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Defeating abusive supervision: Training supervisors to support subordinates


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Although much is known about the antecedents and consequences of abusive supervision, scant attention has been paid to investigating procedures to reduce its frequency. We conducted a quasiexperiment to examine the effects of supervisor support training on subordinate perceptions of abusive supervision and supervisor support. Supervisors (n = 23) in 4 restaurants were trained in 4 supportive supervision strategies (benevolence, sincerity, fairness, and experiential processing) during 4 2-hr sessions over a period of 2 months. We compared perceived supervisor support and abusive supervision before and 9 months after training for 208 employees whose supervisors received support training and 241 employees in 4 similar control restaurants. Compared to employees in the control restaurants, employees whose supervisors received the support training reported higher levels of perceived supervisor support and less abusive supervision. These findings suggest that a relatively brief training program can help managers become more supportive and less abusive. Theoretical and practical implications for effectively managing abusive supervision are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record
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Journal of Occupational Health
Defeating Abusive Supervision: Training Supervisors to
Support Subordinates
M. Gloria Gonzalez-Morales, Mary C. Kernan, Thomas E. Becker, and Robert Eisenberger
Online First Publication, December 12, 2016.
Gonzalez-Morales, M. G., Kernan, M. C., Becker, T. E., & Eisenberger, R. (2016, December 12).
Defeating Abusive Supervision: Training Supervisors to Support Subordinates. Journal of
Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication.
Defeating Abusive Supervision: Training Supervisors to
Support Subordinates
M. Gloria Gonzalez-Morales
University of Guelph
Mary C. Kernan
University of Delaware
Thomas E. Becker
University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee
Robert Eisenberger
University of Houston
Although much is known about the antecedents and consequences of abusive supervision, scant attention
has been paid to investigating procedures to reduce its frequency. We conducted a quasiexperiment to
examine the effects of supervisor support training on subordinate perceptions of abusive supervision and
supervisor support. Supervisors (n23) in 4 restaurants were trained in 4 supportive supervision
strategies (benevolence, sincerity, fairness, and experiential processing) during 4 2-hr sessions over a
period of 2 months. We compared perceived supervisor support and abusive supervision before and 9
months after training for 208 employees whose supervisors received support training and 241 employees
in 4 similar control restaurants. Compared to employees in the control restaurants, employees whose
supervisors received the support training reported higher levels of perceived supervisor support and less
abusive supervision. These findings suggest that a relatively brief training program can help managers
become more supportive and less abusive. Theoretical and practical implications for effectively manag-
ing abusive supervision are discussed.
Keywords: abusive supervision, supervisor support, perceived supervisor support, training, quasiexperiment
Abusive supervision, involving “subordinates perceptions of the
extent to which supervisors engage in the sustained display of
hostile verbal and nonverbal behaviors, excluding physical con-
tact” (Tepper, 2000, p. 178), has deleterious consequences for
victims and the organizations that employ them (Mackey, Frieder,
Brees, & Martinko, 2015; Martinko, Harvey, Brees, & Mackey,
2013; Tepper, 2007). A substantial body of work has shown that
abusive supervision is negatively associated with employee atti-
tudes and behaviors, such as job satisfaction (Palanski, Avey, &
Jiraporn, 2014; Tepper, 2000), organizational commitment (Duffy,
Ganster, & Pagon, 2002), perceptions of organizational support
(Kernan, Watson, Chen, & Kim, 2011; Shoss, Eisenberger, Res-
tubog, & Zagenczyk, 2013), in-role job performance (Xu, Huang,
Lam, & Miao, 2012), citizenship behaviors (Zellars, Tepper, &
Duffy, 2002), and positively associated with employee deviance
(Brees, Mackey, Martinko, & Harvey, 2014; Lian, Ferris, &
Brown, 2012; Mitchell & Ambrose, 2007; Tepper, Henle, Lam-
bert, Giacalone, & Duffy, 2008) and turnover intentions (Tepper,
More importantly, empirical evidence also indicates that abu-
sive supervision is a serious psychosocial health risk that needs
to be appropriately managed. Meta-analytic evidence reveals
negative relationships with psychological well-being and posi-
tive associations with stress (Schyns & Schilling, 2013), work-
to-family conflict, job tension, emotional exhaustion, and de-
pression (Mackey et al., 2015). Because of its harmfulness,
there have been many calls for investigating ways to reduce the
occurrence of abusive supervision, including supervisory train-
ing and improved organizational socialization techniques
(Mawritz, Mayer, Hoobler, Wayne, & Marinova, 2012; Mitchell
& Ambrose, 2012; Restubog, Scott, & Zagenczyk, 2011; Shoss
et al., 2013; Walter, Lam, van der Vegt, Huang, & Miao, 2015).
However, to this point little research has responded to these
calls. Although much empirical research has investigated the
antecedents of abusive supervision (e.g., Zhang & Bednall,
2015), the implementation of procedures to prevent or reduce
abusive supervision in the workplace needs to be empirically
examined. To address this need, the present research investi-
gates whether abusive supervision can be modified by training
M. Gloria Gonzalez-Morales, Department of Psychology, University of
Guelph; Mary C. Kernan, Department of Business Administration, Uni-
versity of Delaware; Thomas E. Becker; College of Business, University of
South Florida Sarasota-Manatee; Robert Eisenberger, Department of Psy-
chology, University of Houston.
An earlier version of this article was presented as a poster at the 2012
SIOP conference: M. Gloria Gonzalez-Morales, Mary C. Kernan, Thomas
E. Becker, Robert Eisenberger (2012, April). Managerial training to in-
crease employee perceptions of support. Featured top-rated posters session
27th SIOP Annual Conference. San Diego, CA. Our research was sup-
ported in part by a contract from the Army Institute for the Social and
Behavioral Sciences.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to M. Gloria
Gonzalez-Morales, Department of Psychology, University of Guelph,
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada. E-mail: gonzalez.morales@uogue
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
Journal of Occupational Health Psychology © 2016 American Psychological Association
2016, Vol. 22, No. 1, 000 1076-8998/16/$12.00
supervisors to understand the value of supportive supervision
and by providing them with effective techniques for engaging in
more supportive supervision.
In this study we apply strategies based on organizational support
theory (OST) (Eisenberger & Stinglhamber, 2011) to address the
rectification of abusive supervision. OST holds that employees
form general beliefs concerning the extent to which the organiza-
tion and its representatives (e.g., managers and supervisors) value
their contributions and care about their well-being (perceived
organizational support, or POS). A large number of correlational
studies have established that supervisor and organizational support
are related to many employee and organizational outcomes (Kur-
tessis et al., 2015). OST incorporates basic assumptions of social
exchange theory with regard to reciprocity and attributions (Eisen-
berger & Stinglhamber, 2011; Kurtessis et al., 2015). Based on the
reciprocity norm, employees are assumed to experience an indebt-
edness or felt obligation to the organization and its agents, such as
supervisors and managers, for favorable treatment. Moreover, in
accord with social exchange theory (Gouldner, 1960), favorable
treatment leads to greater indebtedness and affective commitment
to the organization and its agents when employees attribute such
treatment to favorable intent (Eisenberger, Cummings, Armeli, &
Lynch, 1997). Among the major antecedents of POS are organi-
zational justice, support by supervisors, and favorable human
resource practices (Kurtessis et al., 2015). According to OST,
employees should value supportive actions by the supervisor both
as indication of valuation by the organization and by a leader who
may provide significant material, informational, and socioemo-
tional resources. We extend knowledge and contribute to research
on OST by demonstrating that its theoretical principles can be used
to design and implement organizational practices to foster healthy
Overcoming Abusive Supervision
Research that has examined the antecedents of abusive super-
vision suggests that attempts to lessen its frequency may be im-
peded by leaders’ familial and dispositional tendencies to be
abusive and by stable characteristics of followers that elicit abuse.
