What is it about?

Using both experimental designs and field studies, the authors find that in sales context, supervisors can become angry toward their subordinates whose performance levels are too poor to bear and become envious of their subordinates with too good performance. These negative emotions can finally lead to supervisors' abuse of the extremely bad and good sales employees. For supervisors who tend to compare themselves with subordinates, they are more likely to envy and abuse super good performers.

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Why is it important?

This research highlights an important phenomenon that when performance of supervisors and subordinates are comparable such as in the sales context, this can induce adverse consequences for both subordinates below the average and those who are beyond the average.


Employees feel confused why no matter how they have performed, they could not avoid being the victim of leader abuse! This research provides an explanation by revealing that supervisors can tolerate their subordinates' performance to vary to some extent but not much! When employees perform too bad to bear, leaders abuse because they are angry. When employees perform too well to go beyond the leader's acceptance level, leaders can abuse as well because they feel envious now. Fortunately, this phenomenon is not that frequent. I hope you find this article contributes to your understanding of the workplace, and humans more.

Yolanda LI
Lingnan University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The mediating roles of supervisor anger and envy in linking subordinate performance to abusive supervision: A curvilinear examination., Journal of Applied Psychology, October 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/apl0001141.
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