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Abusive Supervision and Nursing Performance


  • Author Note:

    This research was conducted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of doctor of philosophy in leadership and education at the Adrian Dominican School of Education, Barry University, Miami Shores. The author is now an adjunct professor at Barry University, The Frank J. Rooney School of Adult and Continuing Education, and an independent researcher with interests in performance and performance improvement.


Brad C. Estes, PhD, Adrian Dominican School of Education, Human Resource Development, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL

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This is a report on a 2008 investigation of the influence of abusive supervision on nursing performance among registered nurses in an urban South Florida county. The findings suggest implications for patient satisfaction.


Research suggests that a myriad of negative personal and workplace consequences result when a supervisor is abusive. Researchers have reported frustration, anxiety, stress, psychological distress, problem drinking, family problems, less organizational commitment, fewer organizational citizenship behaviors, and greater intention to resign. Abusive supervision affects an estimated 13.5% of U.S. workers and costs U.S. corporations an estimated $23.8 billion annually. However, there was little understanding of abusive supervision's impact on performance, including within health care.


This study utilized an anonymous mail questionnaire of a random sample of 6,500 registered nurses in an urban South Florida county. Descriptive statistics were used to examine the responses. The survey instrument was self-reporting.


The study found that targeted subordinates reacted with noncompliance with significant organizational performance norms. The incidence of abusive supervision was 46.6%, with 36.6% of the nurses reporting negative influence on performance and compliance.


Supervisory abuse is a problem to the healthcare organizations because of the counterproductive behaviors that resulted. Concern is specifically suggested regarding possible negative influences to patient satisfaction. This article offers a change model and recommendations to curtail abusive supervision.