For example, supervisors’ history of family aggression and under-
mining (Garcia, Restubog, Kiewitz, Scott, & Tang, 2014; Kiewitz
et al., 2012), level of anxiety (Byrne et al., 2014), hostility-related
affect (Garcia et al., 2014), and depression (Byrne et al., 2014;
Tepper, Duffy, Henle, & Lambert, 2006) are positively associated
with abuse. Further, subordinates’ high levels of negative affec-
tivity (Aquino, Grover, Bradfield, & Allen, 1999) and low levels
of core self-evaluations (Wu & Hu, 2009), self-esteem (Kiazad,
Restubog, Zagenczyk, Kiewitz, & Tang, 2010) and conscientious-
ness (Henle & Gross, 2014), and a predisposition toward paranoid
tendencies are associated with greater reports of abuse (Chan &
McAllister, 2014; Martinko, Harvey, Sikora, & Douglas, 2011).
Zhang and Bednall’s (2015) meta-analysis provides further evi-
dence that supervisors’ and subordinates’ demographic and dispo-
sitional characteristics affect abusive supervision.
Although overcoming the effects of these individual and dispo-
sitional characteristics may seem difficult, finding ways to encour-
age supervisors to act more favorably toward subordinates pro-
vides a more hopeful perspective. This is especially true if we
consider that contextual features of the work environment, such as
supervisors’ attempts to cope with overly stressful environments
(Burton, Hoobler, & Scheuer, 2012) or inadequate subordinate
performance (Li, Zhang, Law, & Yan, 2015; Tepper, Moss, &
Duffy, 2011; Walter et al., 2015), can also impact abusive super-
vision. Further, combating abusive supervision by training super-
visors to engage in supportive behaviors is consistent with a large
body of work in the leadership domain that has demonstrated that
effective leadership behaviors can be learned (cf. Brungardt, 1997;
DeRue, Nahrgang, Hollenbeck, & Workman, 2012; Packard &
Jones, 2015; Santos, Caetano, & Tavares, 2015).
Supportive Supervision
Supportive supervision involves an orientation by the supervisor
to be helpful and considerate to subordinates (House, 1996). Sup-
portive supervisors and managers have been characterized as being
friendly and approachable, receptive to followers’ new ideas and
dissenting opinions, and expressing appreciation and support to
followers (Bass, 1990; DeRue, Nahrgang, Wellman, & Humphrey,
2011; Judge, Piccolo, & Ilies, 2004; Lambert, Tepper, Carr, Holt,
& Barelka, 2012; Oldham & Cummings, 1996). OST (Eisenberger,
Huntington, Hutchison, & Sowa, 1986; Eisenberger & Stinglham-
ber, 2011; Shore & Shore, 1995) suggests that employees should
respond to the receipt of supportive behaviors with a general
perception of positive valuation by their supervisor. Although most
research relevant to this theory has focused on POS, organization
members also form perceptions of support about individuals and
collectives within the organization that may provide important
material, informational, and socioemotional resources (Eisen-
berger & Stinglhamber, 2011). Perceived supervisor support (PSS)
refers to a general perception about the extent to which employees
feel their supervisor values their contributions and cares about
their well-being. We suggest that inducing supervisors to engage in
supportive supervision behaviors will displace supervisor’s orien-
tation toward abusive behaviors, leading to higher PSS and lower
reports of abusive supervision.
Training would involve explaining the utility of supportive
supervision and providing supervisors with the necessary skills
and strategies to enact such behavior. There are several reasons
why supportive supervision training may increase positive percep-
tions about supervisors and reduce abusive supervision. First,
according to OST, and based on the reciprocity norm, employees
should reciprocate supportive supervision by increasing their per-
formance. In return, and responding favorably to such enhanced
performance, supervisors would be less likely to engage in abusive
supervision. Second, abusive supervision has been linked to ag-
gression norms in organizations. For example, Restubog et al.
(2011) found that supervisors who perceived stronger norms to-
ward aggressive behavior in their organization were perceived as
more abusive by their subordinates. Moreover, researchers in the
broader workplace victimization area have theorized that employ-
ees often learn aggressive behavior from their peers or other
valued organizational members as the normative way of behaving
“around here” (Aquino, Douglas, & Martinko, 2004; Einarsen,
1999; Glomb & Liao, 2003; Langan-Fox & Sankey, 2007). Super-
visors trained in supportive supervision can help establish a new
norm regarding how to appropriately respond to subordinates in
stressful situations. This norm would encourage caring and con-
sideration as responses to subordinates, and discourage impulsive
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and potentially abusive behaviors. Therefore, we expect supervisor
support training to increase the frequency of perceived supportive
behaviors and decrease the frequency of perceived abusive behav-
Third, supportive supervision produces favorable reactions
among subordinates (DeRue et al., 2011; Judge et al., 2004;
Lambert et al., 2012; Oldham & Cummings, 1996) and, more
generally, destructive leadership-subordinate outcome correlations
are largely negative and opposite in direction to constructive
leadership-outcome correlations (Schyns & Schilling, 2013). We
thus propose that enhancing supportive supervision, a constructive
leadership behavior, should make supportive supervisory behav-
iors more salient, increasing perceptions of supportive supervision
and decreasing perceptions of abusive supervision. As supervisors
notice the effectiveness of supportive supervision in dealing with
subordinates, such behavior should become preferable to abuse.
Further, as supervisors engage in more supportive and less abusive
behaviors, subordinates should perceive this change and come to
see their supervisors as generally supportive. We would not expect
that perceptions of abuse would be totally eradicated because
negative and unfavorable perceptions are stronger and more salient
than positive ones (Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, & Vohs,
2001). However, even if isolated instances of mistreatment occur
they may not be interpreted as abusive, especially if subordinates
believe the supervisor did not intend to be harmful.
Feeling victimized by an abusive behavior is a subjective expe-
rience (Aquino & Thau, 2009). Thus, like most research in the
mistreatment literature, our focus is on subordinate perceptions of
abusive supervision. By definition supervisory abuse lies in the eye
of the beholder and requires the employee’s perception that the
perpetrator intended to commit harm. If employees experience
frequent supportive behaviors they may not attribute intent to harm
when isolated abusive supervisory behaviors are enacted, espe-
cially in the context of a generally supportive relationship. In these
instances subordinates may be more likely to absolve the supervi-
sor of blame and attribute the behavior to external, situational
causes, such as an unusually busy or understaffed day.
Training Supportive Supervisor Strategies
According to OST (Eisenberger & Stinglhamber, 2011), there
are a number of supervisory behaviors that should contribute to
subordinates’ PSS. We organized these behaviors around four
general strategies: benevolence, sincerity, fairness, and experien-
tial processing. These strategies, along with relevant behaviors, are
presented in Table 1 and are explained in more detail below.
Benevolence refers to supervisors’ discretionary behaviors that
provide subordinates with helpful information and tangible and
emotional support beyond the supervisor’s general role require-
ments. PSS is enhanced when employees believe that organiza-
tional representatives have a genuine concern for their welfare, as
demonstrated by their actions beyond the call of duty (Eisenberger
& Stinglhamber, 2011). This concern is more strongly communi-
cated when supervisors’ favorable actions appear to be voluntary
and reflect genuine caring on their part as opposed to being forced
by external constraints, such as contractual obligations, govern-
ment regulations, or a tight job market (Eisenberger et al., 1997).
Sincerity refers to authenticity in expression and deed (Eisen-
berger & Stinglhamber, 2011). Employees believe supervisors are
being sincere in judgments of their performance when these judg-
ments reflect careful evaluation rather than other motives such as
bias toward favored employees or a disingenuous desire to please.
Attributions of sincerity are also enhanced, according to OST,
when supervisors follow through on their promises. In addition,
being treated with dignity and respect by those in positions of
authority is an important aspect of interactional justice and is
reflected in the sincerity strategy.
