Our research tidbits this week provide fascinating insights into human relationships within the supervisor/supervisee dichotomy.

Cleansing supervisor abuse
Research on abusive supervision has predominantly focused on the consequences for victims while overlooking how leaders respond to their own abusive behaviour.

Drawing from the literature on moral cleansing, the authors posit that supervisors who engage in abusive behaviour may paradoxically engage in more constructive leadership behaviours subsequently as a result of feeling guilty and perceiving loss of moral credits. Results from two experience sampling studies show that, within leaders on a daily basis, perpetrating abusive supervisor behaviour led to an increase in experienced guilt and perceived loss of moral credits, which in turn motivated leaders to engage in more constructive person-oriented (consideration) and task-oriented (initiating structure) leadership behaviours.

In addition, leader moral attentiveness and moral courage strengthen these indirect effects by amplifying leaders’ awareness of their immoral behaviour and their willingness and determination to make reparations for such behaviour.

This research contributes to the theoretical understanding of leaders’ responses toward their own abusive supervisor behaviour and provides insights into how and when destructive leadership behaviours may, paradoxically, trigger more constructive behaviours.

Liao, Zhenyu, Yam, Kai Chi, Johnson, Russell E., Liu, Wu & Song, Zhaoli. 2018. Cleansing My Abuse: A Reparative Response Model of Perpetrating Abusive Supervisor Behavior.

Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(9), 1039-1056.

Abusive supervision as a response to follower hostility
How and when does followers’ upward hostile behaviour contribute to the emergence of abusive supervision?
Although from a normative or ethical point of view, supervisors should refrain from displaying abusive supervision, in line with a social exchange perspective, the authors argue that abusive followership causes supervisors to experience low levels of interpersonal justice, stimulating abusive supervision in response.

Based on uncertainty management theory, the authors further expect that the extent to which supervisors reciprocate the experienced injustice with abusive supervisory behaviour is moderated by supervisors’ self-doubt. A multi-source field study as well as a vignette study following an experimental-causal-chain approach supported the hypotheses.

Specifically, the results revealed that the indirect effect of abusive followership on abusive supervision through supervisors’ interpersonal justice is most pronounced when supervisors experience high levels of self-doubt. The practical and theoretical implications of the findings are discussed.

Jeroen Camps, Jeroen Stouten, Martin Euwema & David De Cremer. 2020. Abusive Supervision as a Response to Follower Hostility: A Moderated Mediation Model.

Journal of Business Ethics, 164(3), 495–514.

Supervisor abuse and subordinate turnover intentions and aggression
Despite mounting evidence that abusive supervision triggers interpersonal aggression, much remains unknown regarding the underlying causal mechanisms within this relationship.

The authors explore the role of turnover intentions as a mediator in the relationship between abusive supervision and subsequent supervisor-rated interpersonal aggression. The authors use a sample of 324 supervisor–subordinate dyads from nine organisations and find support for this mediation effect. Furthermore, the authors find that (low) power-distance orientation and (high) perceived human resource (HR) support climate, as important boundary conditions, independently interact with abusive supervision to weaken this positive impact on turnover intentions, thereby reducing interpersonal aggression.

The authors also find via turnover intentions that abusive supervision intensifies interpersonal aggression among high power-distance-oriented individuals when the HR support climate is perceived to be low. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

Orlando C. Richard, O. Dorian Boncoeur, Hao Chen & David L. Ford Jr. 2020. Supervisor Abuse Effects on Subordinate Turnover Intentions and Subsequent Interpersonal Aggression: The Role of Power-Distance Orientation and Perceived Human Resource Support Climate.

Journal of Business Ethics, 164(3), 549–563.

Does subordinates’ negative workplace gossip lead to supervisor abuse?
Drawing upon affective events theory, the authors propose that the subordinates’ negative gossip acts as a targeting affective event which leads to supervisor negative emotions. In turn, such negative emotions provoke supervisors to exhibit abusive behaviour toward their subordinates. Additionally, the authors propose that an affective dispositional factor, namely, supervisor emotional regulation, moderates the hypothesised relationships.

