Whatever it takes: Leaders' perceptions of abusive supervision instrumentality

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Whatever it takes: Leaders' perceptions of abusive supervision instrumentality

In this paper we examine how leaders' perceptions of the instrumental benefits of abusive supervision shape their tendencies to abuse their employees. We posit that leaders who believe abuse has a positive impact on employee performance will engage in more abusive supervision than their peers, with downstream implications for employees' counterproductive work behaviors. Furthermore, we position leader empathic concern as a boundary condition, whereby empathic concern mitigates the effects of leaders' perceptions of abusive supervision's instrumentality. Data from two studies employing both experimental and field survey designs offer convergent support for our hypotheses. Overall, our findings challenge the prevailing view that abusive supervision is primarily motivated by a desire to aggress, instead demonstrating that leaders sometimes abuse their employees in the pursuit of more pro-organizational goals.

Citation: 
The Leadership Quarterly Volume 30, Issue 2, April 2019, Pages 260-272

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