The whiplash effect: The (moderating) role of attributed motives in emotional and behavioral reactions to abusive supervision.

Lingtao Yu, Michelle K. Duffy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although extant research shows a clear link between abusive supervision and detrimental consequences for organizations and their members, the popular press and media are replete with suggestions that abusive supervision can be positive and motivating. Drawing from the social functional view of emotions and emerging research on attributed motives of abusive supervision, we examine this phenomenon, which we refer to as the whiplash effect—the notion that subordinates may display different emotional and behavioral reactions to supervisory abuse depending on their attributions for abuse. We conduct 3 studies to examine this effect at both the between- and within person level. Results from a multisource, time-lagged field study (between-person) and a laboratory-based experiment (between-person) indicate that when subordinates believe that the abusive supervisor is motivated by desires to cause harm (i.e., injury initiation attribution is higher), abusive supervision is more likely to engender anger, which, in turn, elicits more deviant behaviors and fewer organizational citizenship behaviors; however, when subordinates believe the abusive supervisor is motivated by desires to improve performance (i.e., performance promotion attribution is higher), abusive supervision is more likely to evoke guilt, which, in turn, elicits fewer deviant behaviors and more organizational citizenship behaviors. These results were then expanded in an experience sampling study (within-person), which allowed us to further examine how general interpretations of supervisors’ motives behind abusive supervision shape employees’ momentary emotional and behavioral responses toward daily abusive supervisor behavior. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)754-773
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Volume106
Issue number5
Early online dateJul 16 2020
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Psychological Association

Keywords

  • abusive supervision
  • attributed motivations
  • deviance
  • emotions
  • social functions

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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