Other-caring or other-critical? A contagious effect of leaders’ emotional triads on subordinates’ performance

Abstract

We focus on two other-focus emotional triads: contempt, anger, and disgust (CAD) and empathy, sympathy, and pity (ESP) to investigate how supervisors’ CAD and ESP affect their subordinates’ performance, including task proficiency, adaptivity, proactivity, and counterproductive work behaviors (CWBs). Based on emotional contagion theory, we argue that supervisors’ CAD and ESP are contagious to subordinates by stimulating their CAD and ESP, respectively, and then influence their performance, an effect contingent on leader prototypicality. A field study of 317 supervisor-subordinate dyads supports the contagious influences of supervisors’ emotional triads on employees’ performance after controlling for both supervisors’ and subordinates’ positive and negative affectivity. We find that the effect of supervisors’ CAD on subordinates’ performance only works through subordinates’ CAD, while the effect of supervisors’ ESP on subordinates’ performance only works through subordinates’ ESP. Moreover, the contagious effect of supervisors’ CAD is found to be stronger for leaders with high prototypicality, while the contagious effect of supervisors’ ESP is only significant for high prototypical leaders but not for low prototypical leaders.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to express our gratitude to the action editor, Prof. Xu Huang and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and continuous guidance during the revision process. This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (project number: 71772076).

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Li, Y.N., Law, K.S. & Yan, M. Other-caring or other-critical? A contagious effect of leaders’ emotional triads on subordinates’ performance. Asia Pac J Manag 36, 995–1021 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10490-018-9617-5

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Keywords

  • CAD
  • ESP
  • Performance
  • Emotional contagion
  • Leader prototypicality