than individual differences (i.e., self-esteem, history of aggression) in supervisor-targeted aggression.

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  • Lian, H., D. J. Brown, D. L. Ferris, L. H. Liang, L. M. Keeping, and R. Morrison. “Abusive Supervision and Retaliation: A Self-control Framework.” Academy of Management Journal 57.1 (2014): 116–139.

    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2011.0977Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Tested a self-control framework that abusive supervision led to retaliation through subordinates’ feelings of hostility. The effect was stronger when subordinates were low in self-control capacity and motivation to self-control.

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  • Liu, J., H. Kwong Kwan, L. Z. Wu, and W. Wu. “Abusive Supervision and Subordinate Supervisor‐directed Deviance: The Moderating Role of Traditional Values and the Mediating Role of Revenge Cognitions.” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 83.4 (2010): 835–856.

    DOI: 10.1348/096317909X485216Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offered empirical support that the positive relationship between abusive supervision and supervisor-directed deviance was mediated by the revenge cognition, and this mediating effect was stronger among low traditionalists.

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  • Tepper, B. J., J. C. Carr, D. M. Breaux, S. Geider, C. Hu, and W. Hua. “Abusive Supervision, Intentions to Quit, and Employees’ Workplace Deviance: A Power/Dependence Analysis.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 109.2 (2009): 156–167.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2009.03.004Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing on a power and dependence theory, this article found that abusive supervision was more likely to lead to both supervisor-directed and organization-directed deviance when subordinates’ intention to quit was higher.

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  • Thau, S., R. J. Bennett, M. S. Mitchell, and M. B. Marrs. “How Management Style Moderates the Relationship Between Abusive Supervision and Workplace Deviance: An Uncertainty Management Theory Perspective.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 108.1 (2009): 79–92.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2008.06.003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that the positive relationship of abusive supervision and supervisor-directed and organization-directed deviance were stronger when authoritarian management style was low (i.e., high situational uncertainty).

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Coworker-directed Deviance

Because abusive supervision occurs between a supervisor and his or her direct subordinates, it is not uncommon that subordinates engage in deviant behaviors that directly target their abusive supervisors. However, under certain conditions, subordinates may display deviance toward others in the workplace, such as their coworkers. Current literature explored this question as well. Wheeler, et al. 2013 suggests that the positive relationship between abusive supervision and employees’ coworker-directed deviance can be explained by subordinates’ emotional exhaustion, and this effect was stronger for subordinates with high psychological entitlement. Burton and Hoobler 2011 integrates theories on trait activation and justice to propose that such positive effect was mediated by perceived injustice and was stronger among employees with high narcissism. Mitchell and Ambrose 2012 (cited under Task Performance) examines how both individual and situational factors influence the relationships between abusive supervision and various outcomes, including coworker displaced aggression. Mawritz, et al. 2012 proposes and examines a trickle-down model that department managers’ abusive supervision leads to direct supervisors’ abuse, which then triggers employees’ interpersonal deviance at work. Lian, et al. 2012 examines this question through the lens of culture. Their study showed that the positive relationship between abusive supervision and subordinates’ interpersonal deviance was weaker among high power distance-oriented subordinates. Vogel, et al. 2015 examines subordinates’ negative responses to abusive supervision through the lens of cultural values. Their cross-cultural study showed that the negative effect was stronger in Anglo culture rather than in Confucian culture. Vogel and Mitchell 2015 offers a new theoretical view on the effect of abusive supervision on subordinates’ deviance. Drawing from theories on self-esteem, they proposed and tested that abusive supervision decreased subordinates’ self-esteem, which may drive two different behavioral reactions: both workplace interpersonal deviance and self-presentation behaviors.

  • Burton, J. P., and J. M. Hoobler. “Aggressive Reactions to Abusive Supervision: The Role of Interactional Justice and Narcissism.” Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 52.4 (2011): 389–398.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.2011.00886.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offers evidence that the positive indirect effect of abusive supervision on interpersonal and organizational aggression through interactional justice was stronger for subordinates with high levels of narcissism.

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  • Lian, H., D. L. Ferris, and D. J. Brown. “Does Power Distance Exacerbate or Mitigate the Effects of Abusive Supervision? It Depends on the Outcome.” Journal of Applied Psychology 97.1 (2012): 107–123.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0024610Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explored the role of power distance in employees’ reactions to supervisory abuse. Results supported that high-power distance-oriented employees were less likely to react to abusive supervision in the form of deviance.

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  • Mawritz, M. B., D. M. Mayer, J. M. Hoobler, S. J. Wayne, and S. V. Marinova. “A Trickle‐Down Model of Abusive Supervision.” Personnel Psychology 65.2 (2012): 325–357.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2012.01246.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Tested a trickle-down model where managerial abuse was positively related to supervisory abuse, which then related to work group interpersonal deviance, and this trickle-down effect was stronger when the hostility of a particular work climate was high.

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  • Vogel, R. M., and M. S. Mitchell. “The Motivational Effects of Diminished Self-esteem for Employees who Experience Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Management (2015).

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206314566462Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Integrating the self-defense view and self-presentational view of self-esteem, this study found that abusive supervision led to subordinates’ workplace deviance and self-presentational behavior through diminished self-esteem. This effect was diminished for subordinates with high turnover intentions.

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  • Vogel, R. M., M. S. Mitchell, B. J. Tepper, S. L. Restubog, C. Hu, W. Hua, and J. C. Huang. “A Cross‐cultural Examination of Subordinates’ Perceptions of and Reactions to Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 36.5 (2015): 720–745.

    DOI: 10.1002/job.1984Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examined role of culture in employees’ reactions to abusive supervision. Across two studies, results support that subordinates from the Anglo culture are more likely to negatively react to abusive supervision than subordinates from the Confucian Asian culture, and this moderating effect of culture is mediated by subordinates’ power-distance orientation.

