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Abusive Leadership Effects on Employee Performance


The present literature review includes analysis and assessment of pertinent sources within the field of leadership. The goal of this literature review is twofold: The first goal is to examine the nature of abuse in the workplace, as it is necessary for a broader introspection into the specific problem of leadership abuse. The second goal is to determine how leadership abuse effects work performance and creativity, which is an integral part of the contemporary work environment. In line with the stated goals of the dissertation, the purpose of this literature review is to find any linkage between abuse and poor work performance. This will necessitate a deeper look into the reported consequences of workplace abuse, such as health, mental, economic, and other outcomes.

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The first part of the literature review includes examination of literature regarding the concept of workplace abuse, its causes, effects, and methods of delivery; and discusses the various forms it takes depending on the setting. In the second part, the researcher will contextualize the findings from the first part to determine the effects of abuse on work performance. The volume of research about abuse and leadership is extensive. Publications that were consulted in the process of preparing this literature review included the Journal of Business and Psychology, the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and the Academy of Management Journal. The consulted journals, articles, and other scholarly sources indicated the danger of abusive leadership and pointed to the severe psychological, physiological, economical, and social consequences of abuse. However, the most notable consequence, from the perspective of management, is the loss of productivity that arises from leadership abuse. This is the most frequent and expensive consequence, as it prevents individuals affected by abuse from performing their duties.

Conceptual Framework

Transformational Leadership

It has been acknowledged that the leadership style has considerable effects on employees’ performance and work environment, and transformational leadership is regarded as one of the most effective models. Transformational leadership can be defined as an “approach by which leaders motivate followers to identify with organizational goals and interests and to perform beyond expectations” (Buil et al., 2019, p. 65). Some of the most common features of this type of leadership include charisma or individualized impact, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and individualized consideration (Buil et al., 2019). These aspects may be manifested differently in a leader, which may affect the strategy the leader will utilize in different situations.

Intellectual stimulation encompasses leaders’ ability to encourage employees to explore their creativity, innovate, as well as the capacity to challenge personnel and facilitate the development of new ideas. Recent research shows that transformational leadership is instrumental in enhancing employees’ innovative effort and creativity (Ng, 2017). As far as inspirational motivation is concerned, transformational leaders articulate their vision and inspire followers to share it and achieve this vision (Buil et al., 2019). Such leaders facilitate the enhancement of employees’ proactivity and adaptability, which has a positive influence on their performance (Wang et al., 2017). Transformational leadership also contributes to the development of a learning organization culture where employees share knowledge and innovate, which enhances their and organizational performance (Para-González et al., 2018). Companies also need to provide ongoing training to the staff to maintain the established culture.

Individualized consideration is critical for the effective use of transformational leadership. Employees’ performance improves when their needs are met, including the needs in a specific amount of support from a transformational leader (Tepper et al., 2018). Sufficient or excessive amount of received transformational leadership has a positive impact on organizational citizenship and work attitudes. The increase in employees’ engagement and organizational citizenship is associated with the development of a psychological attachment to a transformational leader (Sahu et al., 2018). These attachment types play a mediating role in employees’ engagement with different levels of exhaustion. At that, personnel engagement is lower when transformational leadership is low on days with high job demands (Breevaart & Bakker, 2018). A high level of transformational leadership on such days is a mediator of employees’ engagement.

At the same time, transformational leadership has a darker side as well because it can have negative outcomes on certain aspects related to performance, motivation, and working environment. For instance, this leadership paradigm can hinder employees’ thriving if associated with a moderate or high level of employees’ exhaustion (Niessen et al., 2017). Inconsistent transformational leadership can also have mixed effects. For instance, transformational leadership does not correlate with the creativity of employees with a low level of perceived organizational support (Suifan et al., 2018). Therefore, it is critical to consider the diverse aspects and influences of transformational leadership.

Transformational Leadership and Abusive Supervision

Although the impact inconsistent transformational leadership has on performance at organizational and individual levels has received certain attention in academia, the relationship between transformational leadership and destructive forms of leadership is still under-researched. It has been found that leaders tend to alternate leadership styles, which has diverse effects on employees’ job performance, satisfaction, psychological wellbeing, creativity, and commitment (Mullen et al., 2018). For instance, although transformational leadership contributes to the enhancement of safety participation, the positive influence of this working environment can be hindered when abusive supervision occurs. When leaders alternate transformational leadership and abusive supervision, employees feel higher levels of stress and are less productive. Due to the damage to employees’ psychological wellbeing, their behavior can change to counterproductive, which will lead to negative effects for the workplace atmosphere. According to Mullen et al. (2018), in order to minimize the occurrence of abusive supervision, it can be effective to encourage leaders to develop successful leader-member relationships. Enhanced leader-member exchange mitigates the adverse consequences of abusive behaviors and makes leaders more empathetic and improves their emotional intelligence as well as the corresponding competencies.

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Inconsistent transformational leadership can also lead to a change in employees’ engagement and performance on a daily basis (Huang et al., 2019). For instance, the personnel’s performance can be high on one day while employees may be disengaged on another day depending on the leadership the supervisor uses. Sustained abusive leadership results in low morale, disengagement from current tasks, and low performance. Huang et al. (2019) emphasize that researchers may need to explore the relationship between abusive supervision and employee performance in day-to-day contexts in order to identify the exact mechanisms involved in the process.

