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Uncivil Supervisors and Perceived Work Ability: The Joint Moderating Roles of Job Involvement and Grit

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Abstract

Uncivil behavior by leaders may be viewed as an effective way to motivate employees. However, supervisor incivility, as a form of unethical supervision, may be undercutting employees’ ability to do their jobs. We investigate linkages between workplace incivility and perceived work ability (PWA), a variable that captures employees’ appraisals of their ability to continue working in their jobs. We draw upon the appraisal theory of stress and social identity theory to examine incivility from supervisors as an antecedent to PWA, and to investigate job involvement and grit as joint moderators of this association. Results from data collected in two samples of working adults provided evidence for three-way interactions in relation to PWA. Among employees with high levels of grit, there was no significant relation between supervisor incivility and PWA, regardless of employee job involvement. However, we found some evidence that for those low in grit, having high job involvement was associated with a stronger relationship between supervisor incivility and PWA. Findings attest to the importance of unethical supervisor behavior, showing the potential for supervisor incivility to erode PWA, as well as the importance of grit as a potential buffer.

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We are grateful to Cedric Dawkins for his feedback on an earlier draft.

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Kabat-Farr, D., Walsh, B.M. & McGonagle, A.K. Uncivil Supervisors and Perceived Work Ability: The Joint Moderating Roles of Job Involvement and Grit. J Bus Ethics 156, 971–985 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-017-3604-5

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