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  • Wheeler, A. R., J. R. Halbesleben, and M. V. Whitman. “The Interactive Effects of Abusive Supervision and Entitlement on Emotional Exhaustion and Co‐worker Abuse.” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 86.4 (2013): 477–496.

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    Found that the indirect effect of abusive supervision on coworker abuse through emotional exhaustion was stronger for subordinates with high psychological entitlement.

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Organization-directed Deviance

When the target of subordinates’ deviant behaviors is their organizations, the positive effect of abusive supervision was supported by most 21st-century studies. Different theoretical mechanisms and both individual and contextual moderators have been explored and tested. Sulea, et al. 2015 provides evidence that such positive effect was stronger among employees with low conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability. Tepper, et al. 2008 suggests that such positive effect can be explained by subordinates’ affective commitment and was stronger when the norm for deviance was high. Shoss, et al. 2013 proposes a new theoretical framework suggesting that subordinates may attribute abusive supervision to their organizations and thus lead to more organization-directed deviance. Lian, et al. 2012 draws from theories on leader-member exchange and found that abusive supervision interacted with leader-member exchange to affect subordinates’ need for satisfaction, which then triggered subordinates’ organizational deviance. Thau and Mitchell 2010 proposes two competing arguments that distributive justice may either strengthen (i.e., self-gain view) or weaken (i.e., self-regulation impairment view) the negative effect of abusive supervision on employee deviance, and their studies supported the self-regulation impairment view. Mitchell and Ambrose 2007 provides an examination of the effects of abusive supervision on all three types of employees’ deviance and found the negative effects to be stronger when subordinates held negative reciprocity beliefs. Detert, et al. 2007 suggests a negative effect of abusive supervision on unit-level counterproductivity (cited under Implications of Abusive Supervision at Team Level). Burton and Hoobler 2011 finds that the negative effect of abusive supervision on organization-directed deviance was stronger among subordinates with high narcissism (cited under Coworker-directed Deviance). Bowling and Michel 2011 suggests that the effect of abusive supervision on organization-directed deviance was stronger when organization-directed attribution was made (cited under Motivations Behind Abusive Supervision). Lian, et al. 2012 finds a reciprocal relationship between abusive supervision and organization-directed deviance (cited under Dynamic Process of the Emergence of Abusive Supervision).

  • Lian, H., D. L. Ferris, and D. J. Brown. “Does Taking the Good with the Bad Make Things Worse? How Abusive Supervision and Leader-Member Exchange Interact to Impact Need Satisfaction and Organizational Deviance.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 117.1 (2012): 41–52.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.obhdp.2011.10.003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that abusive supervision interacted with leader-member exchange to predict subordinates’ organizational deviance, and this effect was mediated by psychological need satisfaction after controlling justice perceptions.

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  • Mitchell, M. S., and M. L. Ambrose. “Abusive Supervision and Workplace Deviance and the Moderating Effects of Negative Reciprocity Beliefs.” Journal of Applied Psychology 92.4 (2007): 1159–1168.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.4.1159Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that abusive supervision was related to subordinates’ supervisor-directed, interpersonal, and organization-directed deviance, and the effect on supervisor-directed deviance was stronger when subordinates held stronger negative reciprocity beliefs.

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  • Shoss, M. K., R. Eisenberger, S. L. D. Restubog, and T. J. Zagenczyk. “Blaming the Organization for Abusive Supervision: The Roles of Perceived Organizational Support and Supervisor’s Organizational Embodiment.” Journal of Applied Psychology 98.1 (2013): 158–168.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0030687Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing from organizational support theory, this paper explained why subordinates engage in organizational deviance in response to supervisory abuse. Based on three samples, results showed that subordinates partly attributed abusive supervision to the organization, and therefore, they behaved negatively toward the organization (i.e., more organizational deviance and less organizational citizenship behaviors).

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  • Sulea, C., S. Fine, G. Fischmann, F. A. Sava, and C. Dumitru. “Abusive Supervision and Counterproductive Work Behaviors.” Journal of Personnel Psychology 12.4 (2015): 196–200.

    DOI: 10.1027/1866-5888/a000097Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Showed that employees with low conscientiousness, agreeableness, and emotional stability were more likely to engage in organizational-directed counterproductive behaviors in responses to abusive supervision.

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  • Tepper, B. J., C. A. Henle, L. S. Lambert, R. A. Giacalone, and M. K. Duffy. “Abusive Supervision and Subordinates’ Organization Deviance.” Journal of Applied Psychology 93.4 (2008): 721–732.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.93.4.721Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focused on subordinates’ organization deviance in response to abusive supervision. Results from two field studies supported a model that supervisory abuse negatively affected subordinates’ affective commitment, which gave rise to organizational deviance, and this effect was stronger when the norms toward organization deviance was high.

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  • Thau, S., and M. S. Mitchell. “Self-gain or Self-regulation Impairment? Tests of Competing Explanations of the Supervisor Abuse and Employee Deviance Relationship Through Perceptions of Distributive Justice.” Journal of Applied Psychology 95.6 (2010): 1009–1031.

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    The authors offered two competing theoretical views regarding the role of distributive justice in abused employees’ deviance. Self-gain view suggests distributive justice will weaken the abusive supervision—subordinate deviance relationship, whereas self-regulation impairment view suggests distributive justice will strengthen that relationship. Three studies provided support for the self-regulation impairment view.