Transformational leadership can have no mediating effect on employees’ performance if abusive supervision prevails and the former leadership style is utilized occasionally (Barling et al., 2018). Leaders often switch to different forms of leadership due to the availability of resources, and it has been found that autocratic leadership was effective in the presence of scarce resources while abusive supervision had milder negative consequences compared to similar circumstances and the use of transformational leadership (Barling et al., 2018). It is noteworthy that Barling et al. (2018) conducted their research in the healthcare setting, which displays certain limitations and the need to address the topic in a larger context.

The abusive behavior of ethical leaders can have rather negative effects making subordinates more receptive to abusive supervision in the future. Prior use of ethical leadership posed the focus on interactional justice that had a moderating impact on the relationship between abusive supervision and work outcomes (Wang & Chan, 2020). Interactional justice is associated with people’s perceptions of the degree to which they are treated with respect and dignity in different contexts (Wang & Chan, 2020). On the one hand, when employees feel they are treated unfairly, their psychological wellbeing is negatively affected, which may result in vulnerability to abusive supervision and workplace deviance. Such people may become victims of abusive leaders or react in an increasingly intense manner. On the other hand, inconsistent leadership tends to increase people’s need for interactional justice, and if abusive supervision frequency or magnitude grows, negative workplace outcomes intensify.

Individual characteristics and skills of the staff also play a significant role in their performance under such conditions. For example, employees with high levels of mindfulness perform better when transformational leadership is utilized, but they are also increasingly affected by abusive supervision, which has detrimental effects on their psychological well-being and performance (Walsh & Arnold, 2020). Therefore, employees’ mindfulness can result in their poor performance and job dissatisfaction, or full work engagement, if inconsistent leadership is utilized, depending on the used leadership style on a daily basis. These findings are consistent with the results of previous studies, which makes researchers more attentive to inconsistent leadership and its outcomes. Walsh and Arnold (2020) also suggest that employees may need extensive training regarding effective coping strategies to ensure their mindfulness will not enhance negative responses to abusive leadership and will facilitate the development of a favorable working environment.

At the same time, Lange et al. (2018) found a positive relationship between leaders’ mindfulness and transformational leadership, while the leader’s mindfulness and abusive supervision were characterized by a negative relationship. An important observation has been made as mindful leaders tended to exert transformational leadership when addressing innovation-related incentives and individuals’ ideas or performance rather than team-based aspects (Lange et al., 2018). This trend is explained by the resource-based approach as mindfulness is mainly related to personal links and interpersonal relationships. Although some aspects of inconsistent leadership use have been explored, the link between transformational leadership and abusive behavior requires further investigation, as well as the impact these leadership styles have on employees’ performance.

Workplace Abuse

Workplace abuse is a behavioral model that happens when one or more individuals – either other employees, managers, leaders, or others – persistently abuse another individual over a prolonged period. In most cases, the abuse is psychological, whereby the victim endures continued attacks on his or her dignity, professional reputation, or moral integrity (Duffy &Yamada, 2018). Further, workplace abuse is targeted and systematic, aimed at diminishing one’s ability to perform. This causes harmful side-effects including damaging the work environment, limiting productivity, and a myriad of health-related issues for individuals (Bowling, Camus & Blackmore, 2015). The goals of abuse in the workplace are as diverse as the methods. In some cases, leaders use abuse to control their subordinates, or as a tool to push unwanted elements out of the team (Bowling et al., 2015). Abused workers are continuously exposed to degradation and physical torment, which limits their ability to function and reduces their communication with peers and managers, causing them to either leave the position or suffer through the abuse indefinitely (Okechukwu et al., 2014).

Workplace abuse need not be targeted to a single employee, rather, some leaders may use abuse in the workplace as a method of exerting control. In such instances, all, or almost all, employees are subjected to overt or covert abuse. Leaders who are particularly skilled at this form of control do not do it openly, rather, they exert different methods of abuse for different employees with the goal of subverting them (Kemp, 2014; Duffy & Yamada, 2018). It was noted that leaders who exert negative traits in the workplace have a significant degree of influence on the performance of their subordinates (D’Innocenzo, Mathieu,&Kukenberger, 2016).

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While not all leaders with negative traits abuse their subordinates, they do have a detrimental effect on employee morale. Job performance is a critical indicator for nearly all decisions within companies. For example, a good performer will earn promotions, bonuses, and other benefits more frequently than a low performer, which then determines the outcomes of employees’ careers (D’Innocenzo, Mathieu,&Kukenberger, 2016).

Workplace abuse has three basic elements: It is systematic, it occurs over an extended period,andit is performed with the goal to cause stress and discomfort in the target. In the most extreme cases, workplace abuse can lead to other forms of abuse, such as sexual or physicalindividual (Bowling et al., 2015). The main motivator for workplace abuse is the destruction of the target’s dignity and self-image, and it pertains only to traits that are linkedto the work environment. In comparison, sexual and racial abuse are linked with innate, unchangeable traits of an individual (Bowling et al., 2015).

