Cleansing My Abuse: A Reparative Response Model of Perpetrating Abusive Supervisor Behavior

Liao, Z., Yam, K. C., Johnson, R., Liu, W., & Song, Z. Cleansing My Abuse: A Reparative Response Model of Perpetrating Abusive Supervisor Behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, Forthcoming

55 Pages Posted: 7 May 2018

See all articles by Zhenyu Liao

Zhenyu Liao

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School

Kai Chi Yam

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Management and Organization

Russell Johnson

Michigan State University - The Eli Broad College of Business and The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management

Wu Liu

Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Zhaoli Song

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Management and Organization

Date Written: March 10, 2018

Abstract

Research on abusive supervision has predominantly focused on the consequences for victims while overlooking how leaders respond to their own abusive behavior. Drawing from the literature on moral cleansing, we posit that supervisors who engage in abusive behavior may paradoxically engage in more constructive leadership behaviors subsequently as a result of feeling guilty and perceiving loss of moral credits. Results from two experience sampling studies show that, within leaders on a daily basis, perpetrating abusive supervisor behavior led to an increase in experienced guilt and perceived loss of moral credits, which in turn motivated leaders to engage in more constructive person-oriented (consideration) and task-oriented (initiating structure) leadership behaviors. In addition, leader moral attentiveness and moral courage strengthen these indirect effects by amplifying leaders’ awareness of their immoral behavior and their willingness and determination to make reparations for such behavior. Our research contributes to the theoretical understanding of leaders’ responses toward their own abusive supervisor behavior and provides insights into how and when destructive leadership behaviors may, paradoxically, trigger more constructive behaviors.

Keywords: Abusive Supervisor Behavior; Moral Cleansing; Moral Attentiveness; Moral Courage

Suggested Citation

Liao, Zhenyu and Yam, Kai Chi and Johnson, Russell and Liu, Wu and Song, Zhaoli, Cleansing My Abuse: A Reparative Response Model of Perpetrating Abusive Supervisor Behavior (March 10, 2018). Liao, Z., Yam, K. C., Johnson, R., Liu, W., & Song, Z. Cleansing My Abuse: A Reparative Response Model of Perpetrating Abusive Supervisor Behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3167009

Zhenyu Liao (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - John M. Olin Business School ( email )

One Brookings Drive
Campus Box 1133
St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States

Kai Chi Yam

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Management and Organization ( email )

Singapore
Singapore

Russell Johnson

Michigan State University - The Eli Broad College of Business and The Eli Broad Graduate School of Management ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824-1121
United States

Wu Liu

Hong Kong Polytechnic University ( email )

Hung Hom Kowloon
Hong Kong

Zhaoli Song

National University of Singapore (NUS) - Department of Management and Organization ( email )

Singapore
Singapore

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