• psychological entitlement;
  • abusive supervision;
  • emotional exhaustion

In this study, we examine the relationship between employee perceptions of supervisor abuse, emotional exhaustion, psychological entitlement, and subsequent co-worker abuse. We hypothesize that higher levels of employee psychological entitlement moderate the abusive supervisor – emotional exhaustion relationship – and this interaction mediates the abusive supervision – co-worker abuse relationship. Using multilevel-moderated mediation analysis to analyse day-level survey data from a lagged panel design across five working days from 132 working adults and their co-workers across multiple industries, we found support for our hypothesized model. We discuss implications for theory, future research, and management practice that result from our study.

Practitioner points

  • Psychologically entitled employees who perceive more abusive supervision are more emotionally exhausted and more likely to abuse their co-workers; therefore, organizations need to identify patterns indicative of these types of employees.
  • Stressed environments likely exacerbate these relationships, and organizations might consider regular workforce surveys assessing employee emotional exhaustion, which is a trigger for harmful employee work behaviours.