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Family Life

How and when does abusive supervision generate consequences in non-work domains? Besides effects on the subordinates themselves at work, scholars also examined the potential influences of abusive supervision in subordinates’ family lives. Carlson, et al. 2012 provides evidence that abusive supervision can lead to work-to-family conflict because of subordinates’ experiences with burn out. Hoobler and Hu 2013 draws from emotions literature to propose a framework that abusive supervision increases work-to-family conflict through subordinates’ negative affect. Wu, et al. 2012 takes one step further and found that through work-to-family conflict, abusive supervision was likely to trigger family undermining. Carlson, et al. 2011 demonstrates that abusive supervision can negatively affect both work-to-family conflict and relationship tension, which in turn, can affect subordinates’ family satisfaction and their partners’ family functioning. Hoobler and Brass 2006 examines both antecedents and consequences of abusive supervision, and results show that supervisors’ perceived psychological contract violation led to abusive supervision, which then contributed to the family member reported subordinates’ undermining behaviors at home. Restubog, et al. 2011 finds that aggressive norms at work contributed to the occurrence of abusive supervision, which then led to subordinates’ high levels of psychological distress and spouse undermining.

  • Carlson, D., M. Ferguson, E. Hunter, and D. Whitten. “Abusive Supervision and Work-Family Conflict: The Path Through Emotional Labor and Burnout.” Leadership Quarterly 23.5 (2012): 849–859.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.05.003Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing from conservation of resources theory, this article found that abusive supervision influenced work-family conflict, and this relationship was mediated by subordinate surface acting and burnout.

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  • Carlson, D. S., M. Ferguson, P. L. Perrewe, and D. Whitten. “The Fallout from Abusive Supervision: An Examination of Subordinates and Their Partners.” Personnel Psychology 64.4 (2011): 937–961.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2011.01232.xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Proposed and tested a spillover and crossover model that abusive supervision significantly affects subordinates’ work-to-family conflict and relationship tension, and the latter (relationship tension) further influences subordinates’ family satisfaction and their partners’ family functioning.

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  • Hoobler, J. M., and D. J. Brass. “Abusive Supervision and Family Undermining as Displaced Aggression.” Journal of Applied Psychology 91.5 (2006): 1125–1133.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.91.5.1125Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that supervisor’s psychological contract violation, moderated by hostile attribution bias, predicted abusive supervision, which then gave rise to family members’ reported negative affect and evaluations directed toward them at home.

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  • Hoobler, J. M., and J. Hu. “A Model of Injustice, Abusive Supervision, and Negative Affect.” Leadership Quarterly 24.1 (2013): 256–269.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.11.005Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing insights from organizational justice theory, this article examines the role of supervisor and subordinate’s negative affect in triggering and responding to abusive supervision. Results demonstrated supervisor-perceived interactional justice led to abusive supervision (via supervisor’s negative affect), which affected subordinate’s performance and work-family conflict (via subordinate’s negative affect).

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  • Restubog, S. L. D., K. L. Scott, and T. J. Zagenczyk. “When Distress Hits Home: The Role of Contextual Factors and Psychological Distress in Predicting Employees’ Responses to Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Applied Psychology 96.4 (2011): 713–729.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0021593Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Built and tested a mediation chain model where aggressive norms led to spouse undermining through abusive supervision and psychological distress. This mediation effect was stronger for men and for employees working in relationship-oriented occupations.

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  • Wu, L. Z., H. Kwong Kwan, J. Liu, and C. J. Resick. “Work-to-Family Spillover Effects of Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Managerial Psychology 27.7 (2012): 714–731.

    DOI: 10.1108/02683941211259539Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The article found that abusive supervision was positively related to family undermining through work-to-family conflict, and this effect was lessened when the boundary strength at home is high.

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Coping with Abusive Supervision

Building on the discussion about subordinates’ responses to abusive supervision (see Consequences of Abusive Supervision), this section focuses on how subordinates cope with abusive supervision in terms of emotion and emotion regulation strategies, communication and resistance behaviors, and coping behaviors.

Emotions and Emotion Regulation Strategies

Current literature suggests that subordinates are likely to experience difference emotions and adopt different emotion regulation strategies to effectively respond to abusive supervision. Wu and Hu 2013 finds that subordinates were more likely to adopt surface acting (rather than deep acting) to deal with abusive supervision. Using a different framework in emotion regulation, Chi and Liang 2013 provides support that subordinates’ cognitive reappraisal strategy (similar to deep acting) was more effective than expressive expression strategy (similar to surface acting) in their responses to abusive supervision. Ferris, et al. 2015 proposes an approach versus avoidance framework and argued that abusive supervision can lead to an approach emotion—anger, which then increases approach-directed counterproductive behaviors.

  • Chi, S. C. S., and S. G. Liang. “When Do Subordinates’ Emotion-Regulation Strategies Matter? Abusive Supervision, Subordinates’ Emotional Exhaustion, and Eork Withdrawal.” Leadership Quarterly 24.1 (2013): 125–137.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.08.006Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examines how subordinates’ emotion regulation strategies influence their responses to abusive supervision. They found that subordinates’ emotional exhaustion mediated the effect of abusive supervision on work withdrawal, but the effect was diminished when subordinates adopted cognitive reappraisal versus expressive expression strategy.

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  • Ferris, D. L., M. Yan, V. Lim, Y. Chen, and S. Fatimah. “An Approach/Avoidance Framework of Workplace Aggression.” Academy of Management Journal (2015).

    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2014.0221Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offers a new theoretical framework to help differentiate several constructs of workplace aggression (i.e., abusive supervision, supervisor undermining, and ostracism) and their implications. Abusive supervision is likely to elicit approach emotion—anger and subsequent approach-directed counterproductive behaviors.

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  • Wu, T. Y., and C. Hu. “Abusive Supervision and Subordinate Emotional Labor: The Moderating Role of Openness Personality.” Journal of Applied Social Psychology 43.5 (2013): 956–970.

    DOI: 10.1111/jasp.12060Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Investigates how subordinates use their emotional labor strategies to respond to abusive supervision. The results showed that abusive supervision was positively related to subordinate surface acting and negatively related to subordinate deep acting. The effects were stronger for subordinates with lower levels of openness.