Procedural and informational justice are also important. Both
have been consistently found to be positively associated with
perceived support (DeConinck, 2010; Kurtessis et al., 2015;
Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002; Wayne, Shore, Bommer, & Tetrick,
2002). Procedural justice refers to fairness in the processes used to
determine valued outcomes (Colquitt, 2001). For example, social
accounts as a dimension of procedural justice have been shown to
reduce blame employees place on the decision maker (Bobocel &
Table 1
Summary of Supportive Behavior Strategies
yRecognize employee efforts, especially when they go beyond the call of
duty (perform beyond expectations).
yWhenever possible, accept mistakes and use them as learning
ySupport employees with necessary back-up and training to do their jobs.
yMake amends for poor treatment from customers.
yFollow through on promises made to employees.
yBe honest and timely when communicating positive and negative
information about performance.
yTreat employees with respect.
yEmploy constructive feedback skills:
XImpersonal/Focus on behavior
XOffer encouragement
XSuggest corrective actions/behaviors
XProvide clear direction
yProcedures based on accurate information. yGather all relevant information regarding performance.
yRules and policies applied uniformly. yDecide private or public discussion and appropriate place and time.
yProcedures neutral and unbiased. yEmploy active listening skills:
yOpportunity for employee voice. XAvoid interruption and defer judgment
yOpportunity for Correction/Appeal. XPay attention/ Organize information
yExplain reasons for decisions using social accounts. XMaintain/Show interest
XObtain feedback to check understanding
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Zdaniuk, 2005; Shaw, Wild, & Colquitt, 2003). Informational
justice provides explanations for why procedures were used or
outcomes were distributed in a particular way (Colquitt, Conlon,
Wesson, Porter, & Ng, 2001). Both procedural and informational
fairness communicate concern for employees’ opinions and well-
being, leading to enhanced perceptions of support (DeConinck,
2010; Rhoades & Eisenberger, 2002; Roch & Shanock, 2006).
The fourth strategy, experiential processing (Good et al., 2016),
involves attending to stimuli without immediate judgment or eval-
uation since such interpretations often tend to be habitual in nature
or biased toward self-concerns. Thus, experiential processing per-
mits a more nonautomatic and careful evaluation of events. Having
supervisors stop and listen carefully to subordinate concerns or
explanations, as opposed to responding impulsively, provides an
opportunity for greater awareness and more flexible responses,
essentially minimizing automatic reactions. Experiential process-
ing may be particularly important during stressful periods when
supervisors may impulsively react to their own mistakes or those
of their subordinates with abusive behavior. Thoughtful reflection
and awareness of interactions with subordinates during stressful
periods may help enable more supportive supervision, leading to
greater PSS and fewer instances of abuse.
In sum, OST points to several specific strategies for treating
subordinates supportively and, as illustrated in Table 1, these
strategies suggest concrete behaviors that can serve as training
targets. We believe such training has the potential to increase
perceived supervisor support and decrease abusive supervision.
We conducted a quasiexperiment in a midsized restaurant chain,
with supervisors in experimental restaurants receiving supportive
supervision training. Supervisors in the remaining restaurants
served as the control group. We hypothesized that supervisor
support training would enhance PSS and lessen abusive supervi-
Hypothesis 1: Subordinates of supervisors in the supervisor
support training condition, in comparison to the control con-
dition, will report higher perceived supervisor support.
Hypothesis 2: Subordinates of supervisors in the supervisor
support training condition, in comparison to the control con-
dition, will report lower abusive supervision.
Participants and Procedure
We conducted a quasiexperimental field study, using a compar-
ison group before–after design, in eight restaurants, with four
restaurants assigned to the training condition and four assigned to
a nontraining control condition. These eight locations are members
of a small chain of locally based, upscale casual restaurants. They
are located within a 90-mile radius in various medium-sized towns
and cities, with similar economic climates, in two adjacent North-
east states in the United States.
The hospitality setting is useful for investigating ways to reduce
abuse because it is an environment characterized by frequent
customer and supervisor interactions, heavy work demands during
peak periods, and significant time pressures. Pretraining equiva-
lence between conditions was obtained by using a matched-group
design to guarantee that the mean scores on PSS in the experi-
mental and control restaurants were comparable (see Table 2).
Supervisors were trained in four 2-hr sessions over a 2-month
period. The first three sessions took place over 3 consecutive
weeks and the fourth took place a month later in order to refresh
the content of the training and to keep participants on track with
the transfer process. Trainees included a balanced composition of
restaurant general managers, floor managers, chefs, and sous
chefs. Management teams in each location are composed of man-
agers in the two areas of the restaurant. The back of the house
refers to the kitchen area and the front of the house refers to the
area where customers are served. The back of the house manage-
ment team is composed of an executive chef and two sous chefs.
The front of the house management team is composed of one
general store manager and two floor managers. In a given shift,
there is a least one manager in the front and one manager in the
back of the house. Busier shifts, such as dinners on Fridays and
Saturdays, require at least two managers in each part of the house.
A total of 23 supervisors (4 women, 19 men) from the four
experimental locations started the training: six from three restau-
rants (1 general manager, 2 floor managers, 1 executive chef and
2 sous chefs) and five from the fourth (i.e., one general manager,
two floor managers, one executive chef and one sous chef). To
enhance interpersonal interaction and foster learning, the initial
group of 23 was split into two training groups, 13 in one and 10 in
the other. All supervisors but three (two floor managers from two
different restaurants, and one sous chef from a third restaurant)
completed the program.
Training was conducted off-site at the company’s headquarters.
Employees from all of the restaurants (experimental and control)
knew that the company was collaborating with our research team,
but were unaware of specific interventions, including the supervi-
sory support training program. Our primary means of communi-
cation with employees was the presentation and explanation of the
consent form for collecting the critical incident data (discussed
below). The consent form also explained the general goals of our
collaboration (helping to increase organizational effectiveness),
that we would be asking questions about their work attitudes on the
company’s biannual employee survey, and emphasized the volun-
tary nature of participation.
Employee (subordinate) measures of PSS and abusive supervi-
sion, included in the organization’s online employee attitude sur-
vey, were assessed 2 months prior to training (Time 1) and 9
months after the training was completed (Time 2). Because of
frequently shifting employee and manager schedules, most em-
Table 2
Means and Standard Deviations for Employee Variables
Control Experimental
Pretest Posttest Pretest Posttest
PSS 5.51 (1.16) 5.32 (1.12) 5.52 (1.28) 5.67 (1.13)
AS 1.20 (.44) 1.27 (.68) 1.29 (.59) 1.13 (.44)
Note. PSS Perceived supervisor support; AS Abusive supervision.
Ns for experimental group at pre- and posttest were 227 and 208, respec-
tively. Ns for control group at pre- and posttest were 216 and 241,
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ployees worked under several supervisors. For example, in a single
shift, a server may be responding to both the floor manager and the
store manager (2 supervisors in 1 shift). This is the norm in many
restaurants, which is why we trained all supervisors in the exper-
imental restaurants. When responding to survey questions, em-
ployees were asked to think of the supervisors they most fre-
quently reported to.
In keeping with the organization’s survey policy of guaranteed
employee anonymity, we were not allowed to collect demographic
information. However, based on organizational records we can
report the following characteristics of the nonmanagerial employ-
ees: 44% of employees in the experimental restaurants were fe-
male, compared to 39% in control restaurants (we did not have
information on gender identity for 7% and 6%, respectively), and
17% in the experimental and 15.5% in the control restaurants were
of Hispanic origin. In both experimental and control restaurants,
the job title distribution was similar: 27% were kitchen staff (most
of them male); 45% were wait staff, and 15% were hosts (the
majority were female). Finally, bar and bus staff comprised 12% of
the nonmanagerial employees.
Participants completed surveys during work hours on laptop
computers installed in the restaurants. Response rates for both time
periods were approximately 95%. Participants at Time 1 included
443 employees, 227 from experimental locations and 216 from
control locations. At Time 2, 449 employees were surveyed; 208
worked at experimental locations and 241 worked at control loca-
Training Procedure
Needs analysis. Needs analysis is an essential element of
training design (e.g., Dessler, 2011; Ford, Kozlowski, Kraiger,
Salas, & Teachout, 1997). In our analysis, we explored the current
levels of perceived support provided by supervisors to subordi-
nates. The main purpose was to identify key situations in which
subordinates regularly felt supported and unsupported, so that we
could design training content that was relevant to their particular
work environment. We interviewed 33 top and mid-level managers
from the eight restaurants concerning the relationships between
supervisors and subordinates. In addition, we administered a brief
critical-incident questionnaire to the employees before the dinner
shift in each of the eight locations (mean number of respondents
per location was 17.12, SD 3.83). We collected and analyzed a
total of 298 positive and negative critical incidents from 137
employees. Employees were asked to describe an incident where
they felt they had been well treated by a supervisor and an incident
where they felt poorly treated by a supervisor. Many cases of
positive treatment described interactions in which employees re-
ported being treated with respect, having work efforts recognized
and rewarded, receiving emotional support for personal problems
and mistakes, and obtaining constructive feedback about perfor-
mance. Instances of poor treatment included situations in which
supervisors showed a lack of support or understanding, became
quickly frustrated by mistakes, failed to treat employees with
respect, or consistently provided little recognition for good per-
formance. Many instances of poor treatment revealed abusive
behaviors such as being yelled at, unfairly disciplined, ridiculed
and ignored, often made more humiliating when carried out in
front of customers or coworkers.
