ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (4): 436-449.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.00436

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 When challenge stressors increase employee innovative behaviors? The role of leader member exchange and abusive supervision

 SUN Jianmin1; CHEN Leni1; YIN Kui2   

  1.  (1 School of Labor and Human Resources, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China) (2 Donlinks School of Economics and Management, University of Science & Technology Beijing, Beijing 100083, China)
  • Received:2017-04-24 Published:2018-04-25 Online:2018-02-28
  • Contact: CHEN Leni, E-mail: E-mail: E-mail:
  • Supported by:

Abstract:  Innovation is often sparked by pressures. Researchers have made a great effort to investigate the relationship between workplace stressors and employee innovative behaviors. Yet, extant literature has not drawn consistent conclusions. Cavanaugh, Boswell, Roehling and Boudreau (2000) introduced the challenge-hindrance stressor framework. In this framework, challenge stressors are good demands that provide opportunities to learn and achieve, while hindrance stressors are bad demands that unnecessarily thwart personal achievements. Empirical evidence has consistently found that hindrance stressors are negatively related to employee innovative behaviors. However, the findings about the relationship between challenge stressors and innovative behaviors are mixed. Our study enlarges the previous findings and incorporates job resources from the leader, into the relationship between challenge stressors and innovative behaviors. Job demand-resources model indicates that when job resources can help employees meet the job demands, employees will embrace more positive work-related outcomes. High job resources can decrease employees’ resource depletion when they face job demands, increase the motivational functions of job demands, and thus enable employees to successfully accomplish job demands. As a type of job resources, leader-member exchange can alleviate resources depletion. When leader-member exchange is high, employees are able to allocate more resources to cope with challenging demands. Due to the increase of successful coping, challenge stressors can lead to more positive woke-related outcomes, especially employee innovative behaviors. Thus when LMX is high, the relationship between challenge stressors and employee innovative behaviors is more positive than when LMX is low. Moreover, the style of leadership behaviors may influence the suitability of the resources provided by leaders to employees. Our study further argues that abusive supervision, as a type of negative style of leadership behaviors, is more likely to influence the moderating effects of LMX. When abusive supervision is high, leaders convey “mixed information” to employees with high LMX. Thus LMX cannot be used as resources to cope with job demands, or challenge stressors. In contrast, when abusive supervision is low, leaders convey “consistent information” to employees with high LMX. We collected two samples to test our hypotheses. For the first sample, the survey was administered in an energy drinks corporation located in China’s Beijing municipal. We collected the data at two time spots with a temporal interval of 2 weeks and the final sample was composed of 195 matched leader-employee dyads. For the second sample, the survey was administered in four companies. We collected the data at one time spot and the final sample was composed of 251 matched leader-employee dyads. The results consistently revealed that the interaction of LMX and abusive supervision significantly moderated the challenge stressors – employee innovative behaviors link. Especially, only when LMX is high and abusive supervision is low, the relationship between challenge stressors and innovative behaviors is significantly positive. Theoretically, our study contributes to the relationship between challenge stressors and employee innovative behaviors using job demands-resources model. Further, our study also contributes to the leadership literature that the positive role of LMX can be influenced by the leadership behaviors, especially in our study, abusive supervision. Last, our study enlarges the innovation studies that the interplay of work stressors and work resources is essential for employee innovation. Practically, our study contributes to employee innovation improvements. Finally, the limitations and future research directions were discussed.

Key words: challenge stressors, employee innovative behaviors, LMX, abusive supervision, three-way interaction

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