ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2009, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (12): 1189-1202.

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The Mechanisms of How Abusive Supervision Impacts on Subordinates’ Voice Behavior

LI Rui, LING Wen-Quan, LIU Shi-Shun   

  1. School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
  • Received:2009-05-26 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2009-12-30 Online:2009-12-30
  • Contact: LING Wen-Quan

Abstract: In today’s dynamic and hypercompetitive business environment, employees’ opinions and suggestions intended to improve organizational functioning and well-being are critical to the survival and development of an organization. Yet, many individuals are not willing to provide thoughts and ideas without inhibition in organizational context. Accumulating evidence suggests that leadership plays a significant role in employees’ voice behavior. However, past studies in this domain have primarily focused on the positive aspects of leaders’ characteristics and behaviors. Also the mechanisms and processes by which leader-related factors exert their impact have not been adequately explored in the existing literature. In the present study, we tried to examine the influence of abusive supervision on the voice behavior dimensions of promotive voice and prohibitive voice, and investigate the mediating role of perceived organizational support and psychological safety as well as the moderating role of perceived supervisory status playing in the linkages between abusive supervision and voice behavior in the context of Chinese organizations.
A structured questionnaire was employed as the research instrument for this study. It consisted of five scales designed to measure the variables of interest, namely abusive supervision, voice behavior, perceived organizational support, psychological safety, and perceived supervisory status. To avoid the Chinese people’s tendency of choosing the mid-point of the scale regardless of their true feelings or attitudes, all of the items on the survey were responded to on 6-point Likert scales which did not include a mid-point. Data were collected from 504 full-time employees who came from enterprises and institutions located in Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Changsha and Qingdao. Cronbach’s alpha coefficients for the above measures were from 0.84 to 0.93, showing good measurement reliabilities. Results of confirmatory factor analysis indicated the discriminant validity of the measurement was also satisfactory. Structural equation modeling (SEM) and total effect moderation model were utilized to analyze the data for testing the hypotheses proposed.
In line with predictions, results of SEM analysis revealed that abusive supervision had a significant negative influence on both promotive and prohibitive voice behavior. However, the effects of abusive supervision on the two kinds of voice behavior were transmitted through different mechanisms. Specifically, abusive supervision’s negative effect on promotive voice was fully mediated by perceived organizational support, while its negative effect on prohibitive voice was fully mediated by perceived organizational support and psychological safety. In addition, results of total effect moderation model analysis suggested subordinates’ perception of supervisory status in organizations significantly moderated the relationship between abusive supervision and perceived organizational support. Abusive supervision was more strongly associated with perceived organizational support when subordinates perceived higher supervisory status. Meanwhile, the indirect effects of abusive supervision on promotive and prohibitive voice mediated by perceived organizational support or psychological safety were also stronger when perceived supervisory status was higher. Finally, the theoretical and managerial implications of the findings, limitations, and future research directions were discussed.

Key words: voice behavior, abusive supervision, perceived organizational support, psychological safety, perceived supervisory status