Abusive supervision

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Abusive supervision is most commonly studied in the context of the workplace, although it can arise in other areas such as in the household and at school. "Abusive supervision has been investigated as an antecedent to negative subordinate workplace outcome."[1][2][weasel words] "Workplace violence has combination of situational and personal factors". The study that was conducted looked at the link between abusive supervision and different workplace events.[3]

Workplace bullying[edit]

Abusive supervision overlaps with workplace bullying in the workplace context. Research suggests that 75% of workplace bullying incidents are perpetrated by hierarchically superior agents. Abusive supervision differs from related constructs such as supervisor bullying and undermining in that it does not describe the intentions or objectives of the supervisor.[4]

Workplace deviance[edit]

Workplace deviance is closely related to abusive supervision. Abusive supervision is defined as the "subordinates' perceptions of the extent to which their supervisors engage in the sustained display of hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviors".[5] This could be when supervisors ridicule their employees, give them the silent treatment, remind them of past failures, fail to give proper credit, wrongfully assign blame or blow up in fits of temper.[6] It may seem like employees who are abused by their supervisor will either directly retaliate or withdraw by quitting the job but in reality many strike out against their employer by engaging in organizational deviant behaviors. Since employees control many of the organization's resources, they often use, or abuse anything they can. This abuse of resources may come in the form of time, office supplies, raw materials, finished products or the services that they provide. This usually occurs in two steps. First step is that commitment is destroyed and employees stop caring about the welfare of the employer. The second step is that the abused employee will get approval (normally implied) of their coworkers to commit deviant acts.[6]

Workplace experiences may fuel the worker to act out. Research has been conducted demonstrating that the perception of not being respected is one of the main causes for workplace deviance; workplace dissatisfaction is also a factor. According to Bolin and Heatherly,[7] "dissatisfaction results in a higher incidence of minor offenses, but does not necessarily lead to severe offense". An employee who is less satisfied with his or her work may become less productive as their needs are not met. In the workplace, "frustration, injustices and threats to self are primary antecedents to employee deviance".[8] Although workplace deviance does occur, the behavior is not universal. There are two preventive measures that business owners can use to protect themselves.[citation needed] The first is strengthening the employee's commitment by reacting strongly to abusive supervision so that the employee knows that the behavior is not accepted. Holding the employee at high esteem by reminding them of their importance, or setting up programs that communicate concern for the employee may also strengthen employee commitment. Providing a positive ethical climate can also help. Employers can do this by having a clear code of conduct that is applied to both managers and employees alike.[6]

Social undermining[edit]

Social undermining can arise from abusive supervision, such as when a supervisor uses negative actions and it leads to "flow downhill"; a supervisor is perceived as abusive.

Research has shown that "abusive supervision is a subjective assessment made by subordinates regarding their supervisors" behavior towards them over a period of time.[9] For example, abusive supervision includes a "boss demeaning, belittling, or invading privacy of the subordinate.[10]

Hostile attribution bias is an extra punitive mentality where individuals tend to project blame on others. Researchers wanted to see how hostile attribution bias can moderate the relationship between perceptions of psychological contract violation and subordinates' perceptions of abusive supervision. Undermining does arise with abusive supervision, which affects families and aggression; they believe that there is a stronger positive relationship between experiences of psychological contract violation and subordinates' reports of abuse. It suggests that when someone has a negative work environment, it will affect their emotional training ground where this would result in negative home encounters. The findings from this study show that abused subordinates' family members reported a higher incidence of undermining in their home. When this occurs, complications arise at both home and work. Workplace abuse may be spawning negative interpersonal relations in the home, which may contribution to a downward spiral of relationships in both spheres.[11]

When a subordinate is being abused, it can lead to negative affect towards their family where the subordinate starts undermining their family members. The undermining can arise from displaced aggression which is "redirection of a [person's] harm doing behavior from a primary to a secondary target" (Tedeschi & Norman, 1985, p. 30). Family undermining arises from a negative work environment: when someone above you puts you down, one starts to think that one should be put down by one's family members.[12]


In research, the presence of Machiavellianism was positively associated with subordinate perceptions of abusive supervision.[13]

Context and outcome correlates[edit]