Using multisource data and a moderated-mediation model, the authors find that the supervisor’s perception of the subordinates’ negative workplace gossip is associated with abusive supervision through the supervisor’s negative emotions. Moreover, the supervisor’s emotional regulation mitigates the relationship between such negative gossip and the supervisor’s negative emotions.

Data were collected from employees (e.g. subordinates) and their immediate supervisors in organisations representing a variety of industries (e.g. finance, health care, information technology, public safety and human services) located in three cities in China. Respondents were recruited from different professional online forums with the offer of free movie tickets in return for participation.

Using multisource data and a moderated-mediation model, the authors find that the supervisor’s perception of the subordinates’ negative workplace gossip is associated with abusive supervision through the supervisor’s negative emotions. Moreover, the supervisor’s emotional regulation mitigates the relationship between such negative gossip and the supervisor’s negative emotions, but not the relationship between the supervisor’s negative emotions and abusive supervision.

Muhammad Naeem, Qingxiong (Derek) Weng, Ahmed Ali, & Zahid Hameed. 2019. An eye for an eye: does subordinates’ negative workplace gossip lead to supervisor abuse?

Personnel Review, 49(1), 284-302.

Abusive supervision and destructive voice
We draw from ego depletion and leader–member exchange (i.e., LMX) theories to provide nuanced insight into why abusive supervision is indirectly associated with supervisor-directed destructive voice. A multi-wave, multi-source field study (n = 219) demonstrates evidence that abusive supervision has a positive conditional indirect effect on supervisor-directed destructive voice through subordinates’ relational ego depletion with their supervisors that is stronger for higher LMX differentiation contexts than lower LMX differentiation contexts.

The authors make novel theoretical, empirical, and practical contributions by providing a parsimonious explanation for why relational aspects of supervisory treatment (i.e., abusive supervision and LMX differentiation) drain subordinates’ capacities for controlling their volitional actions during interactions with their supervisors (i.e., relational ego depletion) and how this relationship impacts subordinates’ supervisor-directed destructive voice.

Overall, this study extends the application of ego depletion and LMX theories to the examination of abusive supervision and destructive voice in order to meaningfully inform researchers’ attempts to build cohesive streams of research in these areas and practitioners’ attempts to promote ethical workplace environments.

Jeremy D. Mackey, Lei Huang & Wei He. 2020. You Abuse and I Criticise: An Ego Depletion and Leader–Member Exchange Examination of Abusive Supervision and Destructive Voice.

Journal of Business Ethics, 164(3), 579–591.

Top-down knowledge hiding in organisations
This study adds to the growing research exploring the consequences of knowledge hiding in organisations. Drawing from the social exchange theory and the norm of reciprocity, this paper examines the direct and indirect—via distrust in supervisor—relationships between supervisor knowledge hiding (SKH) and supervisee organisational citizenship behaviour directed at the supervisor (OCB-S) in the context of the Middle East.

Using a supervisor–supervisee dyadic design, two-source data were obtained from 317 employees (local and foreign) of 41 Saudi firms. The findings suggest that supervisees’ distrust in their supervisors mediates the significant and negative relationship between SKH and supervisees’ OCB-S.

Furthermore, the significant and positive relationship between SKH and distrust in supervisor is more pronounced for foreign workers than for local workers. This study provides empirical support and a better understanding of the existence and consequences of SKH for local and foreign workers and also discusses the theoretical and practical implications of the findings.

Ghulam Ali Arain, Zeeshan Ahmed Bhatti, Naeem Ashraf & Yu-Hui Fang. 2020. Top-Down Knowledge Hiding in Organizations: An Empirical Study of the Consequences of Supervisor Knowledge Hiding Among Local and Foreign Workers in the Middle East.

Journal of Business Ethics, 164(3), 611–625.