You Abuse and I Criticize: An Ego Depletion and Leader–Member Exchange Examination of Abusive Supervision and Destructive Voice

  • Jeremy D. MackeyEmail author
  • Lei Huang
  • Wei He
Original Paper


We draw from ego depletion and leader–member exchange (i.e., LMX) theories to provide nuanced insight into why abusive supervision is indirectly associated with supervisor-directed destructive voice. A multi-wave, multi-source field study (n = 219) demonstrates evidence that abusive supervision has a positive conditional indirect effect on supervisor-directed destructive voice through subordinates’ relational ego depletion with their supervisors that is stronger for higher LMX differentiation contexts than lower LMX differentiation contexts. We make novel theoretical, empirical, and practical contributions by providing a parsimonious explanation for why relational aspects of supervisory treatment (i.e., abusive supervision and LMX differentiation) drain subordinates’ capacities for controlling their volitional actions during interactions with their supervisors (i.e., relational ego depletion) and how this relationship impacts subordinates’ supervisor-directed destructive voice. Overall, our study extends the application of ego depletion and LMX theories to the examination of abusive supervision and destructive voice in order to meaningfully inform researchers’ attempts to build cohesive streams of research in these areas and practitioners’ attempts to promote ethical workplace environments.


Abusive supervision Voice LMX Ego depletion 



The National Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 71402061) provided a grant for Wei He that was used to fund the data collection for this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All of the study authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