Abusive supervision has been investigated primarily in corporate and education contexts. In the corporate context, abusive supervision has been found to be negatively related to followers’ attitudes towards the leader, job satisfaction, job-related attitudes, justice, commitment, positive self-evaluation, and well-being. In addition, such corporate abusive supervision is positively associated with undesirable consequences such as follower resistance, turnover intention, counterproductive work behaviour, negative affectivity, and stress.[14][15] In the education context, abusive supervision has been investigated in instructor-student relationships, and these studies found that such supervision is adversely related to anxiety and psychological well-being.[16][17][18] Moreover, instructors' use of abusive supervision is associated with a range of affective, behavioural, and cognitive reactions from students.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tepper, B. J. (2000). "Consequences of abusive supervision". Academy of Management Journal. 43 (2): 178–190. doi:10.2307/1556375. JSTOR 1556375.
  2. ^ Hoobler, J. M., Tepper, B. J., & Duffy, M. K. ( 2000). Moderating effects of coworkers' organizational citizenship behavior on relationships between abusive supervision and subordinates' attitudes and psychological distress. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Southern Management Association, Orlando, FL.
  3. ^ Inness, M; LeBlanc, M; Mireille; Barling, J (2008). "Psychosocial predictors of supervisor-, peer-, subordinate-, and service-provider-targeted aggression". Journal of Applied Psychology. 93 (6): 1401–1411. doi:10.1037/a0012810. PMID 19025256.
  4. ^ Tepper BJ Abusive supervision in work organizations: Review, synthesis, and research agenda Journal of Management June 2007 Vol 33 no 3 P261-289
  5. ^ Mitchell, M.; Ambrose, M.L. (2007). "Abusive Supervision and Workplace Deviance and the Moderating Effects of Negative Reciprocity Beliefs". Journal of Applied Psychology. 92 (4): 1159–1168. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.92.4.1159. PMID 17638473. S2CID 1419014.
  6. ^ a b c James Larsen Abusive Supervision Article No. 309 Business Practice Findings
  7. ^ Bolin, A.; Heatherly (2001). "Predictors of Employee Deviance: The Relationship between Bad Attitudes and Bad Behaviors". Journal of Business and Psychology. 15 (3): 405. doi:10.1023/A:1007818616389.
  8. ^ The past, present, and future of workplace deviance research. Bennett, Rebecca J.; Robinson, Sandra L.Greenberg, Jerald (Ed), (2003). Organizational behavior: The state of the science (2nd ed.), (pp. 247-281).
  9. ^ Hoobler, J. M.; Brass, D. J. (2006). "Abusive supervision and family undermining as displaced aggression". Journal of Applied Psychology. 91 (5): 1125–1133. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.91.5.1125. PMID 16953773.
  10. ^ Adams, S. H.; John, O. P. (1997). "A hostility scale for the California Psychological Inventory: MMPI, observer Q-sort, and Big-five correlates". Journal of Personality Assessment. 69 (2): 408–424. doi:10.1207/s15327752jpa6902_11. PMID 9392898.
  11. ^ Andersson, L. M.; Pearson, C. M. (1999). "Tit for tat? The spiraling effect of incivility in the workplace". Academy of Management Review. 24 (3): 452–471. doi:10.5465/amr.1999.2202131.
  12. ^ Hoobler, J. M.; Brass, D. J. (2006). "Abusive supervision and family undermining as displaced aggression". Journal of Applied Psychology. 91 (5): 1125–1133. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.91.5.1125. PMID 16953773.
  13. ^ Kohyar Kiazada, Simon Lloyd D. Restubog, Thomas J. Zagenczyk, Christian Kiewitz, Robert L. Tang In pursuit of power: The role of authoritarian leadership in the relationship between supervisors’ Machiavellianism and subordinates’ perceptions of abusive supervisory behavior
  14. ^ MacKey, Jeremy D.; Frieder, Rachel E.; Brees, Jeremy R.; Martinko, Mark J. (2017). "SAGE Journals: Your gateway to world-class journal research". Journal of Management. 43 (6): 1940–1965. doi:10.1177/0149206315573997.
  15. ^ Schyns, Birgit; Schilling, Jan (2013-02-01). "How bad are the effects of bad leaders? A meta-analysis of destructive leadership and its outcomes". The Leadership Quarterly. 24 (1): 138–158. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2012.09.001. ISSN 1048-9843.
  16. ^ Goodyear, Rodney K.; Crego, Clyde A.; Johnston, Michael W. (1992). "Ethical issues in the supervision of student research: A study of critical incidents". Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. 23 (3): 203–210. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.23.3.203. ISSN 1939-1323.
  17. ^ Hobman, Elizabeth V.; Restubog, Simon Lloyd D.; Bordia, Prashant; Tang, Robert L. (2009). "Abusive Supervision in Advising Relationships: Investigating the Role of Social Support". Applied Psychology. 58 (2): 233–256. doi:10.1111/j.1464-0597.2008.00330.x. ISSN 1464-0597.
  18. ^ Balwant, Paul (2019). "The dimensionality and measurement of destructive instructor-leadership". International Journal of Leadership in Education. 23 (2): 152–174. doi:10.1080/13603124.2018.1543803.
  19. ^ Balwant, Paul (2015). "The dark side of teaching: destructive instructor leadership and its association with students' affect, behaviour, and cognition". International Journal of Leadership in Education. 20 (5): 577–604. doi:10.1080/13603124.2015.1112432.