Causes of Workplace Abuse

Interpersonal Aspects

In most cases, abuse is caused by interpersonal conflicts in the workplace. The most common causes are linked with the inadequate organization and work processes such as scheduling, the disproportion between work requirements and rewards, lack of autonomy, and accommodation for the specific skills of employees (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper, 2011). Additionally, abuse can be caused by poor work conditions: exposure to dangerous substances, noise, high or low temperatures (Fox & Cowan, 2015). Lack of communication and inadequate management procedures are also very commonly associated with abuse, as are frequent changes in working conditions, re-assignment to different positions, and lack of managerial support. The cause of abuse is often linked with whistleblowing, as managers and leaders abuse subordinates who perform illegitimate or unethical business practices, contact authorities, or in any way undermine the position of the company (Fox & Cowan, 2015).

Generally, abuse is more frequent in companies with diminished interpersonal relationships as compared to companies with strong interpersonal relationships. Workplace abuse arises from unsolved conflicts between employees or between managers and employees, inadequate work procedures that lead to mistrust and conflict, and when the company faces legal confrontation with its employees over work rights (Fox & Cowan, 2015). Long-term unresolved personal conflicts can be especially volatile within a competitive working environment. According to Ashanasy et al. (2016), when coupled with inadequate managerial practices and low support, this can lead to horizontal abuse, whereby employees attack each other to eliminate competition. The most common victims of this type of abuse are over-achievers (Qureshi et al., 2014; Ashkanasy et al., 2016).

Vertical abuse is directly related to leadership. While most leaders do not engage in workplace abuse directly, there are instances when they can become hostile towards an employee, usually because of a perceived threat from that individual to the leader’s station. However, leaders can be abusive if they lack the social and cognitive skills necessary to manage their departments, and they may use psychological and verbal abuse to exert control over subordinates (Hogh et al., 2011).

Leaders’ Traits

Leaders’ personal traits also pave the way to abusive supervision in organizations. Leaders’ creative mindset is linked to abusive supervision through moral disengagement (Qin et al., 2019). Leaders’ negative creativity is closely related to abusive leadership as supervisors use all possible means to achieve their vision irrespective of their followers’ needs, features, and performance. Leaders high in moral disengagement tend to have low capacity to self-regulate, which results in their abusive behavior. Qin et al. (2019) paid specific attention to day-to-day fluctuations in leaders’ supervision and employees’ performance and found a direct link between the mentioned variables and within-person factors rather than interpersonal aspects. For instance, the quality of sleep and the perception of work-family balance plays a more significant role in choosing a behavioral pattern than specific workplace processes or relationships.

Such personal characteristics as extraversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness, and neuroticism are associated with abusive supervision (Tahira et al., 2019). Such features as conscientiousness and neuroticism have been long associated with abusive behaviors as such people are often inflexible and prone to negative emotions. However, extraversion is not commonly linked to abusive behavior, which creates a considerable gap in the knowledge on the matter. Tahira et al. (2019) address this gap identifying the relationship between leaders’ extraversion and abusive supervision. It is stated that extraverted people feel freer when articulating their ideas and expressing their emotions, and this confidence tends to lead to abusive leadership. At that, diverse factors, such as organizational culture, cultural peculiarities, as well as employees’ perceptions and individual traits, can have a moderating impact on leaders’ abusive behaviors.

Leaders’ attachment orientation is an influential factor affecting their leadership style as well. Attachment theory has been widely used in studies examining leadership and people’s occupational behavior (Robertson et al., 2018). This theoretical framework is based on the exploration of the relationships between infants and their caregivers, as well as the influence of these patterns on cognitive and social models the former develop and employ during their adulthood. Diverse patterns and modes of adult behavior exist. When applied to occupational behavior, it is stated that people with anxious attachment orientation are more likely to display abusive supervision while close/dependent attachment orientation had a negative relationship with abusive leadership (Robertson et al., 2018). In contrast, supervisors high on close/depend attachment domains tend to think they are capable of cultivating effective relationships, so they do not engage in abusive behaviors. Social self-efficacy is a strong mediator affecting the use of leadership styles in both cases. The training aimed at the development of social skills and increasing leaders’ confidence in their ability to build successful relationships is regarded as an successful strategy to minimize abusive leadership.

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In addition to personal characteristics, leaders’ beliefs regarding abusive supervision outcomes are also instrumental in their use of this type of leadership. It has been found that leaders who believe that abusive leadership is appropriate and results in better performance tend to display abusive behaviors (Watkins et al., 2017). Supervisors’ empathic concern plays a moderating role in the relationship between abusive behavior and adverse workplace outcomes. Such leaders may use abusive supervision irrespective of employees’ previous performance. High-achievers can also become victims of negative leadership due to their leaders’ beliefs regarding the effectiveness of abusive supervision and its favorable effects on performance (Watkins et al., 2017). Depending on the degree to which the leader exhibits empathic concerns, the leader uses abusive supervision to achieve organizational goals.

