Current Psychology

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 50–58 | Cite as

Abusive Leadership and Helping Behavior: Capability or Mood, which Matters?

  • Ying XiaEmail author
  • Li Zhang
  • Mingze Li


Occurrences of abusive supervision are steadily rising. Previous studies have tried to explain the influence of abusive leadership on workplace outcomes from perspectives of organizational justice and leader-member exchange based on the social exchange theory. Yet, a need exists for new explanations and mechanisms related to the influence of abusive leadership. As such, this paper aims to discover new mechanisms of abusive leadership effect. Drawing from social cognitive and affective events theories, we establish a dual process model to investigate how abusive leadership affects employees’ helping behaviors from motivational and emotional perspectives. We examine whether employees’ self-efficacy and negative affectivity mediate the relationship between abusive leadership and helping behaviors. The data were collected from 262 employees in China. The results indicate that abusive leadership has a negative impact on helping behaviors. Self-efficacy plays a role as a mediator, while negative affectivity does not play a role as a mediator in the abusive leadership—helping behavior relationship. Organizations should spend much time and money training managers to change their abusive behavior patterns. Managers should be responsible for keeping and enhancing employees’ confidence as well as avoiding the negative emotions caused by leaders.


Abusive leadership Self-efficacy Negative affectivity Helping behavior 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant <71472054>.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


