Taking it out on survivors: Submissive employees, downsizing, and abusive supervision
Article first published online: 8 APR 2014
© 2014 The British Psychological Society
Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Volume 87, Issue 3, pages 507–534, September 2014
How to Cite
Neves, P. (2014), Taking it out on survivors: Submissive employees, downsizing, and abusive supervision. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 87: 507–534. doi: 10.1111/joop.12061
- Issue published online: 15 JUL 2014
- Article first published online: 8 APR 2014
- Manuscript Revised: 6 FEB 2014
- Manuscript Received: 6 SEP 2013
- Portuguese National Science Foundation. Grant Number: PTDC/PSI-PSO/111606/2009
- Nova Forum
- Submissive employees;
- core self-evaluations;
- co-worker support;
- abusive supervision;
For the past decade, researchers' attention to abusive supervision (Tepper, 2000, Acad. Manage. J., 43, 178) has grown consistently. However, little is still known as to why certain individuals are picked by supervisors as targets for abuse. Our study tests a model of antecedents of abusive supervision, building on the profile of submissive employees (Aquino & Lamertz, 2004, J. Appl. Psychol., 89, 1023) and examining the potential role played by the work context. With a sample of 193 employee–supervisor dyads from downsized and non-downsized organizations, we found that as core self-evaluations and coworker support decreased, abusive supervision increased, particularly in downsized organizations, and this effect carried over to both in-role and extra-role performance. Using a displaced aggression framework (Hoobler & Brass, 2006, J. Appl. Psychol., 91, 1125), our study contributes to the discussion of the antecedents of abusive supervision by emphasizing the roles played (1) by the victim and (2) by the context in which these events take place.
- Supervisors aim their abusive behaviours at subordinates that appear particularly vulnerable and submissive.
- Strategies to prevent/reduce supervisory abusive behaviours in organizations should also focus on empowering subordinates themselves not just on training supervisors.
- Downsizings are particularly powerful triggers of abusive supervision as they enhance the vulnerability and exposure of submissive employees.