Employees’ Traits

Employees’ personal features are linked to workplace abuse in various domains. Worldviews and the attitude to authority, as well as the level of performance of individuals, can predict their victimization by abusive leaders (Khan et al., 2017). Khan et al. (2017) utilized the dual-process model to investigate the role personnel’s perspectives play in the relationship between abusive supervision and performance. The model implies the focus on the competitive and dangerous worldviews. In the former case, people attempt to achieve dominance in a group due to their assumptions regarding the competitiveness and the importance of dominance. In the latter case, people see the world as a dangerous environment and seek enhanced social cohesion, as well as collective security. These perspectives affect the staff’s attitudes and responses to abusive supervision (Khan et al., 2017). People who have the dangerous worldview are more likely to be submissive and display obedience with autocratic and abusive leadership. Higher submission to authority is associated with poor performers and employees’ deviant behaviors in the presence of abusive leadership. Such employees tend to be victimized due to their poor performance and behavior (passivity and submissiveness).

Employees’ neuroticism and introversion were strong predictors of exposure to abusive supervision (Nielsen et al., 2017). Employees with such personal features were more likely to engage in workplace deviation and low performance. Extraversion, agreeableness, and openness to new experiences had a negative relationship with abusive leadership although openness had a less significant influence on people’s response to abusive supervision. It is also evident that people with such traits are vulnerable to victimization, so the vicious circle emerges as they are prone to enhanced reactions that lead to their further abuse. Nielsen et al. (2017) also add that the meta-analysis they implemented showed that methodology had an effect on the results as the variables (openness, extraversion, and the rest) were conceptualized and measured differently. Hence, further research on the relationship between individuals’ personal traits and abusive supervision is needed.

Machiavellianism is another characteristic feature of employees that is associated with the use of abusive leadership. Under abusive supervision employees’ Machiavellianism is activated and people engage in unethical behavior as a response to leaders’ abusive conduct (Greenbaum et al., 2017). Such Machiavellianism dimensions as a desire for control, distrust in others, amoral manipulation, and a desire for status have been in researchers’ lenses. The primary predictors of the counterproductive workplace and unethical behavior are the desire for control and amoral manipulation (Greenbaum et al., 2017). Hence, abusive leadership activates some negative traits in employees and deteriorates their commitment and performance, which leads to diverse negative effects, including but not confined to an inappropriate workplace environment.

Subordinates’ attentional bias and trait self-control is influenced by abusive supervision and can play a mediating role in employees’ safety behaviors (Yuan et al., 2018). Emotional exhaustion also moderates the link between abusive leadership and safety behaviors. Trait self-control had the strongest mediating effect on the relationship between emotional exhaustion and abusive supervision (Yuan et al., 2018). Employees’ psychological capital is another feature that can enhance the negative relationship between abusive supervision and employee productivity (Raza et al., 2019). Psychological capital is the complex notion consisting of such aspects and traits as self-efficacy, optimism, resilience, and hope. Employees with a strong psychological capital are less affected by leaders’ abusive behaviors and remain high performers. Psychological capital can be accumulated through the development of the corresponding culture and the enhancement of proactive relationships between the leader and followers, as well as a social exchange among employees.

Organizational culture also has a direct and indirect impact on the occurrence of abusive supervision. Companies with weak organizational cultures are often characterized by the existence of counterproductive work behavior (CWB) norms, which is one of the factors contributing to the use of abusive leadership (Ju et al., 2019). Employees’ personal control plays a considerable role in the process as the presence of CWB norms alone does not always result in CWB. Leaders’ personal traits, as well as workload, work-related stress, and personal control, intertwine with CWB norms, which results in abusive supervision. Companies with autocratic leadership tend to be an illustration of this phenomenon as they are associated with rather strong CWB norms. An effective way to diminish the adverse outcomes of abusive leadership and minimize its occurrence is training provided to managers who need to understand the detrimental effects of abusive supervision and ways to avoid undesirable behaviors (Ju et al., 2019). The establishment of proper organizational culture with no CWB norms is another goal to attain to make abusive supervision in the working place impossible.

Abuse in the workplace grew alongside globalization and market liberalization, mainly because of the development of authoritative management systems (Hogh et al., 2011). The need of authoritative managers to exert control over employees, coupled with increasingly competitive markets, and pressure from global competitors make authoritative leadership a contributing element tosuccess(Hogh et al., 2011). It should be noted that this applies only to authoritative leaders, as other types manage employees without the need to control them (Hogh et al., 2011). However, the need to increase efficiency of the organization, which is the key determinant of authoritative leadership, has led to reductions in employee representation due to the ossification of the vertical power structures (Hogh et al., 2011). This causes poor working conditions and creates friction for employees and managers. Under such circumstances, leaders turn to authoritative measures, among which abuse presents the least frequent but most detrimental measure available (Manotas, 2015; Zapf et al., 2011).

Leadership and Abuse

When observing the indicators of poor performance and their linkage to abusive leadership, several key themes emerge – mediating factors, group association, meaning derived from work. Primarily, this relates to the various mediating factors – such as salary, role in the organization, gender, age – that influence the damage abusive leaders exert on employee performance. Within this context, employees who value their work are more susceptible to abuse. Their counterparts, who derive little meaning from their work, can endure abuse because they are disconnected from their work and any abuse will not affect them as severely (Branch et al., 2013; Johnson, 2017).