  1. Alexandra Beauregard, T. (2012). Perfectionism, self-efficacy and OCB: The moderating role of gender. Personnel Review, 41(5), 590–608.Google Scholar
  2. Aryee, S., Chen, Z. X., Sun, L.-Y., & Debrah, Y. A. (2007). Antecedents and outcomes of abusive supervision: Test of a trickle-down model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(1), 191–201.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Aryee, S., Sun, L. Y., Chen, Z. X. G., & Debrah, Y. A. (2008). 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), 393–411.Google Scholar
  4. Avolio, B. J., & Bass, B. M. (1995). Individual consideration viewed at multiple levels of analysis: A multi-level framework for examining the diffusion of transformational leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), 199–218.Google Scholar
  5. Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191–215.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Brehm, J. W. (1966). A theory of psychological reactance. New York, NY: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  7. Brislin, R. W. (1980). Translation and content analysis of oral and written material. Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 2(2), 349–444.Google Scholar
  8. Carlson, M., Charlin, V., & Miller, N. (1988). Positive mood and helping behavior: A test of six hypotheses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 211–229.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Choi, J. N. (2006). Multilevel and cross-level effects of workplace attitudes and group member relations on interpersonal helping behavior. Human Performance, 19(4), 383–402.Google Scholar
  10. Emerson, R. M. (1962). Power-dependence relations. American Sociological Review, 31–41.Google Scholar
  11. Farh, J.-L., Earley, P. C., & Lin, S.-C. (1997). Impetus for action: A cultural analysis of justice and organizational citizenship behavior in Chinese society. Administrative Science Quarterly, 42(3), 421–444.Google Scholar
  12. French, J., & Raven, B. H. (1959). The bases of social power. In D. Cartwright (Ed.), Studies of social power. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research. 150–167.Google Scholar
  13. Hobman, E. V., Restubog, S. L. D., Bordia, P., & Tang, R. L. (2009). Abusive supervision in advising relationships: Investigating the role of social support. Applied Psychology, 58(2), 233–256.Google Scholar
  14. Jex, S. M., Adams, G. A., Bachrach, D. G., & Sorenson, S. (2003). The impact of situational constraints, role stressors, and commitment on employee altruism. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 8(3), 171–180.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Kim, S. L., Lee, S., Yun, S., Tetrick, L., & Tetrick, L. (2016). Abusive supervision, knowledge sharing, and individual factors: A conservation-of-resources perspective. Journal of Managerial Psychology, 31(6), 1106–1120.Google Scholar
  16. Krumov, K., Negruti, A., Krumova, A., & Smilkova, D. (2015). Toxic leadership: Theoretical analysis and empirical research to map current organizational practices (pp. 99–167). Positive Organizational Psychology: Advances in Creating Improved Workplaces and Employee Well-Being.
  17. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  18. LePine, J. A., LePine, M. A., & Jackson, C. L. (2004). Challenge and hindrance stress: Relationships with exhaustion, motivation to learn, and learning performance. Journal of Applied Psychology., 89(5), 883–891.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Lin, W., Wang, L., & Chen, S. (2013). Abusive supervision and employee well-being: The moderating effect of power distance orientation. Applied Psychology, 62(2), 308–329.Google Scholar
  20. Lin, S.-H. J., Ma, J., & Johnson, R. E. (2016). When ethical leader behavior breaks bad: How ethical leader behavior can turn abusive via ego depletion and moral licensing. The Journal of Applied Psychology., 101(6), 815–831.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Lipman-Blumen, J. (2005). The allure of toxic leaders. Why we follow destructive bosses and corrupt politicians—And how we can them. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Mackey, J. D., Frieder, R. E., Brees, J. R., & Martinko, M. J. (2015). Abusive Supervision: A Meta-Analysis and Empirical Review. Journal of Management, No Pagination Specified. doi:  10.1177/0149206315573997.
  23. Mathieu, J. E., & Taylor, S. R. (2006). Clarifying conditions and decision points for mediational type inferences in organizational behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27(8), 1031–1056.Google Scholar
  24. Mehta, S., & Maheshwari, G. C. (2013). Consequence of toxic leadership on employee job satisfaction and organizational commitment. Journal of Contemporary Management Research, 7(2), 1–23.Google Scholar
  25. Mitchell, M. S., & Ambrose, M. L. (2007). Abusive supervision and workplace deviance and the moderating effects of negative reciprocity beliefs. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92(4), 1159–1186.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  26. Morrison, E. W., & Phelps, C. C. (1999). Taking charge at work: Extrarole efforts to initiate workplace change. Academy of Management Journal, 42(4), 403–419.Google Scholar
  27. Ng, T. W., & Feldman, D. C. (2008). The relationship of age to ten dimensions of job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(2), 392–423.Google Scholar
  28. Organ, D. W., Podsakoff, P. M., & MacKenzie, S. B. (2006). Organizational citizenship behavior: Its nature. Antecedents, And Consequences, Thousand OA: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  29. Peng, A. C., Schaubroeck, J. M., & Li, Y. (2014). Social exchange implications of own and coworkers' experiences of supervisory abuse. Academy of Management Journal, 57(5), 1385–1405.Google Scholar
  30. Podsakoff, P. M., MacKenzie, S. B., Moorman, R. H., & Fetter, R. (1990). Transformational leader behaviors and their effects on followers' trust in leader, satisfaction, and organizational citizenship behaviors. The Leadership Quarterly, 1(2), 107–142.Google Scholar
  31. Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40(3), 879–891.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  32. Qiu, L., Zheng, X., & Wang, Y. F. (2008). Revision of the positive affect and negative affect scale. Chinese Journal of Applied Psychology, 14(3), 249–254+268 (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  33. Rafferty, A. E., & Restubog, S. L. D. (2011). The influence of abusive supervisors on followers' organizational citizenship behaviors: The hidden costs of abusive supervision. British Journal of Management, 22(2), 270–285.Google Scholar
  34. Raghuram, S., Wiesenfeld, B., & Garud, R. (2003). Technology enabled work: The role of self-efficacy in determining telecommuter adjustment and structuring behavior. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 63(2), 180–198.Google Scholar
  35. Reed, G. E. (2004). Toxic leadership. Military Review, 84(4), 67–71.Google Scholar
  36. Restubog, S. L. D., Scott, K. L., & Zagenczyk, T. J. (2011). 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), 713–729.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  37. Schyns, B., & Schilling, J. (2013). How bad are the effects of bad leaders? A meta-analysis of destructive leadership and its outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly, 24(1), 138–158.Google Scholar
  38. Speier, C., & Frese, M. (1997). Generalized self-efficacy as a mediator and moderator between control and complexity at work and personal initiative: A longitudinal field study in East Germany. Human Performance, 10(2), 171–192.Google Scholar
  39. Spreitzer, G. M. (1995). Psychological empowerment in the workplace: Dimensions, measurement, and validation. Academy of Management Journal, 38(5), 1442–1465.Google Scholar
  40. Tepper, B. J. (2000). Consequences of abusive supervision. Academy of Management Journal, 43(2), 178–190.Google Scholar
  41. Tepper, B. J. (2007). Abusive supervision in work organizations: Review, synthesis, and research agenda. Journal of Management, 33(3), 261–289.Google Scholar
  42. Tepper, B. J., Henle, C. A., Lambert, L. S., Giacalone, R. A., & Duffy, M. K. (2008). Abusive supervision and subordinates' organization deviance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(4), 721–732.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Tepper, B. J., Carr, J. C., Breaux, D. M., Geider, S., Hu, C., & Hua, 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.Google Scholar
  44. Tepper, B. J., Duffy, M. K., & Breaux-Soignet, D. M. (2012). Abusive supervision as political activity: Distinguishing impulsive and strategic expressions of downward hostility. In G. Ferris & D. Treadway (Eds.), Politics in organizations: Theory and research considerations (pp. 191–212). New York: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  45. Thau, S., Bennett, R. J., Mitchell, M. S., & Marrs, M. B. (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.Google Scholar
  46. Watson, D., Clark, L. A., & Tellegen, A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measures of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scales. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1063–1070.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Wayne, S. J., Shore, L. M., & Liden, R. C. (1997). Perceived organizational support and leader-member exchange: A social exchange perspective. Academy of Management Review, 40(1), 82–111.Google Scholar
  48. Webster, J. R., Beehr, T. A., & Christiansen, N. D. (2010). Toward a better understanding of the effects of hindrance and challenge stressors on work behavior. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 76(1), 68–77.Google Scholar
  49. Weiss, H. M., & Cropanzano, R. (1996). Affective events theory: A theoretical discussion of the structure, causes and consequences of affective experiences at work. Research in Organizational Behavior, 18, 1–74.Google Scholar
  50. Xu, E., Huang, X., Lam, C. K., & Miao, Q. (2012). Abusive supervision and work behaviors: The mediating role of LMX. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(4), 531–543.Google Scholar
  51. S Yoon, J. (2002). Teacher characteristics as predictors of teacher-student relationships: Stress, negative affect, and self-efficacy. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 30(5), 485–493.Google Scholar
  52. Zellars, K. L., Tepper, B. J., & Duffy, K. M. (2002). Abusive supervision and subordinates’ organizational citizenship behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(6), 1068–1076.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhang, Y., & Bednall, T. C. (2016). Antecedents of abusive supervision: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Business Ethics, 139(3), 455–471.Google Scholar
  54. Zhang, Y., & Liao, Z. (2015). Consequences of abusive supervision: A meta-analytic review. Asia Pacific Journal of Management, 32(4), 959–987.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of ManagementHarbin Institute of TechnologyHarbinPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Durham UniversityDurhamUK
  3. 3.Huazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhuanChina

Personalised recommendations