Journal of Business and Psychology

, Volume 33, Issue 6, pp 761–777 | Cite as

Sparking Anger and Anxiety: Why Intense Leader Anger Displays Trigger Both More Deviance and Higher Work Effort in Followers

  • Tanja SchwarzmüllerEmail author
  • Prisca Brosi
  • Isabell M. Welpe
Original Paper


While previous research has assumed that intense leader anger displays result in negative consequences, researchers have recently started to outline their potential for prompting followers to improve their performance. We explain these conflicting positions by demonstrating that leaders’ anger intensity positively affects both deviance and work effort through triggering anger and anxiety in followers. We conducted two critical incident studies, replicating our results with different methodologies and controlling for potential alternative explanations. In line with theories on reciprocal emotions, supervisor-directed deviance became more likely with higher leader anger intensity because followers reacted with correspondingly more anger. However, in line with theories on complementary emotions, leaders’ anger intensity was also positively related to followers’ work effort due to followers’ anxiety. These results were replicated when taking leaders’ anger appropriateness into account as a potential moderator of the deviance-related path and when controlling for followers’ feelings of guilt (an alternative explanation for followers’ work effort). Our paper provides evidence that intense anger displays increase followers’ work effort but also cautions leaders to show these, as the work effort caused by them is based on followers’ intimidation and likely to be accompanied by deviant reactions. By considering the affective reactions triggered in followers, our paper integrates diverging theoretical perspectives on followers’ reactions to leaders’ anger intensity. Moreover, it is one of the first to disentangle the interpersonal effects that different expressions of the same emotion may have.


Leader anger Anger intensity Leadership Anger Anxiety Critical incidents 


Funding Information

Preparation of this article was funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and by the European Social Fund of the European Union (FKZ 01FP1072/73, research project “Selection and Assessment of Leaders in Academia and Business”).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.TUM School of ManagementTechnical University of MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Bavarian State Institute for Higher Education Research and PlanningMunichGermany

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