Training objective and content. The objective of the training
program was to provide supervisors with strategies to treat subor-
dinates more supportively. Supervisors received instruction in the
benefits of supervisor support and in four basic supervisor support
strategies (benevolence, sincerity, fairness, and experiential pro-
cessing). In discussing benevolence, we emphasized to supervisors
that instrumental support (e.g., assistance with work-related prob-
lems and providing recognition for extraordinary efforts) and
emotional support (e.g., providing understanding and encourage-
ment when mistakes are made) should be presented as volitional
and concerned with the best interests of employees. With respect
to sincerity, we urged supervisors to provide honest, constructive
feedback when evaluating positive and negative instances of per-
formance, to follow through on promises made to employees and
to treat employees with respect. We incorporated this last element,
interactional justice, into the sincerity principle without explicitly
using the interactional fairness term with trainees. If supervisors
behave in an honest, timely and respectful manner (behaviors
included under the sincerity principle), perceptions of interactional
fairness perceptions should follow. When discussing fairness, we
urged supervisors to apply basic elements of procedural justice,
including using accurate information, uniform and unbiased appli-
cation of rules and procedures, and allowing for employee voice
and opportunity for appeal. We trained supervisors to provide
social accounts so that they would be perceived as fair even when
their actions were seen as unfavorable by subordinates (e.g., an
employee who receives an unpopular shift assignment). Finally,
we presented the experiential processing principle to trainees using
the label of mindfulness. The particular behaviors trained for this
and the other strategies are identified in Table 1.
Training format and techniques. We incorporated several
pedagogical techniques (lectures, group discussion, role plays) and
recommendations suggested by training researchers for maximiz-
ing trainee learning and transfer: meaningfulness, active participa-
tion, and distributed practice (Noe & Colquitt, 2002; Skarlicki &
Latham, 2005). Meaningfulness of the training content was
achieved in two ways. First, we stressed the relevance of the
training to work dimensions important to supervisors (e.g., lead-
ership development, subordinate attitudes) and the organization’s
bottom line (e.g., sales). Second, we developed training vignettes
specifically for the focal organization depicting various interac-
tions between customers and/or supervisors and employees. Each
vignette was written to highlight one or two of the support strat-
egies and were used as discussion starters and role-playing vehi-
cles. Third, we reviewed relevant organizational documentation
with the human resources manager in order to acquire knowledge
on organizational policies, procedures, and rules that would give
meaning to the training content.
Active participation was accomplished by asking trainees to
role-play supervisor–subordinate interactions (via the organiza-
tionally relevant vignettes), and by soliciting examples of success-
ful and unsuccessful applications of the four training strategies (via
weekly logs maintained by the trainees in between training ses-
sions, discussed below). Active participation was also encouraged
through group discussions and by having trainees provide feed-
back to one another after role-playing sessions. Finally, distribu-
tive practice was accomplished by holding three primary training
sessions, separated by a week, and a refresher session, scheduled
1 month later. Trainees were encouraged to practice the principles
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and skills they learned during training with their employees be-
tween each session.
The training vignettes were created from incidents reported in
the employee critical-incident questionnaire and were intended to
map onto one or more of the training strategies. Examples of
situations depicted in the vignettes included: (a) employees per-
forming less well than supervisors would have liked, and the
supervisors reacting abusively (low experiential processing and
benevolence), (b) employees performing well under very difficult
conditions and supervisors failing to provide praise or recognition
(low benevolence), (c) employees feeling that supervisors did not
consistently apply company policies and instead played “favorites”
(low fairness), and (d) supervisors failing to provide accurate and
timely feedback about employee performance (low sincerity).
Ensuring that learning is transferred back to the organization is
critical to effective training (Kirkpatrick, 1998; Saks & Belcourt,
2006; Skarlicki & Latham, 2005). We designed a number of
elements into the training program to enhance the transfer process.
At the end of each training session we distributed business-card-
sized flashcards summarizing each strategy. Trainees took these
cards with them to work to remind them of supportive behaviors in
daily interactions with subordinates. Weekly trainee logs were
provided to participants so that they could document their prog-
ress, review examples of the training strategies and applications,
and identify questions for the trainers. Trainees were instructed to
record their applications of the strategies and skills during the
following week using the flashcards as support. Thus, this “trans-
fer log” was intended to motivate and enhance the transfer of the
training back to the job.
The PSS and abusive supervision items were consistent with the
issues identified by the needs analysis and with the training design.
We modified four items from the Survey of Perceived Organiza-
tional Support developed by Eisenberger et al. (1986) to measure
PSS. Scale items were as follows: My supervisor: “strongly con-
siders my goals and values,” “would forgive an honest mistake on
my part,” “disregards my best interests when he/she makes deci-
sions that affect me,” “is willing to extend herself/himself in order
to help me perform my job to the best of my ability.” Subordinates
indicated their agreement with each item on a scale ranging from
1(strongly disagree)to7(strongly agree). Several studies have
used similar adaptations of this scale, which has been shown to
have good discriminant and predictive validity (T1 ␣⫽.78; T2
␣⫽.73; Kurtessis et al., 2015; Ng & Sorensen, 2008).
Abusive supervision was assessed with six items from the
Negative Acts Questionnaire–Revised (NAQ-R; Einarsen, Hoel, &
Notelaers, 2009). Adaptions of this scale have been used in prior
research with acceptable levels of reliability (Baillien, Bollen,
Euwema, & De Witte, 2014; Spence Laschinger & Nosko, 2015).
Scale items were as follows: My supervisor: “subjects me to
excessive teasing and sarcasm,” “humiliates or ridicules me in
connection with my work,” “reminds me repeatedly of my past
errors and mistakes,” “makes insulting/offensive comments about
me to others,” “has shouted at or targeted me with spontaneous
rage or anger,” and “ignores me or makes hostile comments when
I approach him/her.” The response scale was 1 (never),2(occa-
sionally), 3(monthly),4(weekly), and5(daily); (T1 ␣⫽.82; T2
Given that employees are nested within restaurants we checked
to see if the nested nature of the data made the observations
nonindependent. Using the “multilevel” package (Bliese, 2013) for
R (R Core Team, 2014), we calculated ICC(1)S for PSS and
abusive supervision in both pre and posttest periods. The very low
ICC(s) indicate that subordinate data is independent for both
abusive supervision (pretest ICC(1) 0.04; posttest ICC(1)
0.02) and PSS (pretest ICC(1) 0.08; posttest ICC(1) 0.03).
These figures indicate that on average, only 4% of variance in the
dependent variables can be attributed to the restaurant where
employees work.
Correlations between PSS and abusive supervision were:
r⫽⫺.457, p.001 at pretest, and r⫽⫺.363, p.001 at
posttest. Table 2 shows the means by pre/posttest and condition
(experimental vs. control). As noted by Tepper (2007), abusive
supervision is a low base rate phenomenon. Mackey et al.’s (2015)
meta-analysis reports a mean of 1.78, SD .46. The lowest mean
across studies was 1.18 and the highest was 3.88. Thus, our means
are low but in line with previous research. In relation to the
distribution of the scores, Table 3 shows the distribution of mean
scores, segmented by pre/posttest and condition (experimental vs.
control). The percentages shown in each cell suggest that instances
of abusive supervision are reported less frequently by employees
of the experimental restaurants after the intervention.
