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Acta Psychologica Sinica    2017, Vol. 49 Issue (7) : 966-979     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.00966
 The causes of abusive supervision from the perspective of rule-adaptation
 LIU Chao1; LIU Jun1; ZHU Li2; WU Shouqiang1
 (1 School of Business, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China) (2 School of Economics and Management, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China)
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Abstract   Abusive supervision (AS) defined as sustained display of nonphysical hostility (including both verbal and nonverbal behaviors) enforced by managers against their subordinates (Tepper, 2000) has drawn much attention from researchers. As a negative leadership behavior, it often leads to negative consequences in the workplace such as increasing employees’ intention to quit, deviant behaviors, psychological distress and lowering the individuals’ organizational commitment. Although much has been done to investigate the antecedents (e.g., from the perspective of subordinate character, supervisor character and the environment) of the AS, little is known about why specific subordinates are treated with nonphysical hostility by their leaders (Tepper et al., 2011). To address this gap, the main purpose of the current study is to explore the united impacting mechanism of work performance and political skill. Based on perspective of rule-adaptation and resource dependence theory, we attempted to examine the congruence and incongruence effects of the task performance-political skill on leader abuse. To avoid common method variance problem, we collected data from different sources, that is, gathering variables political skill (PS, using Ferris et al.’s (2005) 18-item measure) and AS (using Tepper’s (2000) 15-item measure) from the subordinates and organizational deviant behavior (using Bennett and Robinson’s (2000) 12-item measure) and task performance (TP, using Williams and Anderson’s (2001) 5-item measure) from the supervisor. We finally got 243 effective dyads’ information of the subordinate and their supervisors. The Cronbach’s alpha coefficients of the above measures are 0.91, 0.94, 0.96 and 0.86 respectively and it’s a multisource feedback research and appropriate to conduct polynomial regression with response surface analysis which could provide elaborate and abundant analyzing results. The analyses of 243 subordinate-supervisor dyads from two companies in China showed that (1) The more congruence of subordinate’s PS and TP level, the less AS would be; (2) Under the condition of subordinate’s TP-PS incongruence, the higher level of PS and lower level of TP, the less AS would be; (3) Under the condition of TP-PS congruence, the none-AS level rose to a peak and then fell down as subordinate’s TP-PS levels rose which should be paid attention to. Theoretically, the study contributes to the areas of AS, rules and subordinates’ workplace behaviors. Besides, the idea of resource dependence theory is also applied to the individual level and adds explanatory power in the relationship of TP-PS and AS. The practical implication of the study is that it provides explicit directions for the subordinates and the organization to cope with AS. We also discuss the limitations and future research directions of the study.
Keywords  task performance      political skill      abusive supervision      rule-adaptation      resource dependence      polynomial regression with response surface analysis     
Corresponding Authors: LIU Jun, E-mail:     E-mail: E-mail:
Issue Date: 26 May 2017
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LIU Chao
WU Shouqiang
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LIU Chao,LIU Jun,ZHU Li, et al.  The causes of abusive supervision from the perspective of rule-adaptation[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica, 2017, 49(7): 966-979.
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