Employees can be categorized into three broad groups according to their approach to work: motivated, unmotivated, and somewhat motivated. The level of motivation is mediated by the sense of meaning derived from work. Workers who derive meaning from their work are often highly motivated, highly productive, and valuable to the company. However, such employees are also the most common targets of abusive leaders, as they are perceived as a threat to the integrity of the leader’s position, or as a competitor for the position (Branch et al., 2013; Johnson, 2017). Meaning of work is one of the strongest predictors of employee performance (Johnson, 2017; Branch et al., 2013). Out of the four key dimensions of psychological empowerment (meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact), meaning is the most notable predictor and the one that can be mitigated by abuse the most (Johnson, 2017; Branch et al., 2013). Performance is mediated by social interactions, interpersonal relationships, and intra-company power relations (Johnson, 2017; Branch et al., 2013).

Two of the theoretical approaches that can be used to measure the effects of abusive leadership on work performance is the COR (conservation of resources theory) or social exchange theory(Johnson, 2017; Branch et al., 2013). Under the framework of COR, there are four main conditions that mediate work performance: perceived thethreat of resource loss, resource loss, the individual’s perception of excessive resource loss, and resource investment fails to accrue returns(Johnson, 2017; Branch et al., 2013). This implies that abusive leadership leads to either one of these outcomes, or more, and has a negative impact on employee performance. This costs the company resources as the workers do not provide any added value(Johnson, 2017; Branch et al., 2013).

According to the social exchange theory developed by Thibaut & Kelley (Johnson, 2017; Branch et al., 2013), reciprocity is a critical component of all social contracts, including employment. Employees reciprocate their rewards by providing added value to the company. Thus, with negative reciprocity,one wrong is reciprocated by another. For example, employees who are abused will not be as effective in their performance because they experience a negative approach by the leader who is then reciprocated by their unwillingness to perform(Johnson, 2017; Branch et al., 2013).

Managers are predominately the perpetrators of abuse in companies, especially in less developed economies, where the possibility of finding alternative employment are negligible. By cross-referencing the data from the most developed nations, it is possible to notice a very frequent theme: bossing (Gerstein & Friedman, 2017; Gu, Tang, & Jiang, 2015). According to research from the US and other countries (Okechukwu et al., 2014; Van Heughten& Schmitz, 2015; Yamada & Duffy, 2018), almost 81% of victims experienced vertical abuse, which is higher than the 63% of cases reported in the UK and other EU nations. In 83% of the cases, the perpetrator of violence is the manager who is a direct superior to the victim. Thus, workplace abuse is most frequent in environments where victims and abusers have frequent contact (Lavoie-Treemblay et al., 2016; Xia, Zhang,& Li, 2017).

Managers are most often the perpetrators of abuse, which has significant consequences on individuals who suffer from their abuse and on the company. One of the factors that influences company performance is employee motivation. Motivation is then influenced by a number of intrinsic and extrinsic elements such as workplace environment, salary, respect, recognition of excellence, job enrichment, career development, the ability to critique processes, and goal-oriented management (Lavoie-Treemblay et al., 2016; Xia, Zhang,& Li, 2017). Most of these elements constitute non-material factors, which lose their value in cases when vertical abuse is present. As a result, the company suffers and can lose its position in the global market (Lavoie-Treemblay et al., 2016; Xia, Zhang & Li, 2017).

Although abuse is often not the byproduct of the actions of victims, but rather the effect of personality and traits of abusers, disrupted interpersonal relationships in the workplace can lead to abuse. The problem of abuse is especially evident in companies operating within stress intensive markets, which causes frequent dissatisfaction among employees and managers. This, in turn, can lead to abuse. Individuals working in high-stress positions have a lower tolerance for aggression, and lower understanding of interpersonal conflicts as compared to individuals in low-stress positions.

Successful organizational management lies in the ability of managers to allocate time, resources, and personnel in the most efficient way possible so that the company goals are met. If managers must spend significant time in managing interpersonal conflicts, or deal with workplace abuse, productivity falls. The loss of time, both for managers and employees is significant, but more importantly, the organizational environment is damaged, which results in loss of productivity and motivation (Lavoie-Treemblay et al., 2016; Xia, Zhang & Li, 2017).

According to research (Okechukwu et al., 2014; Van Heughten& Schmitz, 2015; Yamada & Duffy, 2018), organizations that face internal problems and employee-manager conflicts or abuse must devote significant amounts of time and resources to the resolution of those conflicts. Managers in such companies spend as much as 40% of their time on conflict resolution.

The quality of the decision-making process is also diminished under conditions of interpersonal conflict in the workplace because conflict limits the availability of quality information that is objective (Mathieu et al., 2014; Palanski et al., 2014). Additionally, there is a direct correlation between increased conflict between employees and the emergence of inventory and equipment damages, as well as increased chance of disruptions in business processes and management action plans (Mathieu et al., 2014; Palanski et al., 2014). Thus, conflict diminishes productivity and prevents operation of the company (Mathieu et al., 2014; Palanski et al., 2014). Managers who tolerate workplace abuse pay significant costs in terms of lost revenue or productivity, especially if they are the source of abuse (Mathieu et al., 2014; Palanski et al., 2014).