Further reading[edit]

  • Aryee, S; Chen, ZX; Sun, L Debrah Y (2007). "A Antecedents and outcomes of abusive supervision: Test of a trickle-down model". Journal of Applied Psychology. 92 (1): 191–201. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.92.1.191. PMID 17227160.
  • Burton, JP; Hoobler, JM (2006). "Subordinate self-esteem and abusive supervision". Journal of Managerial Issues. XVIII (3): 340–355.
  • Harris, KJ; Kacmar, KM; Zivnuska, S (2007). "An investigation of abusive supervision as a predictor of performance and the meaning of work as a moderator of the relationship". The Leadership Quarterly. 18 (3): 252–263. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.03.007.
  • Harris, KJ; Harvey, P; Harris, RB; Cast, M (2013). "An Investigation of Abusive Supervision, Vicarious Abusive Supervision, and Their Joint Impacts". The Journal of Social Psychology. 153 (1): 38–50. doi:10.1080/00224545.2012.703709. PMID 23421004.
  • Harvey, P; Stoner, J; Hochwarter, W; Kacmar, C (2007). "Coping with abusive supervision: The neutralizing effects of ingratiation and positive effect on negative employee outcomes". The Leadership Quarterly. 18 (3): 264–280. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2007.03.008.
  • Liu D, Liao H, Loi R The dark side of leadership: A three-level investigation of the cascading effect of abusive supervision on employee creativity Academy of Management Journal July 20, 2012
  • Martinko, MJ; Harvey, P; Brees, JR; Mackey, J (2013). "A review of abusive supervision research". Journal of Organizational Behavior. 34: S1. doi:10.1002/job.1888.
  • Mitchell, MS; Ambrose, ML (2007). "Abusive supervision and workplace deviance and the moderating effects of negative reciprocity beliefs". Journal of Applied Psychology. 92 (4): 1159–1168. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.92.4.1159. PMID 17638473. S2CID 1419014.
  • Tepper, BJ; Duffy, MK; Shaw, JD (2001). "Personality moderators of the relationship between abusive supervision and subordinates' resistance". Journal of Applied Psychology. 86 (5): 974–983. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.86.5.974. PMID 11596813.
  • Tepper, BJ; Duffy, MK; Henle, CA; Lambert, LS (2006). "Procedural injustice, victim precipitation, and abusive supervision". Personnel Psychology. 59 (1): 101–123. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6570.2006.00725.x.
  • Tepper, BJ; Henle, CA; Lambert, LS; Giacalone, RA; Duffy, MK (2008). "Abusive supervision and subordinates' organization deviance". Journal of Applied Psychology. 93 (4): 721–732. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.93.4.721. PMID 18642979.
  • Tepper, BJ; Carr, JC; Breaux, DM; Geider, S; Hu, C; Hu, W (2009). "Abusive supervision, intentions to quit, and employees' workplace deviance: A power/dependence analysis". Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 109 (2): 156–167. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2009.03.004.
  • Thau, S; Bennett, RJ; Mitchell, MS; Marrs, MB (2009). "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): 79–92. doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2008.06.003.
  • Zellars, KL; Tepper, BJ; Duffy, MK (2002). "Abusive supervision and subordinates' organizational citizenship behavior". Journal of Applied Psychology. 87 (6): 1068–1076. CiteSeerX doi:10.1037/0021-9010.87.6.1068. PMID 12558214.