Because employee surveys were anonymous we were not able to
pair employees on pretest and posttest measures. Instead, to assess
the influence of training on subordinates’ PSS and abusive super-
vision, using IBM SPSS 22, we ran a 2 2 multivariate analysis
of variance (MANOVA) with experimental versus control condi-
tion as one factor and pretest versus posttest period as the second
factor. A training effect would be demonstrated by an interaction
between the two factors (condition and pre/posttest). Consistent
with our hypotheses, the MANOVA analysis revealed a significant
interaction effect on employees’ perceptions of PSS and abusive
supervision (
0.012, F(2, 887) 5.18, p.01, p
1⫺␤⫽.83). The univariate analyses for the interaction between
training conditions and pretest–posttest periods were significant
for PSS, F(1, 888) 4.69, p.031, p
2.005, 1 ⫺␤⫽.58 and
Table 3
Percentage Distribution of Abusive Supervision Scores
Control Experimental
Pretest Posttest Pretest Posttest
Never 71.1% 69.0% 64.6% 78.2%
Occasionally 22.0% 25.2% 26.6% 19.0%
Monthly 6.0% 2.1% 5.7% 1.9%
Weekly or more .9% 3.7% 3.1% .9%
Note. The distribution of responses on the average abusive supervision
scores has been segmented as follows: Never refers to average scores
below 1; Occasionally refers to average scores between 1 and 2; Monthly
refers to average scores between 2 and 3; Weekly or more refers to reported
mean scores higher than 3 (weekly and daily).
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for abusive supervision, F(1, 888) 9.37, p.002, &p
Simple effects analyses were run using IBM SPPS 22 within
contrast MANOVA syntax to test differences between the means
in Table 2. There were no statistically significant differences
between conditions at pretest for both dependent variables, for
PSS, F(1, 889) 0.01, p.929 and for abusive supervision, F(1,
889) 2.85, p.092. The differences were significant at posttest
for PSS, F(1, 889) 10.1, p.01 and for abusive supervision,
F(1, 889) 6.80, p.01. These results indicate that employees
whose supervisors received support training reported higher levels
of PSS and less abusive supervision relative to employees in the
control condition.
Despite the considerable progress made in understanding the
predictors and consequences of abusive supervision, there has been
little empirical research on the effectiveness of interventions or
strategies for reducing its occurrence. We addressed this need by
conducting a quasiexperiment to examine the effects of supervisor
support training on abusive supervision and perceived supervisor
support. We found that, compared to employees in control restau-
rants, employees in restaurants whose supervisors received support
training reported less abusive supervision and greater supervisor
support a full 9 months following the completion of training.
Many personal and dispositional factors have been found to be
associated with abusive supervision, ranging from a history of
family aggression and undermining (Garcia et al., 2014; Restubog
et al., 2011) to various personality characteristics such as hostility
related affect (Garcia et al., 2014) and paranoid tendencies (Chan
& McAllister, 2014; Martinko et al., 2011). These factors may
make it difficult to eliminate abusive supervision. Yet, abusive
behaviors have also been found to be associated with various
contextual factors, such as subordinate performance (Walter et al.,
2015), organizational norms (Restubog et al., 2011), and perceived
abuse from higher-level managers (Liu, Liao, & Loi, 2012;
Mawritz et al., 2012), suggesting that organizations can take steps
to lessen abusive supervision and its deleterious influence on
employee well-being.
The present research procedures provide a practical first step
toward actions that organizations can take to reduce abusive su-
pervision. Based on OST (Eisenberger et al., 1986; Eisenberger &
Stinglhamber, 2011; Shore & Shore, 1995), which maintains that
supportive supervision leads to a general positive perception of the
supervisor as an organizational agent, we used supportive super-
vision as an alternative for supervisors to employ in place of
abusive supervision. The supportive supervision training was de-
signed to convince supervisors of the benefits to themselves and
the organization of substituting supportive supervision for abuse
and to provide them with the skills needed to provide such treat-
ment. Training sessions provided supervisors with four basic
supervisor-support strategies (benevolence, sincerity, fairness, and
experiential processing) which they practiced in scenarios and in
their supervisory roles at work.
Our findings also contribute to OST’s view that the supervisor,
as an organizational agent, plays an important role in the psycho-
logical well-being of subordinates. Support by supervisors is as-
sumed to fulfill socioemotional needs (e.g., approval, esteem,
affiliation), leading to increased job satisfaction and positive
affect (Cole, Bruch, & Vogel, 2006; Giumetti et al., 2013;
Griffin, Patterson, & West, 2001). Conversely, aversive treat-
ment by the organization and its representatives, such as abu-
sive supervision, should lead to dissatisfaction and stress
(Palanski et al., 2014; Schyns & Schilling, 2013; Tepper, 2000).
The present findings go beyond cross-sectional and cross-
lagged findings to suggest that supervisor support training can
be used to lessen an important determinant of employee dissat-
isfaction and discomfort. The reduced abusive supervision per-
ceived by employees in the experimental restaurants, as com-
pared to the control restaurants, indicates the promise of such
training for countering abusive supervision.
Future Research
In the present study, the changes in abusive supervision and PSS
reflected a decrease in PSS and an increase in abuse for the control
restaurants as much as an increase in PSS and decrease in abuse for
the experimental restaurants. These results may be due, in part, to
pressures associated with the general economic decline that oc-
curred during the study period. Discussions with senior managers
and subsequent documentation based on sales reports indicated
that the restaurant chain suffered sales losses coincident with the
U.S. financial crisis that began in 2008. Supervisors in both the
experimental and control conditions were rewarded, in part, for
meeting revenue goals, and this was especially challenging in the
depressed economy. This situation may have increased perfor-
mance demands on supervisors, leading to greater stress and im-
patience with subordinates, including increasing abusive supervi-
sion in the control condition. While the same demands confronted
supervisors in the experimental condition, it is possible that sup-
port training exerted a protective effect against the situational
factors working to suppress supportive supervisory behaviors. In
fact, restaurant sales reports suggest cautious support for this line
of reasoning. Three of the four restaurants in the training condition
had lower revenues during the study than the restaurants in the
control condition. Even though this situation should have led to
increased pressure on these supervisors and a concomitant increase
in abuse, employee perceptions of abusive supervision in the
training group decreased. We note that revenue differences be-
tween experimental and control restaurants are less than ideal from
a design perspective. However, we do not believe these differences
compromise our findings, because, if anything, they would have
increased Type II error and therefore prevented us from finding
training effects. Further research is needed to determine if and
when support training is capable of ameliorating the adverse
effects of situational pressures that typically contribute to elevated
levels of abuse.
Future work should also study ways to strengthen the effects of
support training. For instance, training sessions may be increased
and more refresher sessions provided to discuss problems in im-
plementing the supervision strategies. In addition, managers of the
supervisors involved in training and the HR system as a whole may
take a greater role in endorsing and emphasizing the training to
help instill a stronger norm for supportive supervision. Further,
supportive supervision might be included as part of the reward
system to give supervisors an added inducement to maintain the
supportive behaviors learned in training. Holding supervisors ac-
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countable for supportive treatment of subordinates via regular
performance appraisals would necessarily entail proper alignment
between the organization’s performance management and com-
pensation systems. Tying personnel decisions to supervisor per-
formance appraisals and rewards could also aid in making better
promotion decisions or providing counseling or remedial help to
supervisors who are unable or unwilling to forego abusive behav-
In future research, the mechanisms by which support training
influences abusive supervision should also receive greater atten-
tion. As noted in the introduction, the relationship between super-
visor support training and lessened abusive supervision was pre-
dicted, in part, on the basis that employees would reciprocate
supportive supervision with increased performance which, in turn,
would lead supervisors to abuse them less. This is consistent with
organization support theory’s emphasis on the reciprocity norm
but this should be investigated more thoroughly with additional
training studies that are able to track employee performance. We
also suggested that supervisor support training should reduce abu-
sive supervision on the basis of the development of a norm for
supportive treatment of subordinates. Evidence for such an orga-
nizational support climate, involving agreement across employees,
has been reported by Li, Chiaburu, and Kirkman (2014). A third
factor predicted to influence the outcomes, the salience of more
frequent supportive behaviors over less frequent instances of abu-
sive supervision, suggests an extension of OST. Trained support-
ive behaviors may become more frequent than aversive treatment,
making it more difficult for subordinates to interpret isolated
instances of mistreatment as abusive in terms of intent to harm, and
easier to attribute the behavior to situational or external circum-
stances. OST might take into account these attribution effects for
explaining how support training overcomes aversive treatment of
subordinates and thereby enhances psychological well-being and
Experience sampling methodology might also be used to further
understand the mechanisms responsible for the effects of support
training. Supervisors and subordinates could be asked to report
their interactions before, during, and after supportive supervision
training. We would expect to find that during supportive supervi-
sion training, daily supervisor reports of increased supportive
supervision directed at specific subordinates would be linked to
reports by those subordinates of increased supportive supervision
and decreased abusive supervision. Moreover, training studies
designed using experience sampling methods can be used to ex-
plore the associated changes in health and well-being. The mea-
surement of health outcome variables, such as self-reported stress
or psychophysiological strain indicators, on a daily or weekly basis
can extend our understanding of supervisory treatment and its
influence on employees’ occupational health.