Horizontal and Vertical Abuse

There are two predominant types of abuse within a business environment:horizontal and vertical. Horizontal abuse occurs when one employee abuses one or more peers working in the same or similar position within the company. In horizontal abuse, all parties at at equal levels within the company. Horizontal abuse is frequently the consequence of a social or professional competition, jealousy,or spite, and usually derives from the success of an individual. For example, new employees may perform significantly better than long-term employees, which causes an imbalance in the workplace and leads to workplace abuse from the long-term employee to the newcomer (Manotas, 2015; Zapf et al., 2011).

Research by Manotas (2015) and Zapf et al. (2011) indicates that women are the victims of horizontal abuse more frequently than men, and most often they are abused by other women. Workplace abuse is highly correlated with gender, as menare most often abused by other men (Manotas, 2015; Zapf et al., 2011).Horizontal abuse is frequently displayedthrough jokes or ridiculeregarding the victim’s physical traitssuch as gait, weight, clothes, or private affairs. However, it can be elevated to more damaging forms such as rumors about sexual, professional,or private concerns (Manotas, 2015; Zapf et al., 2011).

Vertical abuse includes two or more individuals who are not of the same station within the corporate structure. While there are many variations, the most common type of abuse is that which includes a subordinate and his or her supervisor or other leader (Manotas, 2015; Zapf et al., 2011). Vertical abuse can include the leader implying to one or more employees that they would be given a certain benefit, such as advancement or training, but then imposingnear impossible conditions to receive that benefit.The employees withstand this vertical abuse because of the hope of career advancement that is often unfulfilled by their leaders (Kemp, 2014; van Heugten& Schmitz, 2015).

Vertical abuse can resemble horizontal abuse when leaders actively entice employees to abuse their coworkers under the promise of significant benefits. One of the more common forms of abuse is the empty table-full table (Kemp, 2014; van Heugten & Schmitz, 2015). With this, the targeted employee is given either too much work or too little work. By giving employees an excessive workload, the leaders force targeted employees to take frequent overtimes, disrupt their work-life balance, and suffer from stress and exhaustion (Kemp, 2014; van Heugten & Schmitz, 2015). The other extreme is the empty table, whereby the leader abuses employees by giving them overly simplified, menial tasks that are below their education and status in the company. This is demeaning and harmful toemployees’ careers, as the employeescan be perceived as lazy and unwilling to work (Kemp, 2014; van Heugten& Schmitz, 2015).

Leaders may exert too much control over the daily routines of their employees by controlling their effort, performance, and timeliness in the workplace. In cases where employees are not performing well, authoritative leadership is a common and accepted method of management, but when used to abuse employees it causes stress and low performance (Kemp, 2014; van Heugten& Schmitz, 2015). The least frequent but most serious form of vertical abuse is when leaders find out that a member of the staff leaked information– usually about unethical or illegal practices – which had significant detrimental effects on the company(Krasikova et al., 2013). Such employees are frequently degraded, their professional skills put into question, and their integrity attacked with the purpose of driving them out(Krasikova et al., 2013). While such employees cannot be attacked publicly or fired, they are frequently ostracized from the larger community within the company and made to feel redundant, which in most cases leads to resignation (Krasikova et al., 2013).

Consequences of Abuse

The most cited consequences of abuse in the literature are psychological, physiological, economic, social, and legal (Sperry, 2009). Within this range, some consequences leave short-term damages that are alleviated as soon as either the victim or the abusing leader leaves his or her position. These include anxiety, stress, social isolation, and acute physiological deterioration (Sperry, 2009). However, some consequences leave long-term marks, some even lifelong, such as PTSP (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, chronic Anxiety, cardio-vascular conditions, and others) (Sperry, 2009). Within this category, psychological and social are the most common consequences (Sperry, 2009).

Abuse causes stress, anger, and prolonged psychological exhaustion, which can permanently affect victims. Initially, victims will likely experience one symptom, such as stress, which will then lead to other harmful side-effects. This is commonly referred to as a ripple effect because it affects individuals first, and then affects immediate family, friends, and the entire social environment of victims (Sperry, 2009).

The negative effects of abuse include loss of social capital, as victims can be perceivedas unwilling to work or provide for their family; deterioration of their value system and ethical norms within the wider society; and endangerment of family and social cohesion. Furthermore, paid leave of absence is a common consequence of workplace abuse, as victims may be unable to cope with accumulated stress and psychological harm, leading tohospitalizaton. Such cases can cause significant drops in productivity and increase costs pertaining to health care (Sperry, 2009; Wachs, 2009).

According to Wachs (2009) there is a number of key psychological and biological responses to abuse in the workplace. Increased adrenaline and continued or persistent frustration are key responses, as victims cannot perform daily tasks, resolve work-related problems,or perform well in assigned tasks. This can cause feelings of helplessness, especially because abuse reduces victims’ personal and professional integrity and diminishes their reputation among peers (Wachs, 2009).