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Communication and Resistance Behaviors

According to current literature, subordinates adopt different communication and resistance behaviors in responses to their experienced supervisory abuse, and both individual and contextual factors affect the effectiveness of those behavioral responses. Tepper, et al. 2001 finds that subordinates’ conscientiousness and agreeableness affected the relationship between abusive supervision and subordinates’ dysfunctional and constructive resistance behaviors. Later on, by reanalyzing the original data from Tepper 2000 (cited under General Overviews), Tepper, et al. 2007 shows that subordinates were likely to employ regulative maintenance tactics when experiencing abusive supervision, and the positive effect of abusive supervision on subordinates’ psychological distress was weaker when adopting direct maintenance communications. Goswami, et al. 2015 finds that the positive relationship between abusive supervision and subordinates’ resistance was mediated by subordinates’ negative affect. Building on previous work, Tepper, et al. 2015 finds the negative effect of abusive supervision on subordinates’ job satisfaction, affective commitment, and psychological distress became weaker when subordinates used upward hostility, such as resistance.

  • Goswami, A., P. K. Nair, and M. A. Grossenbacher. “Impact of Aggressive Humor on Dysfunctional Resistance.” Personality and Individual Differences 74 (2015): 265–269.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.paid.2014.10.037Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explored and demonstrated that the positive relationship between abusive supervision and dysfunctional resistance was mediated by negative affect, and the aggressive humor moderated the direct effect, not the indirect effect.

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  • Tepper, B. J., M. K. Duffy, and J. D. Shaw. “Personality Moderators of the Relationship Between Abusive Supervision and Subordinates’ Resistance.” Journal of Applied Psychology 86.5 (2001): 974–983.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.86.5.974Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explored the roles of subordinates’ conscientiousness and agreeableness in the effects of abusive supervision on subordinates’ dysfunctional and constructive resistance.

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  • Tepper, B. J., M. S. Mitchell, D. L. Haggard, H. K. Kwan, and H. M. Park. “On the Exchange of Hostility with Supervisors: An Examination of Self‐enhancing and Self‐defeating Perspectives.” Personnel Psychology 68.4 (2015): 723–758.

    DOI: 10.1111/peps.12094Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study found that abused subordinates were less likely to view themselves as victims, and abusive supervision had a diminished effect on subordinates’ job satisfaction, affective commitment, and psychological distress when they engaged in upward hostility (i.e., resistance).

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  • Tepper, B. J., S. E. Moss, D. E. Lockhart, and J. C. Carr. “Abusive Supervision, Upward Maintenance Communication, and Subordinates’ Psychological Distress.” Academy of Management Journal 50.5 (2007): 1169–1180.

    DOI: 10.2307/20159918Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study reanalyzed data from Tepper’s paper published in 2000 at academy of management journal and found that abusive supervision was positively related to subordinates’ regulative maintenance tactics. The positive effect on subordinate psychological distress was weaker among subordinates who used direct maintenance communications.

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Coping Behaviors

A growing body of research has examined a variety of coping behaviors that subordinates adopt to respond to supervisory abuse, including silence and avoidance, political skills and ingratiation, positive emotions and emotional intelligence, and job search. For example, Xu, et al. 2015 finds that subordinates were likely to keep silent in response to abusive supervision. Whitman, et al. 2014 provides evidence that abusive supervision triggered subordinates’ feedback avoidance. Burris, et al. 2008 conducts a field study, and results showed that subordinates were less likely to voice when experiencing abusive supervision. Li, et al. 2016 demonstrates that the effect of abusive supervision on subordinates’ burnout was weaker when perceived organizational support was high and when subordinates used political skills. Palanski, et al. 2014 offers a new angle to suggest that subordinates may start a job search after experiencing supervisory abuse. In addition, subordinates’ positive emotions and emotional intelligence may also buffer effects of abusive supervision. Harvey, et al. 2007 argues that subordinates’ positive affect helped to reduce the effect of abusive supervision on subordinates, and Hu 2012 suggests that subordinates’ emotional intelligence helped to reduce the effect of abusive supervision on subordinates’ psychological distress and emotional labor burden.

  • Burris, E. R., J. R. Detert, and D. S. Chiaburu. “Quitting Before Leaving: The Mediating Effects of Psychological Attachment and Detachment on Voice.” Journal of Applied Psychology 93.4 (2008): 912–922.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.93.4.912Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Psychological detachment was found to mediate the positive relationship between abusive supervision and employees’ voice.

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  • Harvey, P., J. Stoner, W. Hochwarter, and C. Kacmar. “Coping with Abusive Supervision: The Neutralizing Effects of Ingratiation and Positive Affect on Negative Employee Outcomes.” Leadership Quarterly 18.3 (2007): 264–280.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.03.008Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Showed that employees’ ingratiation and positive affect buffered negative effects of abusive supervision on strain (i.e., job tension and emotional exhaustion).

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  • Hu, H. H. “The Influence of Employee Emotional Intelligence on Coping with Supervisor Abuse in a Banking Context.” Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal 40.5 (2012): 863–874.

    DOI: 10.2224/sbp.2012.40.5.863Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Proposed and found that employees’ emotional intelligence weakened the positive relationship between abusive supervision and on employees’ emotional labor burden (through psychological distress).

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  • Li, X., J. Qian, Z. R. Han, and Z. Jin. “Coping with Abusive Supervision: The Neutralizing Effects of Perceived Organizational Support and Political Skill on Employees’ Burnout.” Current Psychology 35.1 (2016): 77–82.

    DOI: 10.1007/s12144-015-9363-5Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this study, authors hypothesized and found that the positive relationship between abusive supervision and burnout was weaker when employees perceived organizational support was high and when employees were high in their political skills.

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  • Palanski, M., J. B. Avey, and N. Jiraporn. “The Effects of Ethical Leadership and Abusive Supervision on Job Search Behaviors in the Turnover Process.” Journal of Business Ethics 121.1 (2014): 135–146.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10551-013-1690-6Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offered support that abusive supervision can trigger subordinate job search behaviors through job satisfaction and intention to quit.

