What is it about?

Abusive leaders affect employees’ emotions and health and produce counterproductive behaviors that cause economic damage to organizations. This review makes three contributions: first, we examine the theoretical approaches used by previous research studies to understand abusive supervision. Second, we analyze the types of mechanisms that explain how and when an abusive supervision process occurs. Third, we identify and discuss applied methodologies and limitations.

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Why is it important?

There has been limited research on the supervisor perspective, on the group level, and on recovery. We classified four types of mechanisms: simple relations between abusive supervision and antecedent-consequences (12), moderators (47), mediators (26), and a combination of mediators and moderators (86). We found that research has mostly been performed at the employee level or on dyads; studies that analyze the team level are rarely found. We identified two methodological problems: cross-sectional designs, which do not allow the analysis of its causality, and the increased risk of common method variance that may influence the results obtained via single-source data.


The theories used have focused on employee perceptions, which have not enabled the broadening of the abusive supervision concept to include the supervisor’s perspective and a recovery-related perspective. Research on how and when abusive supervision occurs analyzed with complex mechanisms using emotional variables and appropriate daily methodologies has been scarce. We propose a theoretical expansion including emotional theories to uncover emotional consequences of abusive supervision and the recovery concept to provide a deeper insight into abusive supervision process. We contend that longitudinal and diary designs that include teams and supervisor levels are necessary.

Professor Rita Berger
Universitat de Barcelona

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Abusive Supervision: A Systematic Review and New Research Approaches, Frontiers in Communication, January 2022, Frontiers,
DOI: 10.3389/fcomm.2021.640908.
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