Victims may try to relieve frustration by focusing on the flaws of other employees, either by highlighting their flaws or by making accusations of wrongdoings in the company. This only exacerbates the abuse, as victims and other employees become increasingly frustrated, which further deteriorates the social and business environment. In most cases, the outcome is for victims to leave the company, which is also the intended goal of abusers (Salin&Hoel, 2011).

In some cases, victims may respond to abuse by offering affection or friendship to their abuser, which is a defense mechanism aimed at removing the problem between them. This, however, reduces the self-worth and self-dignity in victims. Furthermore, such attempts are perceived by others as trying to get ahead in the corporate structure, which creates a hostile environment for the victim(Karsavuran& Kaya, 2017; Salin&Hoel, 2011).The persistent exposure to abuse leads to exhaustion, and a lack of motivation and will to work, causing burnout syndrome, which nullifies any contribution of victims to the overall success of the company. In the most extreme cases, abuse can permanently cripple an individual, making one unable to work, which then leads to adverse social and economic consequences, the worst of which is social isolation and homelessness (Karsavuran& Kaya, 2017; Salin&Hoel, 2011).

Abusive leadership is strongly associated with employees’ political behavior in organizations. In the presence of abusive supervision, employees are more likely to engage in diverse political processes within organizations (Liu & Liu, 2018). It has been reported that employees high in Machiavellianism having strong ties with the leader display the highest political involvement. Those characterized by a lower level of Machiavellianism had higher perceptions of organizational politics compared to individuals with low Machiavellianism. Hence, abusive leadership has a substantial impact on political dynamics in organizations, which needs to be considered in order to develop or maintain a strong organizational culture.

Health outcomes

Research from several OECD nations (US, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan) has indicated that the number of abuse cases is growing continuously (Qureshi et al., 2014; Mathieu et al., 2014). Additionally, it has been found that prolonged exposure to abuse leads to deterioration of the psychological and physiological wellbeing of individuals. The most common psychological conditions caused by abuse are reactive depressive states, reactive psychotic states, paranoid delusions, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Qureshi et al., 2014; Mathieu et al., 2014).

Employees experiencing abusive supervision tend to display paranoia making them vulnerable to the development of sinister attribution error that is a cognitive error that implies erroneous perceptions of workplace events (Lopes et al., 2018). An illustration of this psychological state is when an employee misattributes an ordinary workplace situation (peers laughing or discussing something) to negative motives (an attempt to mock or harm them in any way). Employees affected by the sinister attribution error are more likely to engage in deviant behaviors. In some cases, abusive supervision can lead to suicidal ideation in employees (Liu et al., 2020). Liu et al. (2020) also found that meaning in life mitigated the adverse effects of abusive leadership. The satisfaction of people’s psychological needs is linked to the degree of suicidal ideation in employees. For example, employees’ sense of relatedness and needs for competence played a moderating role.

Economic outcomes

Prolonged exposure to workplace abuse does cause indirect economic damages, both to individuals and organizations. The first type of economic loss linked to workplace abuse is in healthcare costs. In most cases, exposure to abuse over a long period causes significant damage to victims. The damage inflicted by abuse is often psychological but can be manifested physically, in stress, heart problems, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other issues (Qureshi et al., 2014; Mathieu et al., 2014). It has been estimated that abusive supervision costs may reach up to $24 billion annually due to productivity losses, healthcare costs, and absenteeism (Blum, 2017). An indirect negative economic effect of abusive supervision is also a possible lack of funding. Independent venture capitalists now pay considerable attention to the presence and magnitude of abusive leadership in companies during the due-diligence process (Blum, 2017). Therefore, companies with a high degree of abusive supervision risk losing potentially profitable contracts and additional investment.

Because victims suffer from prolonged abuse, health-related costs increase exponentially, often ending with inability to work or severely diminished work ability. This increases the overall cost for companies and forces HR departments to either replace employees. The economic consequences are exacerbated when abused employees perform critical tasks for their companies, as such individuals are difficult to replace (Qureshi et al., 2014; Mathieu et al., 2014).

One of the more frequently used options for abused employees is retirement. However, there are two distinctly negative economic consequences of this. First, abused employees who decide to retire often do so without having met the minimum age requirement for pension and social security. Second, unresolved issues tend to exacerbate psychological or physiological complications for the retiree, which increases the overall burden on the healthcare system (Qureshi et al., 2014; Mathieu et al., 2014).

Companies that allows abuse in the workplace may see significant damage to public image, as individuals who were the targets of abuse inform the public. In the age of global communications and social media networks, it is very easy for individuals to inform the public about abuse in the workplace. If left unaddressed by the company, this can cause significant problems and economic losses (Qureshi et al., 2014; Mathieu et al., 2014).

Although abuse reduces the productivity of the affected employees, it has long-term effects on the managers as well. Except for the abusers, most managers face persistent interpersonal issues within the company, which they must resolve to maintain productivity. In environments where there is abuse, the amount of time spent on mitigating the consequences of abuse increases significantly, which further increases the costs for the company (Lavoie-Treemblay et al., 2016; Xia, Zhang & Li, 2017).