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

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


  1. Anseel, F., Lievens, F., Schollaert, E., & Choragwicka, B. (2010). Response rates in organizational science, 1995–2008: A meta-analytic review and guidelines for survey researchers. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(3), 335–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bauer, D. J., Preacher, K. J., & Gil, K. M. (2006). Conceptualizing and testing random indirect effects and moderated mediation in multilevel models: New procedures and recommendations. Psychological Methods, 11(2), 142–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumeister, R. F., Bratslavsky, E., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. M. (1998). Ego depletion: Is the active self a limited resource? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74(5), 1252–1265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Becker, T. E., Atinc, G., Breaugh, J. A., Carlson, K. D., Edwards, J. R., & Spector, P. E. (2016). Statistical control in correlational studies: 10 essential recommendations for organizational researchers. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 37(2), 157–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bernerth, J. B., & Aguinis, H. (2016). A critical review and best-practice recommendations for control variable usage. Personnel Psychology, 69(1), 229–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berry, C. M., Carpenter, N. C., & Barratt, C. L. (2012). Do other-reports of counterproductive work behavior provide an incremental contribution over self-reports? A meta-analytic comparison. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(3), 613–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brislin, R. W. (1986). The wording and translation of research instruments. In W. J. Loner & J. W. Berry (Eds.), Field methods in cross-cultural research (pp. 137–164). Newbury Park: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Chamberlin, M., Newton, D. W., & LePine, J. A. (2017). A meta-analysis of voice and its promotive and prohibitive forms: Identification of key associations, distinctions, and future research directions. Personnel Psychology, 70(1), 11–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chan, D. (1998). Functional relations among constructs in the same content domain at different levels of analysis: A typology of composition models. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(2), 234–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chatman, J. A. (1989). Improving interactional organizational research: A model of person-organization fit. Academy of Management Review, 14(3), 333–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chen, X.-P., He, W., & Weng, L.-C. (2018). What is wrong with treating followers differently? The basis of leader–member exchange differentiation matters. Journal of Management, 44(3), 946–971.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Christian, M. S., & Ellis, A. P. J. (2011). Examining the effects of sleep deprivation on workplace deviance: A self-regulatory perspective. Academy of Management Journal, 54(5), 913–934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Decoster, S., Camps, J., Stouten, J., Vandevyvere, L., & Tripp, T. M. (2013). Standing by your organization: The impact of organizational identification and abusive supervision on followers’ perceived cohesion and tendency to gossip. Journal of Business Ethics, 118(3), 623–634.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Deng, H., Wu, C.-H., Leung, K., & Guan, Y. (2016). Depletion from self-regulation: A resource-based account of the effect of value incongruence. Personnel Psychology, 69(2), 431–465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Erdogan, B., & Bauer, T. N. (2010). Differentiated leader–member exchanges: The buffering role of justice climate. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(6), 1104–1120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Garcia, P. R. J. M., Wang, L., Lu, V., Kiazad, K., & Restubog, S. L. D. (2015). When victims become culprits: The role of subordinates’ neuroticism in the relationship between abusive supervision and workplace deviance. Personality and Individual Differences, 72, 225–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Graen, G. B., & Uhl-Bien, M. (1995). Relationship-based approach to leadership: Development of leader–member exchange (LMX) theory of leadership over 25 years: Applying a multi-level multi-domain perspective. The Leadership Quarterly, 6(2), 219–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gubler, J. R., Herrick, S., Price, R. A., & Wood, D. A. (2018). Violence, aggression, and ethics: The link between exposure to human violence and unethical behavior. Journal of Business Ethics, 147(1), 25–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harris, T. B., Li, N., & Kirkman, B. L. (2014). Leader–member exchange (LMX) in context: How LMX differentiation and LMX relational separation attenuate LMX’s influence on OCB and turnover intention. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(2), 314–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Henderson, D. J., Liden, R. C., Glibkowski, B. C., & Chaudhry, A. (2009). LMX differentiation: A multilevel review and examination of its antecedents and outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly, 20(4), 517–534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hu, L., & Bentler, P. M. (1999). Cutoff criteria for fit indexes in covariance structure analysis: Conventional criteria versus new alternatives. Structural Equation Modeling, 6(1), 1–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Klein, K. J., & Kozlowski, S. W. J. (2000). From micro to macro: Critical steps in conceptualizing and conducting multilevel research. Organizational Research Methods, 3(3), 211–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Krasikova, D. V., Green, S. G., & LeBreton, J. M. (2013). Destructive leadership: A theoretical review, integration, and future research agenda. Journal of Management, 39(5), 1308–1338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lanaj, K., Johnson, R. E., & Barnes, C. M. (2014). Beginning the workday yet already depleted? Consequences of late-night smartphone use and sleep. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 124(1), 11–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. LePine, J. A., & Van Dyne, L. (1998). Predicting voice behavior in work groups. Journal of Applied Psychology, 83(6), 853–868.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Li, A. N., & Liao, H. (2014). How do leader–member exchange quality and differentiation affect performance in teams? An integrated multilevel dual process model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(5), 847–866.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lian, H., Ferris, D. L., & Brown, D. J. (2012). Does taking the good with the bad make things worse? How abusive supervision and leader–member exchange interact to impact need satisfaction and organizational deviance. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 117(1), 41–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lian, H., Yam, K. C., Ferris, D. L., & Brown, D. (2017). Self-control at work. Academy of Management Annals, 11(2), 703–732.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Liden, R. C., Erdogan, B., Wayne, S. J., & Sparrowe, R. T. (2006). Leader–member exchange, differentiation, and task interdependence: Implications for individual and group performance. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 27(6), 723–746.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lin, S.-H., 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. Journal of Applied Psychology, 101(6), 815–830.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Liu, W., Tangirala, S., & Ramanujam, R. (2013). The relational antecedents of voice targeted at different leaders. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(5), 841–851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liu, W., Zhu, R., & Yang, Y. (2010). I warn you because I like you: Voice behavior, employee identifications, and transformational leadership. The Leadership Quarterly, 21(1), 189–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mackey, J. D., Brees, J. R., McAllister, C. P., Zorn, M. L., Martinko, M. J., & Harvey, P. (2016). Victim and culprit? The effects of entitlement and felt accountability on perceptions of abusive supervision and perpetration of workplace bullying. Journal of Business Ethics. Scholar