Another future research direction involves exploring the role of
subordinate attributions. Martinko et al. (2011) found that employ-
ees’ hostile attributional style explained a sizable proportion of the
variance in subordinates’ abusive supervision perceptions, and
more recent research supports the role of these attributions on the
experience of and reaction to abuse (Burton, Taylor, & Barber,
2014). Such results led Martinko et al. (2013) to propose a con-
structive revision of the Tepper (2007) model, whereby the link
between supervisor behavior and employee perceptions of abusive
supervision is mediated by subordinate attributions. Future re-
search should continue to investigate the impact of subordinate
attributions on perceptions of supervisory abuse and the conditions
that predict the type of attribution made in response to an abusive
Practical Implications
Although additional studies that extend our training design and
investigate the mechanisms underlying our findings are desirable,
our results suggest that supportive supervision training may be a
useful methodology for organizations to combat abusive supervi-
sion and enhance PSS. Furthermore, this type of training may have
effects that reach beyond perceptions of supervisor behavior. Re-
search has consistently shown that abusive supervision severely
impacts worker well-being, contributing to stress and emotional
exhaustion (Aryee, Chen, Sun, & Debrah, 2007; Breaux, Perrewé,
Hall, Frink, & Hochwarter, 2008; Carlson, Ferguson, Hunter, &
Whitten, 2012; Wu & Hu, 2009), work-to-family conflict (Carlson,
Ferguson, Perrewé, & Whitten, 2011), and decreased psychologi-
cal health and life satisfaction (Bowling & Beehr, 2006; Bowling
& Michel, 2011). Conversely, general supervisory support is as-
sociated with greater positive affect (Cole et al., 2006; Giumetti et
al., 2013) and less stress (Hall, 2007; Kirmeyer & Dougherty,
1988; O’Driscoll et al., 2003) and work-to-family conflict (Nicklin
& McNall, 2013). Thus, supervisor support training may provide
an intervention with broad favorable influences on employees’
psychological well-being and health.
The general strategies, realistic practice, and homework assign-
ments included in the training can be emulated in various kinds of
organizations. Combating abusive supervision may be especially
relevant in occupations where employees experience heavy work
demands during peak periods and significant time pressures (Re-
stubog et al., 2011; Tepper, 2007). The stress created by difficult
demands and time pressures may elicit aversive emotional reac-
tions and impatience by supervisors with subordinate behaviors
whose own performance may be less than optimal because of
similar pressures. Supervisor support training benefits supervisors
by providing them with practical strategies to deal with these
difficult situations, gives them practice in implementing the strat-
egies, and provides positive feedback as they observe the favorable
reactions to supportive supervision.
Scholars in this area have also proposed other strategies for
curtailing abuse: implementing organization-wide zero tolerance
policies against abusive behavior (Restubog et al., 2011), improv-
ing managerial selection procedures (Shoss et al., 2013), educating
supervisors about the negative consequences of abuse (Walter et
al., 2015), and promoting constructive problem-solving ap-
proaches so as to minimize destructive employee responses to
abuse (e.g., deviant behavior; Mitchell & Ambrose, 2012). As part
of a comprehensive set of strategies, supervisor support training
may help combat the negative consequences of abusive supervi-
sion on employee welfare and productivity.
Study Strengths and Limitations
Our quasiexperimental design provides the first relatively strong
causal evidence that organizations can influence abusive supervi-
sion by altering the work context. Second, the application of
training to a field setting enhances the external validity of the
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
findings. Finally, that the effects of support training on abusive
supervision were evident 9 months following training suggests that
the findings have practical implications.
In terms of limitations, because of anonymity requirements by
management, we were unable to identify particular subordinates in
order to assess individual change scores. However, the sample of
subordinates was large and we were able to assess the average
level of change in supportive and abusive supervision in the
experimental and control restaurants. In addition, our effects sizes
were small. However, as suggested by several scholars, small
effect sizes can tell a big story (Abelson, 1985; Aguinis & Harden,
2009; Cortina & Landis, 2009; Prentice & Miller, 1992). This is
especially true when a phenomenon can be detected even in
inauspicious circumstances (Cortina & Landis, 2009). Circum-
stances in our research setting were unfavorable in several ways.
First, the mean and variance of abusive supervision scores were
low, suggesting that in the future, measures that capture less
extreme abusive behavior would be helpful. Other researchers, like
Martinko and colleagues (Martinko et al., 2013; Mackey et al.,
2015), have suggested more direct assessments of abusive super-
vision that involve comparing subordinate perceptions to actual
complaints filed against supervisors, coworkers’ perceptions of
abusive committed by the same supervisor, or even video footage
obtained from surveillance cameras in organizations or laboratory
studies. Second, a lengthier, more comprehensive training program
would probably promote deeper learning and application. Third,
the human resource system was not altered in any way to reinforce
the training. Further, following the training, organizational leaders
and trainees did not set proximal and distal goals for applying
newly acquired capabilities. Thus, transfer of training to the job
was unlikely to have been maximized. However, despite these
conditions, we did find significant effects for PSS and abuse.
The organization records that we were able to access showed
that not all supervisors who completed training remained with the
organization for the entire study period: 35% of the trainees left the
organization during the course of our study. In this industry turn-
over is high and expected. However, to the extent that supervisors
left the organization, our results most likely underestimate the
effects among the variables we studied. For example, if a support-
ively trained supervisor was replaced by a less supportive, un-
trained supervisor, the effect of training on the restaurant employ-
ees would be reduced. As a result, our findings may represent a
conservative estimate of the impact of training. Finally, we did not
use Tepper’s (2000) 15-item scale to assess perceptions of abuse
but an adaptation of the Einarsen et al. (2009) workplace bullying
scale. Sasso and González-Morales (2014) report a correlation of
.80 between these two measures, and a meta-analysis by Hersh-
covis (2011) show that Tepper’s and Einarsen’s measures correlate
similarly with outcome variables such as job satisfaction and
psychological and physical well-being. Even though there is sub-
stantial conceptual overlap between our measure and Tepper’s
scale items, we cannot definitively conclude that our results would
remain unchanged if Tepper’s scale was used.
We found that training supervisors to treat subordinates sup-
portively resulted in greater perceived supervisor support and
lesser abusive supervision relative to subordinates of untrained
supervisors. This study makes a substantive contribution to the
abusive supervision literature by showing that organizations can
effectively reduce abusive supervision by changing the work con-
text. Our findings also confirm OST’s view that the supervisor, as
an organizational agent, can play an important role in the psycho-
logical well-being of subordinates. Although additional work
needs to be done to strengthen our training procedures and extend
our findings to health outcomes and other organizational settings,
the results provide a promising start to helping organizations deal
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Accepted September 27, 2016
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... For example, organizations can train supervisors to reinforce their positive support of subordinates in the workplace. Supervisors can engage in supportive behaviors with tactics such as benevolence, sincerity, fairness, and mindfulness, which can help leaders to enhance their perceived supervisor support and lower abusive supervision rates (Gonzalez-Morales et al., 2018). A second option involves sociotechnical interventions, which involve primarily changing objective work conditions with a focus on reducing or eliminating stressors. ...