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  • Whitman, M. V., J. R. Halbesleben, and O. Holmes. “Abusive Supervision and Feedback Avoidance: The Mediating Role of Emotional Exhaustion.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 35.1 (2014): 38–53.

    DOI: 10.1002/job.1852Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explored employees’ another coping behaviors—feedback avoidance and found that abusive supervision led to employees’ feedback avoidance through emotional exhaustion. An interesting finding was that such feedback avoidance further led to exhaustion, suggesting a loss spiral.

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  • Xu, A. J., R. Loi, and L. W. Lam. “The Bad Boss Takes It All: How Abusive Supervision and Leader-Member Exchange Interact to Influence Employee Silence.” Leadership Quarterly 26.5 (2015): 763–774.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2015.03.002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that abusive supervision was positively associated with employee silence through emotional exhaustion, and this effect was stronger when leader-member exchange was high.

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Emerging Research Directions

Since Tepper 2000 (cited under General Overviews) introduced abusive supervision to management literature, a large and growing body of research has been conducted to better understand the antecedents to (see also Antecedents of Abusive Supervision), consequences of (see also Consequences of Abusive Supervision), and coping strategies in responses to abusive supervision (see also Coping Behaviors). More importantly, scholars have started to expand and diversify the abusive supervision literature by conducting research in the following new directions: abusive supervision serves as a moderator on other work-related relationships, the implications of abusive supervision at team level, the dynamic process of the emergence of abusive supervision, the role of motivations behind abusive supervision, and vicarious abusive supervision.

Abusive Supervision as a Moderator

Besides viewing abusive supervision as a focal variable in the investigations, researchers have begun exploring the moderating roles of abusive supervision on other work-related relationships. For example, Greenbaum, et al. 2014 examines the relationship between employees’ personality and unethical behaviors at work. Both their field study and experiment found that employees’ Machivaellianism was positively related to unethical behaviors, especially when abusive supervision was high. Mackey, et al. 2014 points out that empowered employees were more likely to engage in coworker deviance when experiencing high levels of abusive supervision. Tepper, et al. 2004 demonstrates that the relationship between coworkers’ organizational citizenship behaviors and the fellow employees’ work attitudes was significantly affected by perceived levels of abusive supervision. Kim and Yun 2015 explains that the positive relationship between coworker knowledge sharing and the focal employee’s task performance was stronger when experiencing less supervisory abuse. By shifting the focus on team performance, Rousseau and Aubé 2014 provides support that the positive effect of team-based reward leadership on team performance was stronger when perceived abusive supervision was low. Butts, et al. 2015 examines the effect of electronic communications on employees’ emotions and work-nonwork conflict and found that the effect was weaker when employees’ experienced abusive supervision was low. Shao, et al. 2011 explores the interaction effect of abusive supervision and cultural values, and their study provided evidence that abusive supervision and subordinates’ power distance orientation and psychological collectivism jointly determined both harming and helping behaviors at work.

  • Butts, M., W. Becker, and W. Boswell. “Hot Buttons and Time Sinks: The Effects of Electronic Communication During Nonwork Time on Emotions and Work-Nonwork Conflict.” Academy of Management Journal 58.3 (2015): 763–788.

    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2014.0170Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examined the moderating role of abusive supervision on the effect of electronic communication on employees’ emotions (i.e., anger and happiness) and work-nonwork conflict.

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  • Greenbaum, R. L., A. Hill, M. B. Mawritz, and M. J. Quade. “Employee Machiavellianism to Unethical Behavior: The Role of Abusive Supervision as a Trait Activator.” Journal of Management (2014).

    DOI: 10.1177/0149206314535434Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing from trait activation theory, the authors proposed a model that employees’ Machiavellianism interacted with abusive supervision to predict unethical behaviors. One field study and one experiment were adopted to test the model and the effects of each Machiavellianism dimension.

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  • Kim, S. L., and S. Yun. “The Effect of Coworker Knowledge Sharing on Performance and Its Boundary Conditions: An Interactional Perspective.” Journal of Applied Psychology 100.2 (2015): 575–582.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0037834Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Points out that the positive relationship between coworker knowledge sharing and the focal employee performance was stronger when abusive supervision was low.

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  • Mackey, J. D., R. E. Frieder, P. L. Perrewé, V. C. Gallagher, and R. A. Brymer. “Empowered Employees as Social Deviants: The Role of Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Business and Psychology 30.1 (2014): 149–162.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10869-014-9345-xSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study tested a model of empowerment and abusive supervision. Results showed that highly empowered employees were more likely to engage in coworker-directed deviance when they perceived abusive supervision.

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  • Rousseau, V., and C. Aubé. “The Reward-Performance Relationship in Work Teams: The Role of Leader Behaviors and Team Commitment.” Group Processes and Intergroup Relations 17.5 (2014): 645–662.

    DOI: 10.1177/1368430214529465Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this study, the authors found that the positive indirect effect of team-based reward leadership on team performance via team commitment was stronger when abusive supervision was low.

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  • Shao, P., C. J. Resick, and M. B. Hargis. “Helping and Harming Others in the Workplace: The Roles of Personal Values and Abusive Supervision.” Human Relations 64 (2011): 1051–1078.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726711399940Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offered evidence that abusive supervision significantly influenced the effects of social dominance orientation and psychological collectivism on interpersonal citizenship and deviance.

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  • Tepper, B. J., M. K. Duffy, J. Hoobler, and M. D. Ensley. “Moderators of the Relationships Between Coworkers’ Organizational Citizenship Behavior and Fellow Employees’ Attitudes.” Journal of Applied Psychology 89.3 (2004): 455–465.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.89.3.455Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Showed that abusive supervision moderated the relationship between coworkers’ organizational citizenship behaviors (OCBs) and fellow employees’ job satisfaction and affective commitment. The effect was weaker when supervisor was abusive and attributions of employees’ OCBs played a role.

