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Interpersonal Deviance and Abusive Supervision: The Mediating Role of Supervisor Negative Emotions and the Moderating Role of Subordinate Organizational Citizenship Behavior

Abstract

We build on the emerging research that shows aversive subordinate workplace behaviors are likely related to abusive supervision in the workplace. Specifically, we develop and test a moderated-mediation model outlining the process of abusive supervision based on the stressor-emotion model of counterproductive work behavior. We argue that subordinate interpersonal deviance prompts supervisor negative emotions, which then leads supervisors to engage in abusive supervision. We also argue that subordinate organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) is likely to play a crucial role in predicting abusive supervision. We argue that interpersonal deviance is more likely to prompt abusive supervision through supervisor negative emotions when the magnitude of an employee’s engagement in OCB is weaker. Study 1, a time-lagged field study, tests and provides support for the relationships among our key variables (Hypotheses 13). Study 2, utilizing multisource field data (i.e., subordinate–supervisor dyads), replicates the results from Study 1 and provides support for the entire moderated-mediation model while controlling for tenure with supervisor, subordinate task performance, and subordinate conscientiousness. We find general support for our predictions. We conclude with a discussion of theoretical and practical implications as well as future research directions.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Following prior research on abusive supervision (e.g., Mitchell and Ambrose 2007), we use the term interpersonal deviance to refer to a nonsupervisory interpersonal deviance, but interpersonal deviance directed at “others.”

  2. 2.

    In this paper, we theorize and measure subordinate OCB based on supervisor perception of these behaviors.

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Eissa, G., Lester, S.W. & Gupta, R. Interpersonal Deviance and Abusive Supervision: The Mediating Role of Supervisor Negative Emotions and the Moderating Role of Subordinate Organizational Citizenship Behavior. J Bus Ethics 166, 577–594 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10551-019-04130-x

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Keywords

  • Abusive supervision
  • Negative emotions
  • Interpersonal deviance
  • Organizational citizenship behavior
  • Unethical behavior