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Abusive supervision, defined as employees' perceptions of leaders' sustained hostile behaviors, has a wide range of negative outcomes for individuals and their workplaces. In understanding the psychology of abusive supervision, both employee perceptions and leader behaviors are relevant to employee reports of abuse, and various factors can lead to abusive supervision. Supervisors may enact hostile behaviors for a variety of reasons, including their past experiences, personality traits, employee characteristics and behaviors, and a failure of supervisors to self-regulate their behavior due to stressors in their environment. As a consequence of abusive supervision, employees often experience a number of negative effects, including adverse mental health outcomes. Additionally, due to the negative psychological effects of abusive supervision, employees are more likely to engage in destructive behaviors both at work and at home. However, these chains of events are not inevitable: There are various interventions that organizations and individuals can undertake to prevent the harmful outcomes of abusive supervision.
... For this, supervisors may consider an ethical code of conduct to ensure they are maintaining employee well-being. Training interventions could be used to help supervisors defeat abusive supervision behaviours [92]. Second, the study also implies the significance of ethical training in the hotel sector. ...
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This study intends to bridge the unattended research gap and add to the knowledge base of ‘human resource management’ regarding the relationships between abusive supervision, and individual organizational citizenship behaviour (OCBI), through the mediation of ‘employee well-being’. For the given purpose, a sample of 250 cases was selected to collect data from non-managerial hotel employees from the metropolitan cities of Pakistan. Given responses were analysed in Smart PLS 3.0. Structural equation modelling (PLS-SEM) was used to conduct the necessary tests regarding measurement model and structural model assessment. The study found statistical support for three of the four hypotheses, confirming the deleterious role of abusive supervision in general and the intervening role of employee well-being. The findings have concluded that abusive supervision is harmful for workplaces, particularly when it comes to employees’ citizenship behaviours. Finally, the predictive relevance and r-squared values for the underlying model were also confirmed.
... Because OD may be regarded as acceptable and part of the working agreement, it is not typically associated with active coping strategies or with seeking help [18], but often with surface and/or deep acting [26], and may therefore go unaddressed. Interventions to curb OD might include cognitive strategies [43], training programs for supervisors [55], facilitated opportunities for high-quality inter-and intragroup contact [39,48], and structural and symbolic changes that encourage cultural diversity and respect for equal human status [39,56,57]. ...
Organizational dehumanization (OD) is a pervasive phenomenon that can be defined as the employee’s perception of being dehumanized, treated as an instrument, and denied personal subjectivity by their organization. Studies examining dehumanization in the workplace have proliferated in recent years and increasingly underscore the insidious effects of OD for employees, their social relations, and the organization itself. Here, we review research over the past 5 years on OD that has contributed significantly to our understanding of its (organizational, interpersonal, situational, and environmental) triggers and its consequences at individual and organizational levels. We conclude by discussing future research directions that may equip us to better understand and protect humanness at work.
... Besides, healthcare organizations can provide supportive supervision training to nursing supervisors to curtail abusive supervision. Such a training program can help to persuade nursing supervisors of the benefits to themselves, their subordinates, and the organization of substituting supportive supervision for mistreatment (Gonzalez-Morales et al., 2018). Due to the sensitive nature of abusive supervision, nurses may be reluctant to report abusive supervision as they may fear counterretaliation. ...
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The main purpose of this study was to investigate reciprocal relationships between abusive supervision, subordinates’ emotional exhaustion, and job neglect, and to examine the mediating role of emotional exhaustion in the cross-lagged relationship between abusive supervision and job neglect. Besides, we tested the moderating role of self-compassion in the cross-lagged relationship between abusive supervision and emotional exhaustion. We applied a two-wave cross-lagged panel design with a time lag of six months. Participants were 331 staff nurses of public sector hospitals in Islamabad, Pakistan. Data were collected using a self-report questionnaire at two points in time. Longitudinal structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to compare nested models. Results of cross-lagged SEM analyses supported the posited reciprocal model, indicating that abusive supervision, emotional exhaustion, and job neglect are mutually related. Results of mediation analysis showed that emotional exhaustion partially mediates the cross-lagged relationship between abusive supervision and job neglect. Further, we found that self-compassion attenuates the positive cross-lagged effect of abusive supervision on emotional exhaustion, and the indirect effect of abusive supervision on job neglect was weaker at higher levels of self-compassion. Our findings suggest that subordinates may find themselves in abusive relationships, in part, because their own behavioral responses to abuse can reinforce abusive supervision. Moreover, we identified the stress-buffering effect of self-compassion on emotional exhaustion.
... If narcissistic leaders realize that treating their followers damages their own status (Grapsas et al., 2019), they might be more inclined to at least not act out their abusive tendencies. Organizations could thus counteract abusive supervision by adapting performance ratings and providing training opportunities that foster supportive leadership (Gonzalez-Morales et al., 2018). ...
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As abusive supervision entails negative outcomes for individuals and organizations, a better understanding of leader- and follower-related antecedents of abusive supervision can help organizations prevent destructive leadership. In an experimental vignette study with 140 leaders, we tested an integrative model that includes leaders’ narcissism as an antecedent of their abusive supervision intentions. We also tested for the moderating role of followers’ behavior and indirect effects via leaders’ evaluations of followers. We employed the narcissistic admiration and rivalry concept (NARC) to distinguish between adaptive and maladaptive dimensions of grandiose narcissism and found that the maladaptive dimension, narcissistic rivalry, predicted abusive supervision intentions. This effect was strongest when followers behaved dominantly. Finally, we found preliminary evidence that leaders’ evaluations of followers’ likeability, but not of followers’ competence, mediated the relationship between leaders’ narcissistic rivalry and abusive supervision intentions. These indirect effects were not conditional on followers’ behavior. We discuss these findings in light of theoretical and practical implications for individuals and organizations.
In this Cambridge Companion, global thought leaders in the fields of workplace stress and well-being highlight how theory and research can improve employee health and well-being. The volume explains how and why the topics of workplace stress and well-being have evolved and continue to be highly relevant, and why line managers have great influence over employees' quality of working life. It includes the latest research findings on stress and well-being and their impact on organizations, as well as up-to-date findings on the effectiveness of workplace interventions focused on these issues. It also explores important and emerging issues relating to organizational stress and well-being, including the ongoing effects of the global coronavirus pandemic. This is an ideal reference for students and researchers in the areas of human resources management, occupational health psychology and organisational behavior.
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While emerging studies pay much attention to the supervisory support–employee performance relationship, the supportive supervisor consequences on employees’ attitudes and behaviors have attracted little attention in this relationship. In spite of the growing concern about employees’ helping behaviors as a tool that directly benefit coworkers to be work-role focused and improve performance, supportive supervisor behavior that represents the psychological, physical, cognitive, and esteem assistance has also been deemed to be a catalyst of employees’ helping behaviors. Also, it is worth noting that employees exhibit helping behaviors when they are highly engaged in work role focus, activation, and positive affect. However, little has been espoused on how supportive behaviors could enhance employees’ loyalty to spark helping behaviors. Owing to this narrative, this study draws on social exchange theory and reciprocity norm to examine the mediating role of employee engagement in the effects of supportive supervisor behavior on hotel employees’ helping behaviors. Also, this study examined the boundary role of perceived organizational obstruction based on perceived organizational support as proposed by organizational support theory. Using a time lag of six months, a two-wave data were gathered from 461 full‒time frontline employees working in 3–5 star hotels in Ghana. Hierarchical regression was used to analyze the hypothesized relationships. The results demonstrated that supportive supervisor behavior positively related to employees’ helping behaviors. Besides, intellectual, social, and affective engagement partly mediated the relationship between supportive manager behavior and employees’ helping behavior. Moreover, perceived organizational obstruction moderated the relationship between intellectual engagement and employees’ helping behavior. However, failed to moderate social and affective engagement relationships with employees’ helping behaviors.