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The Implications of Abusive Supervision at Team Level

Current team-level abusive supervision research has been conducted in three different ways. First, most researchers examined team-level abusive supervision as an aggregated average level of abuse attributed to a common team leader by all team members. Conceptualized in this manner, Detert, et al. 2007 suggests a positive relationship existed between team-level abusive supervision and counterproductive behaviors, Hannah, et al. 2013 examines the effect of team-level abusive supervision on subordinates’ unethical intentions and behaviors. Second, some researchers examined the behavioral reactions to individual experience of abusive supervision in the presence of team-level abuse. Farh and Chen 2014 suggests that differing levels of aggregated abuse in the team significantly shaped the way individual team members interpret and respond to their own individualized experiences of abuse. Third, Priesemuth, et al. 2014 proposes that team-level abusive supervision can also be conceptualized as a shared understanding or normative expectation by all team members, which is defined as abusive supervision climate. Their research linked abusive supervision climate to group-level outcomes (e.g., group cooperation, group OCBs, and group performance) through group-level mechanisms (e.g., group identification and collective efficacy).

  • Detert, J. R., L. K. Trevino, E. R. Burris, and M. Andiappan. “Managerial Modes of Influence and Counterproductivity in Organizations: A Longitudinal Business-unit-level Investigation.” Journal of Applied Psychology 92.4 (2007): 993–1005.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.92.4.993Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that abusive supervision significantly predicted unit-level counterproductivity (conceptualized as a unit-level outcome that reflects the existence of a variety of intentional and unintentional harmful employee behaviors in the unit).

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  • Farh, C. I., and Z. Chen. “Beyond the Individual Victim: Multilevel Consequences of Abusive Supervision in Teams.” Journal of Applied Psychology 99.6 (2014): 1074–1095.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0037636Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    One field study and one scenario study were employed to test a multilevel model on consequences of abusive supervision in teams. Results showed that individual-level abusive supervision (via individual organization-based self-esteem) and team-level abusive supervision (via team relationship conflict) jointly affected individual members’ voice, performance, and turnover intentions.

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  • Hannah, S. T., J. M. Schaubroeck, A. C. Peng, R. G. Lord, L. K. Trevino, S. W. Kozlowski, and J. Doty. “Joint Influences of Individual and Work Unit Abusive Supervision on Ethical Intentions and Behaviors: A Moderated Mediation Model.” Journal of Applied Psychology 98.4 (2013): 579–592.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0032809Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors showed that individual abusive supervision led to subordinates’ moral courage and identification with organizational values, which in turn affected ethical intention and behaviors. This mediated effect was moderated by the work unit abusive supervision (average level of abusive supervision reported by unit members).

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  • Priesemuth, M., M. Schminke, M. L. Ambrose, and R. Folger. “Abusive Supervision Climate: A Multiple-mediation Model of Its Impact on Group Outcomes.” Academy of Management Journal 57.5 (2014): 1513–1534.

    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2011.0237Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Introduced a new construct—abusive supervision climate—and examined its effect on group outcomes. Results found abusive supervision climate affected group cooperation and citizenship behaviors (via group identification), and group performance (via collective efficacy).

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Dynamic Process of the Emergence of Abusive Supervision

While a large and growing body of literature has linked a variety of antecedents to abusive supervision (see also Antecedents of Abusive Supervision), researchers have recently argued that the emergence process may be more complicated than expected. Haggard, et al. 2011 provides indirect evidence, showing that employees’ co-rumination may increase perceptions of abusive supervision, and this effect is stronger among female employees. Tepper and Almeda 2012 suggests that the negative exchanges between supervisors and subordinates may contribute to both the occurrence of abusive supervision and subordinates’ subsequent negative responses. Drawing on this framework, Klaussner 2014 hypothesizes that abusive supervision may emerge from the escalating process of supervisor-subordinate negative interactions over time. Lian, et al. 2014 shows a reciprocal relationship between abusive supervision and subordinates’ organizational deviance may exist. Simon, et al. 2015 conducted a six-wave data collection and provided support for a reciprocal relationship between abusive supervision and supervisor-directed deviance. Their study also suggested that subordinates’ feelings of anger and fear explained the reciprocal process. In addition, some scholars adopted a within-person perspective to examine the emergence process of abusive supervision. Johnson, et al. 2012 explores an experience sampling study to examine how leaders’ identity affects the frequency and consistency of supervisors’ abusive behaviors. Barnes, et al. 2015 examines supervisors’ daily sleep quality as a new antecedent to abusive supervision. Chan and McAllister 2014 wrote a theoretical article positing that the dynamic process of the emergence of abusive supervision may be explained through employees’ state of paranoia.

  • Barnes, C., L. Lucianetti, D. Bhave, and M. Christian. “You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Sleepy: Leader Sleep, Daily Abusive Supervision, and Work Unit Engagement.” Academy of Management Journal 58 (2015): 1419–1437.

    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2013.1063Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Suggests that a leader’s sleep quality significantly affects that leader’s ego depletion, which in turn contributes to the occurrence of daily abusive supervision. By showing that daily abusive supervision leads to lower levels of work-unit engagement, this article also demonstrated that the within-person variance in abusive supervision is meaningful in predicting outcomes.

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  • Chan, M. E., and D. J. McAllister. “Abusive Supervision Through the Lens of Employee State Paranoia.” Academy of Management Review 39.1 (2014): 44–66.

    DOI: 10.5465/amr.2011.0419Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Drawing insights from social dynamics of state paranoia, authors introduced a new theoretical framework to explain the evolution process of abusive supervision and proposed a reciprocal relationship between perceived abusive supervision and employee state paranoia.

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  • Haggard, D. L., C. Robert, and A. J. Rose. “Co-rumination in the Workplace: Adjustment Trade-offs for Men and Women Who Engage in Excessive Discussions of Workplace Problems.” Journal of Business and Psychology 26.1 (2011): 27–40.

