Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 271-279

First online:

Supervisor Workplace Stress and Abusive Supervision: The Buffering Effect of Exercise

  • James P. BurtonAffiliated withDepartment of Management, College of Business, Northern Illinois University Email author 
  • , Jenny M. HooblerAffiliated withDepartment of Managerial Studies, College of Business Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • , Melinda L. ScheuerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Northern Illinois University

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We examine how supervisor stress is associated with employee-rated abusive supervision. In addition, we test the premise that higher levels of physical exercise by supervisors can buffer the negative effects of stress on their relationship with their subordinates.


A matched sample of 98 employed individuals and their direct supervisors was used to test our hypotheses.


Results suggest that increased levels of supervisor-reported stress are related to the increased experience of employee-rated abusive supervision. We also find that the relationship between supervisor stress and abusive behavior can be diminished when supervisors engage in moderate levels of physical exercise.


While the current economic conditions and a host of other trying workplace factors mean that supervisors are likely to experience workplace stress, we found evidence that they do not necessarily have to transfer these frustrations onto those they supervise. Our study supports a link between supervisor stress and employee perceptions of abusive supervision, but this is a link that can be loosened if supervisors engage in moderate levels of physical exercise.


The results of this study add to the modest number of antecedents to abusive supervision that have been discovered in existing research. In addition, this is the first study to examine how exercise can buffer the relationship between supervisor stress and employee perceptions of abusive supervision.


Abusive supervision Stress Exercise