  34. Mackey, J. D., Frieder, R. E., Brees, J. R., & Martinko, M. J. (2017). Abusive supervision: A meta-analysis and empirical review. Journal of Management, 43(6), 1940–1965.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. MacKinnon, D. P., Fritz, M. S., Williams, J., & Lockwood, C. M. (2007). Distribution of the product confidence limits for the indirect effect: Program PRODCLIN. Behavior Research Methods, 39(3), 384–389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Martinko, M. J., Harvey, P., Brees, J. R., & Mackey, J. (2013). A review of abusive supervision research. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 34, S120–S137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Maynes, T. D., & Podsakoff, P. M. (2014). Speaking more broadly: An examination of the nature, antecedents, and consequences of an expanded set of employee voice behaviors. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99(1), 87–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. McAllister, C. P., Mackey, J. D., & Perrewé, P. L. (2018). The role of self-regulation in the relationship between abusive supervision and job tension. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 39(4), 416–428.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McAllister, C. P., & Perrewé, P. L. (2016). About to burst: How state self-regulation affects the enactment of bullying behaviors. Journal of Business Ethics. Scholar
  40. 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), 1159–1168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Morrison, E. W. (2011). Employee voice behavior: Integration and directions for future research. The Academy of Management Annals, 5(1), 373–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Muraven, M., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). Self-regulation and depletion of limited resources: Does self-control resemble a muscle? Psychological Bulletin, 126(2), 247–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (2010). Mplus user’s guide. Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.Google Scholar
  44. Ng, T. W. H., & Feldman, D. C. (2012). Employee voice behavior: A meta-analytic test of the conservation of resources framework. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 33(2), 216–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. O’Reilly, J., & Aquino, K. (2011). A model of third parties’ morally motivated responses to mistreatment in organizations. Academy of Management Review, 36(3), 526–543.Google Scholar
  46. Pan, S.-Y., & Lin, K. J. (2018). Who suffers when supervisors are unhappy? The roles of leader–member exchange and abusive supervision. Journal of Business Ethics, 151(3), 799–811.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Park, H., Hoobler, J. M., Wu, J., Liden, R. C., Hu, J., & Wilson, M. S. (2017). Abusive supervision and employee deviance: A multifoci justice perspective. Journal of Business Ethics. Scholar
  48. Paruchuri, S., Perry-Smith, J. E., Chattopadhyay, P., & Shaw, J. D. (2018). New ways of seeing: Pitfalls and opportunities in multilevel research. Academy of Management Journal, 61(3), 797–801.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Preacher, K. J., Curran, P. J., & Bauer, D. J. (2006). Computational tools for probing interactions in multiple linear regression, multilevel modeling, and latent curve analysis. Journal of Educational and Behavioral Statistics, 31(3), 437–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Raudenbush, S. W., Bryk, A. S., Cheong, Y. F., Congdon, R. T. & du Toit, M. (2011). HLM 7. Lincolnwood, IL: Scientific Software International, Inc.Google Scholar
  51. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schyns, B., Wisse, B., & Sanders, S. (2017). Shady strategic behavior: Recognizing strategic followership of Dark Triad followers. Academy of Management Perspectives. Scholar
  53. Sui, Y., Wang, H., Kirkman, B. L., & Li, N. (2016). Understanding the curvilinear relationships between LMX differentiation and team coordination and performance. Personnel Psychology, 69, 559–597.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Tepper, B. J. (2000). Consequences of abusive supervision. Academy of Management Journal, 43(2), 178–190.Google Scholar
  55. Tepper, B. J., Simon, L., & Park, H. M. (2017). Abusive supervision. Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior, 4, 123–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Twenge, J., Muraven, M., & Tice, D. (2004). Measuring state self-control: Reliability, validity, and correlations with physical and psychological stress (Unpublished manuscript). San Diego: San Diego State University.Google Scholar
  57. Valentine, S., & Fleischman, G. (2008). Professional ethical standards, corporate social responsibility, and the perceived role of ethics and social responsibility. Journal of Business Ethics, 82(3), 657–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Van Dyne, L., & LePine, J. A. (1998). Helping and voice extra-role behaviors: Evidence of construct and predictive validity. Academy of Management Journal, 41(1), 108–119.Google Scholar
  59. Vohs, K., Baumeister, R. F., & Ciarocco, N. J. (2005). Self-regulation and self-presentation: Regulatory resource depletion impairs impression management and effortful self-presentation depletes regulatory resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88(4), 632–657.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wang, G., Harms, P. D., & Mackey, J. D. (2015). Does it take two to tangle? Subordinates’ perceptions of and reactions to abusive supervision. Journal of Business Ethics, 131(2), 487–503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wu, L.-Z., Zhang, H., Chiu, R. K., Kwan, H. K., & He, X. (2014). Hostile attribution bias and negative reciprocity beliefs exacerbate incivility’s effects on interpersonal deviance. Journal of Business Ethics, 120(2), 189–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Yu, A., Matta, F. K., & Cornfield, B. (2018). Is leader–member exchange differentiation beneficial or detrimental for group effectiveness? A meta-analytic investigation and theoretical integration. Academy of Management Journal, 61(3), 1158–1188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zhang, Y., & Bednall, T. C. (2016). Antecedents of abusive supervision: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Business Ethics, 139(3), 455–471.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Zoogah, D. B. (2014). Strategic followership: How followers impact organizational effectiveness. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Management, Harbert College of BusinessAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  2. 2.Department of Human Resource Management, School of BusinessNanjing UniversityNanjingChina

Personalised recommendations