    DOI: 10.1007/s10869-010-9169-2Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Offered evidence that women were more likely to engage in co-rumination, and this effect was stronger when women experienced high levels of abusive supervision. However, co-rumination buffered the negative effect of abuse on affect among men.

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  • Johnson, R. E., M. Venus, K. Lanaj, C. Mao, and C. H. Chang. “Leader Identity as an Antecedent of the Frequency and Consistency of Transformational, Consideration, and Abusive Leadership Behaviors.” Journal of Applied Psychology 97.6 (2012): 1262–1272.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0029043Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    The authors adopted an experience sampling methodology to examine how leader identity affect leadership behaviors. Results showed that leaders with strong individual identity and weak collective identity were most likely to engage in abusive behaviors. This study also suggested that supervisors’ abusive behaviors varied on a daily basis.

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  • Klaussner, S. “Engulfed in the Abyss: The Emergence of Abusive Supervision as an Escalating Process of Supervisor-subordinate Interaction.” Human Relations 67.3 (2014): 311–332.

    DOI: 10.1177/0018726713493027Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    In this study, the author proposed and tested a process model of the emergence of abusive supervision. Results showed that abusive supervision originated from subordinates’ perceived supervisor injustice, and that power asymmetry fostered the emergence of abusive supervision.

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  • Lian, H., D. L. Ferris, R. Morrison, and D. J. Brown. “Blame it on the Supervisor or the Subordinate? Reciprocal Relations Between Abusive Supervision and Organizational Deviance.” Journal of Applied Psychology 99.4 (2014): 651–664.

    DOI: 10.1037/a0035498Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    By adopting a cross-lagged panel design, the authors proposed and tested a reciprocal model of abusive supervision and subordinates’ organizational deviance.

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  • Simon, L. S., C. Hurst, K. Kelley, and T. A. Judge. “Understanding Cycles of Abuse: A Multimotive Approach.” Journal of Applied Psychology 100.6 (2015): 1798–1810.

    DOI: 10.1037/apl0000031Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    By adopting six-wave longitudinal design, this study showed a reciprocal relationship between abusive supervision and supervisor-directed counterproductive behavior (mediated by anger) and supervisor-directed avoidance (mediated by fear).

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  • Tepper, B. J., and M. Almeda. “Negative Exchanges with Supervisors.” Personal Relationships at Work (2012): 67–94.

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    This book chapter highlights the importance of negative reciprocity in supervisor-subordinate relationships at work. Reviews current literature and clarifies both antecedents and consequences of supervisor and subordinate contributions to negative exchanges.

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Motivations Behind Abusive Supervision

Tepper 2000 (cited under General Overviews) defined abusive supervision as subordinates’ perceptions of sustained hostile verbal and nonverbal supervisory behaviors, excluding physical contact. It is noted that there is no motivation element in this definition. Consequently, scholars have started to examine what potential motivations may exist behind abusive supervision and how different motivations may affect subordinates’ reactions to supervisory abuse. Breaux, et al. 2010 did an attribution analysis showing that when subordinates attributed abusive supervision to their direct supervisors rather than their organizations, the effect on supervisor-directed deviance was stronger. Bowling and Michel 2011 suggests that subordinates may form three different types of attributions regarding abusive supervision: self-directed, supervisor-directed, and organization-directed abusive supervision. By employing a different approach, Martinko, et al. 2011 finds that subordinates’ hostile attribution style strengthened the perceptions of abusive supervision. Tepper, et al. 2012 suggests that supervisors may abuse their subordinates for two different reasons: an impulsive form of aggression or a political activity. They further argued that different motivations may significantly affect subordinates’ reactions. Drawing from this work, Liu, et al. 2012 examines the different roles of these two attributed motives on employees’ creativity. Burton, et al. 2014 adopts a different approach to suggest employees may make three types of attributions: internal, external, and relational attributions. Wang and Jiang 2015 demonstrates that the negative effect of abusive supervision on subordinates’ voice through perceived injustice was weakened by subordinates’ organizational attributions.

  • Bowling, N. A., and J. S. Michel. “Why Do You Treat Me Badly? The Role of Attributions Regarding the Cause of Abuse in Subordinates’ Responses to Abusive Supervision.” Work and Stress 25.4 (2011): 309–320.

    DOI: 10.1080/02678373.2011.634281Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article suggests there were three types of attributions of abusive supervision: self-directed, supervisor-directed, and organization-directed abusive supervision. A multiwave study provided support that abusive supervision had a stronger effect on subordinate organization-directed deviance when subordinates hold an organization-directed attribution.

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  • Breaux, D. M., B. J. Tepper, J. C. Carr, and R. G. Folger. “An Attributional Analysis of Employees’ Responses to Abusive Supervision.” “Dark” Side of Management (2010): 69–92.

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    In this book chapter, authors examined how two different attributions influenced employees’ response to abusive supervision. Results from a field study suggested when subordinates attributed abusive supervision to the supervisor rather than the organization, abusive supervision generated stronger effects on employees (i.e., job satisfaction, intention to quit, and deviance, etc.).

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  • Burton, J. P., S. G. Taylor, and L. K. Barber. “Understanding Internal, External, and Relational Attributions for Abusive Supervision.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 35.6 (2014): 871–891.

    DOI: 10.1002/job.1939Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This article suggests that subordinates were likely to make different attributions for abusive supervision (i.e., internal, external, and relational). Using two studies, Burton and colleagues developed scales for each type of attribution and tested a model that interactional justice mediated the effects of different attributions on employees’ behaviors toward the supervisor.

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  • Liu, D., H. Liao, and R. Loi. “The Dark Side of Leadership: A Three-level Investigation of the Cascading Effect of Abusive Supervision on Employee Creativity.” Academy of Management Journal 55.5 (2012): 1187–1212.

    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2010.0400Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examined the role of two attributed motivations—performance promotion and injury initiation in affecting team members’ creativity in response to abusive supervision. Under an injury initiation attribution, the department leader’s abuse is more likely to lead to team leader’s abuse, which is then more likely to reduce members’ creativity.

