Effects Of Abusive Leadership On Employees


Leaders’ attitude would often affect how the employees would behave in the office. However,   how big of an impact can poor leadership have on employees?  The Stevens Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois performed research to determine how abusive leadership affects employee performance.

Researchers conducted a survey of US students and employees from 42 different South Korean organisations to investigate how abusive supervision affected employees’ feelings of empowerment to take action. According to Howie Xu, Assistant Professor of Management at Stevens Institute and one of the study’s authors, the hypothesis was that the drive to obtain rewards (promotion, bonuses) and the drive to avoid punishments (maintain job security) would shape how employees responded to abusive bosses. Xu and his colleagues discovered that the conversation was true. Therefore, individuals who prioritised professional progress were negatively impacted by abusive leadership because they tended to “hunker down and reduce taking-charge behaviour after experiencing abusive supervision.”

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Xu described the findings as “surprising,” adding that there was “clear evidence” that abusive leadership harmed employees who cared about progress more than those who were concerned about security. Moreover, he hypothesised that the findings were the consequence of employees who desired to progress believing that their supervisors had direct influence over monetary and promotional chances but less direct authority over termination choices. Other than that, studies from both South Korea and the United States found no noticeable difference in how employees behave to abusive bosses.

Lastly, instead of promising employees about their job security, Xu suggests that organisations focus on empowering individuals and making them feel appreciated and respected. “If a leader slips into abusive behaviour, our research suggests that they should not only apologise, but also work to reassure employees of their value to the organisation,” he added.

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