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Supervisors' exceedingly difficult goals and abusive supervision: The mediating effects of hindrance stress, anger, and anxiety



This study examined a contextual predictor of abusive supervision. Specifically, we hypothesized that job goals that are judged by supervisors to be exceedingly difficult to attain is a predictor of subordinate-rated abusive supervisory behavior. Drawing on the cognitive theory of stress, we hypothesized that exceedingly difficult job goals assigned to supervisors predict abusive behavior directed at their subordinates, as mediated by the supervisors' hindrance stress and emotions (e.g., anger and anxiety). We collected data from employees and their immediate supervisors to test this theoretical model (N = 215 matched pairs). The results of this multisource field study provided support for the hypothesized relationships. In particular, assigned job goals that were appraised by supervisors as exceedingly difficult to attain predicted their hindrance stress. Also, hindrance stress was positively related to anger and anxiety, which in turn predicted abusive supervision. Theoretically, these findings contribute to research on goal setting, stress, and abusive supervision. In addition, these findings are practically important in that they provide suggestions on how to minimize abusive supervision in organizations. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.