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  • Martinko, M. J., P. Harvey, D. Sikora, and S. C. Douglas. “Perceptions of Abusive Supervision: The Role of Subordinates’ Attribution Styles.” Leadership Quarterly 22.4 (2011): 751–764.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2011.05.013Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A different approach to examine the role of attributions in abusive supervision. The authors argued that subordinates’ hostile attribution style was positively related to subordinates’ perceptions of abusive supervision, and negatively related to subordinates’ perceptions of leader-member exchange (LMX). They also found abusive supervision and LMX were confounded.

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  • Tepper, B. J., M. K. Duffy, and D. M. Breaux-Soignet. “Abusive Supervision as Political Activity: Distinguishing Impulsive and Strategic Expressions of Downward Hostility.” Politics in Organizations: Theory and Research Considerations (2012): 191–212.

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    Departing from the dominant view of abusive supervision as impulsive expression, this book chapter discusses the possibility that supervisors may consider abuse as political activity to achieve strategic goals, including controlling subordinates, managing impressions, and redressing injustices.

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  • Wang, R., and J. Jiang. “How Abusive Supervisors Influence Employees’ Voice and Silence: The Effects of Interactional Justice and Organizational Attribution.” Journal of Social Psychology 155.3 (2015): 204–220.

    DOI: 10.1080/00224545.2014.990410Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Found that abusive supervision negatively affected employees’ voice and contributed to employees’ silence through interactional justice, but employees’ organizational attribution buffered this effect.

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Vicarious Abusive Supervision

When employees (who might be or might not be the victim of abusive supervision) witness other coworkers experience abusive supervision, how does it influence the observer’s reactions at work? Recently, scholars have started to examine peer-experienced abusive supervision or third parties’ reactions to coworkers’ experience of abusive supervision. Peng, et al. 2014 finds that team members’ experience of supervisory abuse significantly affected the focal employees’ task performance and helping behaviors. Schaubroeck, et al. 2016 provides evidence that relative (compared to coworkers) high experiences of abusive supervision significantly influenced subordinates’ organizational identification, affective commitment, task performance, and their turnover intentions. Harris, et al. 2013 shows that the witness of colleagues experiencing abusive supervision negatively affected the focal employees’ job frustration, coworker-directed abuse, and perceived organizational support. Ogunfowora 2013 examines how the variability of abusive supervision in teams affected team members’ attitudinal and behavioral reactions. Mitchell, et al. 2012 discusses the different emotional and behavioral reactions the third parties may experience in response to their coworkers’ experienced abusive supervision. Their argument received support from an empirical study conducted in Mitchell, et al. 2015.

  • Harris, K. J., P. Harvey, R. B. Harris, and M. Cast. “An Investigation of Abusive Supervision, Vicarious Abusive Supervision, and Their Joint Impacts.” Journal of Social Psychology 153.1 (2013): 38–50.

    DOI: 10.1080/00224545.2012.703709Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study examines the effect of vicarious abusive supervision. Results from a field study showed that non-personally experienced abusive supervision (i.e., hearing, observing, or rumors) also significantly affected employees’ outcomes (i.e., job frustration, coworker abuse, and perceived organizational support).

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  • Mitchell, M. S., R. M. Vogel, and R. Folger. “Beyond the Consequences to the Victim: The Impact of Abusive Supervision on Third‐party Observers.” In Handbook of Unethical Work Behavior: Implications for Well-being. Edited by R. A. Giacalone and M. D. Promislo, 21–43. Armonk, NY: Sharpe, 2012.

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    Integrating deontic theory of justice and scope of justice theory, this chapter examines the consequences of being a third-party observer of abusive supervision. Offers a typology of deontic reactions to abusive supervision about the observed employee (i.e., the avenger, the protagonist, the copycat, and the collaborator).

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  • Mitchell, M. S., R. M. Vogel, and R. Folger. “Third Parties’ Reactions to the Abusive Supervision of Coworkers.” Journal of Applied Psychology 100.4 (2015): 1040–1055.

    DOI: 10.1037/apl0000002Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Examined third parties’ reactions to the abusive supervision of a coworker. Third parties are likely to experience anger or contentment depending on whether abused coworker is excluded from their scope of justice or not. Third parties’ moral identity further modifies their behavioral responses (supervisor-directed deviance, coworker support, or coworker exclusion).

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  • Ogunfowora, B. “When the Abuse is Unevenly Distributed: The Effects of Abusive Supervision Variability on Work Attitudes and Behaviors.” Journal of Organizational Behavior 34.8 (2013): 1105–1123.

    DOI: 10.1002/job.1841Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores the effects of abusive supervision variability on team members’ attitudes and behaviors. Results from fifty-eight teams demonstrated that abusive supervision variability negatively affected individual members’ perceived leader and organizational ethicality, leader satisfaction, and organizational commitment, above and beyond the effect of individual-level abusive supervision.

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  • Peng, A. C., J. M. Schaubroeck, and Y. Li. “Social Exchange Implications of Own and Coworkers’ Experiences of Supervisory Abuse.” Academy of Management Journal 57.5 (2014): 1385–1405.

    DOI: 10.5465/amj.2012.0080Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Demonstrates that peer abusive supervision (abusive supervision toward work unit peers) moderated the effect of abusive supervision on task performance and helping behaviors through leader-member exchange and affect-based trust in peers.

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  • Schaubroeck, J. M., A. C. Peng, and S. T. Hannah. “The Role of Peer Respect in Linking Abusive Supervision to Follower Outcomes: Dual Moderation of Group Potency.” Journal of Applied Psychology 101.2 (2016): 267–278.

    DOI: 10.1037/apl0000050Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    This study shows that abusive supervision negatively affected employees’ perceived peer respect, which decreased their organizational identification, affective commitment, and task performance but increased their turnover intentions. This mediating effect was stronger in high group potency teams.

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