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This study examined the relationships between abusive supervision, subordinates' work engagement and their emotional labour on a daily basis. Based on an experience sampling study of 95 frontline hospitality employees over 10 working days, the results revealed the complex consequences of abusive supervision on subordinates in the hospitality industry. The results showed that daily abusive supervision was positively related to employees' daily surface acting through their daily work engagement, but it was not significantly related to daily deep acting. In addition, subordinates' mindfulness moderated the relationship between daily abusive supervision and subordinates' daily work engagement. These findings reveal employees’ daily responses to abusive supervision and can help tourism and hospitality managers develop relevant training programmes and policies to reduce the negative impact of abusive supervision and thus protect employee well-being.
Purpose The purpose of this study is to investigate the relationships among abusive supervision, in-role behavior, career commitment and work–life balance. Design/methodology/approach The data were collected from 310 South Korean company employees using the survey method. To investigate the research hypotheses, structural equation modeling analysis was conducted. Findings This study found negative effects of abusive supervision on in-role behavior, career commitment and work–life balance. Career commitment and work–life balance has the positive influences on in-role behavior. These results support the research hypotheses. Research limitations/implications Although this study empirically confirmed the negative effects of abusive supervision on employees’ attitudes toward their careers, lives and working behavior, the influence of cultural aspects was not considered. This study found mediating effects of work–life balance and career commitment. Practical implications This study points out that one leader with abusive supervision can negate all organizational efforts aimed at employees’ well-being because the influence of leaders on employees’ careers, lives and working behavior is very critical. Originality/value This paper provides a comprehensive understanding of the relationships between abusive supervision and other related variables from a human resource development perspective.
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Consistent with the goals of a GOMusing to “refresh” readers’ minds about a topic, challenge readers to re-examine their assumptions about a topic, and/or spark a needed debate about a topic, we (1) provide a refresher on abusive supervision and the severity of its consequences, (2) acknowledge the wealth of research on its antecedents and moderators while highlighting the lack of applied research on successful interventions, and (3) encourage new research perspectives and methods to move the field forward. Our ultimate goal is to galvanize scholars to use existing knowledge as a basis to develop, test, and validate successful prevention and intervention strategies for organizations and individuals to deal with abusive supervision. As you might suspect from the title, we also hope to do all this with a bit of humor and a lot of compassion.
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This study examines whether subordinates’ perceptions of abusive supervision mediate the relationship between subordinate personality and aggression. Results from a cross-organizational sample of 411 working adults suggest that subordinates’ perceptions of abusive supervision account for some of the variance in the relationships between subordinate Agreeableness, Emotional Stability, Extraversion, and subordinate aggression. This study suggests that social-information processing and perceptions of control found within subordinates’ personality influences whether they are more or less likely to perceive supervisory abuse. Perceptions of supervisory abuse were associated with aggression.
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Mindfulness research activity is surging within organizational science. Emerging evidence across multiple fields suggests that mindfulness is fundamentally connected to many aspects of workplace functioning, but this knowledge base has not been systematically integrated to date. This review coalesces the burgeoning body of mindfulness scholarship into a framework to guide mainstream management research investigating a broad range of constructs. The framework identifies how mindfulness influences attention, with downstream effects on functional domains of cognition, emotion, behavior, and physiology. Ultimately these domains impact key workplace outcomes, including performance, relationships, and well-being. Consideration of the evidence on mindfulness at work stimulates important questions and challenges key assumptions within management science, generating an agenda for future research.
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We conducted a meta-analysis and empirical review of abusive supervision research in order to derive meta-analytic population estimates for the relationships between perceptions of abusive supervision and numerous demographic, justice, individual difference, leadership, and outcome variables. The use of psychometric correction enabled us to provide weighted mean correlations and population correlation estimates that accounted for attenuation due to measurement error and sampling error variance. Also, we conducted sensitivity analyses that removed the effects of large samples from analyses. Then, we conducted subgroup analyses using samples drawn from the United States to provide population correlation estimates that corrected for attenuation due to measurement error, sampling error variance, and indirect range restriction. Finally, we examined measurement artifacts resulting from various adaptations of Tepper’s abusive supervision measure. The results reveal that although the associations between perceptions of abusive supervision and outcome variables appear to be universally negative, the magnitude of the relationships between perceptions of abusive supervision and antecedent and outcome variables varies according to the design features of studies. Contributions to theory and practice, strengths and limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.
The authors reviewed more than 70 studies concerning employees' general belief that their work organization values their contribution and cares about their well-being (perceived organizational support; POS). A meta-analysis indicated that 3 major categories of beneficial treatment received by employees (i.e., fairness, supervisor support, and organizational rewards and favorable job conditions) were associated with POS. POS, in turn, was related to outcomes favorable to employees (e.g., job satisfaction, positive mood) and the organization (e.g., affective commitment, performance, and lessened withdrawal behavior). These relationships depended on processes assumed by organizational support theory: employees' belief that the organization's actions were discretionary, feeling of obligation to aid the organization, fulfillment of socioemotional needs, and performance-reward expectancies.
This study explores the dimensionality of organizational justice and provides evidence of construct validity for a new justice measure. Items for this measure were generated by strictly following the seminal works in the justice literature. The measure was then validated in 2 separate studies. Study 1 occurred in a university setting, and Study 2 occurred in a field setting using employees in an automobile parts manufacturing company. Confirmatory factor analyses supported a 4-factor structure to the measure, with distributive, procedural, interpersonal, and informational justice as distinct dimensions. This solution fit the data significantly better than a 2- or 3-factor solution using larger interactional or procedural dimensions. Structural equation modeling also demonstrated predictive validity for the justice dimensions on important outcomes, including leader evaluation, rule compliance, commitment, and helping behavior.
The field of organizational justice continues to be marked by several important research questions, including the size of relationships among justice dimensions, the relative importance of different justice criteria, and the unique effects of justice dimensions on key outcomes. To address such questions, the authors conducted a meta-analytic review of 183 justice studies. The results suggest that although different justice dimensions are moderately to highly related, they contribute incremental variance explained in fairness perceptions. The results also illustrate the overall and unique relationships among distributive, procedural, interpersonal, and informational justice and several organizational outcomes (e.g., job satisfaction, organizational commitment, evaluation of authority, organizational citizenship behavior, withdrawal, performance). These findings are reviewed in terms of their implications for future research on organizational justice.
With the increased representation of women in the labor market and an associated growth in the proportion of dual-earner families, individuals and organizations in many countries are confronted with the challenge of managing the balance between work, family, and personal life (Aryee, Fields, & Luk, 1999; Boyar, Maertz, Pearson, & Keough, 2003; Elloy & Smith, 2003). This challenge has been discussed in the literature for over 20 years, and many organizations have put in place initiatives to assist their employees in maintaining a balance between work and family lives (Frone, 2003). These interventions are generally aimed at facilitating flexibility and supporting employees with child care, although recently elder care support also has received some attention. Numerous strategies have been implemented by organizations to alleviate the negative impact of interference between work and family commitments and responsibilities, which is typically referred to as work-family conflict (Frone, 2003). However, there is a paucity of empirical research examining the effects of organizational policies and initiatives on employees, and especially the mechanisms by which these practices influence employee psychological well-being.
This study focuses on the relationships among subordinate’s performance, supervisor’s envy and anger, and abusive supervision. Specifically, we draw on the “trigger – emotions – behavior” chain and posit that a subordinate’s high performance provokes supervisor’s envy while low performance provokes supervisor’s anger. We argue that if a supervisor is in a prolonged and consistent state of these emotions, abusive supervision would evoke, which is viewed as a behavioral reflection of supervisor’s emotions. Furthermore, we propose that self-control moderates the relationship between supervisor’s emotions and abusive behaviors. The relationship would be weaker for supervisors who have stronger emotional control. Two studies were conducted to test our hypotheses. In study 1, an online experimental design was conducted to test whether subordinate’s high performance triggers supervisor’s envy while low performance triggers anger. In study 2, a two-wave survey with 357 supervisor-subordinate dyads was used to test the whole model. Path-analytic results suggest that subordinate’s performance evokes supervisor’s envy/anger and that anger leads to abusive supervision irrespective of self-control while the effect of envy on abusive supervision was buffered by self-control.