Legal outcomes

The US and other countries recognize and punish cases of sexual, racial, and religious-based abuse, but these cases are separated from abuse that concentrates on a person’s traits such as skill and appearance. Because companies have no legal obligations to prevent abuse, they incorporate internal rules and regulations aimed at preventing abuse. However, there are no methods to ensure abuse does not happen, which is why many employees who suffered abuse bring their former employers to courts and seek compensation for emotional and professional harm (Qureshi et al., 2014; Mathieu et al., 2014).

Impact of Abuse on Productivity

Workplace abuse is a complex set of behavioral, social, and cognitive elements that result in diminished productivity and efficiency of victims. Nearly 40% of workers in the US have, at one point, experienced or reported workplace abuse (Hogh et al., 2011; Sperry, 2009). In vertical abuse, workers experienced more harmful consequences, such as psychological distress and poor performance, which led to an increased turnover of employees than in cases of horizontal abuse. This can be attributed to the fact that horizontal abuse happens between peers, which allows the victim more room to counteract the abuse (Hogh et al., 2011; Sperry, 2009).

Vertical abuse is becoming a salient issue within the modern, globalized business environment. As companies face competition, they increasingly turn to authoritative leaders to run departments. While most large corporations adopt democratic or other types of leadership, small and medium companies are becoming more authoritative because such leadership facilitates faster decision-making (Arezes et al., 2014; Glasø et al., 2007).However, this has also led to the increase in leadership abuse, with 10-16% of all workers in the US experiencing abuse from their leaders at least once (Arezes et al., 2014; Glasø et al., 2007).

One of the indirect effects on employees’ productivity resulting from abusive leadership is employees’ deviant behaviors. The personnel displaying low levels of self-evaluation become the victims of abusive supervision more frequently and are more prone to engage in deviant behaviors (Kluemper et al., 2019). These behaviors can take different forms, but they tend to have a negative impact on employees’ performance and the overall workplace environment. Kluemper et al. (2019) identified the negative relationship between high core self-evaluation and deviant conduct under abusive supervision. Cognitive resources play an important moderating role and prevent workplace deviance, which ensures employees’ productivity (Kluemper et al., 2019). Another mediating factor is emotional competency and age as it was found that older employees tended to use cognitive reappraisal more effectively and were less receptive to their supervisors’ abusive leadership practices (Peng et al., 2020). Therefore, workplace deviation under abusive supervision can be mediated by leaders’ and employees’ personal traits, as well as their competencies and skills.

Abusive Leadership and Creativity

In addition to productivity, which is a key component in companies that operate in labor-intensive markets, creativity is a fundamental element that defines success in the global economic environment. Companies that employ creative individuals are often at the forefront of development and can bring new ideas and products much faster than their competition (Gu, Tang, & Jiang, 2015; Nielsen et al., 2010). Therefore, creativity is critical in the workplace. In many industries, creativity is valued more highly than productivity because of its orientation to new ideas (Nielsen et al., 2017; Gerstein & Friedman, 2017).

Traditionally, leaders in creative-intensive companies are lauded for their ability to bring out the best in their employees and foster their creativity. While the bulk of research on abusive leadership focuses on companies that did not employ creative individuals simply because until very recently the vast majority of major corporations employed authoritative leadership, recent strides have shown that even the most creative companies fall victim to abusive leadership (Gu, Tang & Jiang, 2015; Gerstein & Friedman, 2017). Because creative individuals are often more independent and goal oriented than their peers, they take on more responsibilities and projects on an individual basis. When abuse happens, such individuals may limit their efforts or forgo entire projects completely, causing significant losses for the company (Gerstein & Friedman, 2017; Gu, Tang, & Jiang, 2015).

Creativity is largely driven by intrinsic motivators, which are not dependent on salary or other material benefits. Thus, creative individuals often enjoy their work much more than non-creative individuals. As discussed previously, employees who enjoy their work are more adversely affected by workplace abuse than those employees who are only motivated by extrinsic factors such as salary. Additionally, creative employees often forgo the traditional work-life division – such as 9-5 work hours and 40 hour weeks – which means that workplace abuse affects these individuals’ home lives more significantly than it does non-creative employees (Gerstein & Friedman, 2017; Gu, Tang & Jiang, 2015).

As mentioned above, transformational leadership is the most appropriate model to facilitate employees’ creativity. In some cases, transformational leadership mitigates the negative effects of abusive supervision (Suifan et al., 2018). However, these positive outcomes are limited to certain contexts and situations, as well as the existing organizational culture. If the company has a well-established culture of a learning organization, inconsistent transformational leadership can still have positive effects on employees’ creativity (Suifan et al., 2018). However, these influences are not found in companies with a weak culture or low level of employee commitment.

Abusive supervision influences creativity in different aspects and through diverse mechanisms. The use of conservation of resources theory is becoming common for the research concerning abusive leadership and its outcomes. Although the direct link between abusive supervision and employee creativity has not been identified, this type of leadership influences this domain indirectly. For example, abusive leadership has indirect negative effects on creativity as this approach deteriorates employees’ sleep patterns and increases their exhaustion, which results in lower creativity and engagement in creative processes (Han et al., 2017). It is mentioned that the relationship between these variables is rather weak, which allows researchers to express doubts regarding the link between abusive leadership and personnel’s creativity. Han et al. (2017) suggest that the link can be a result of the peculiarities of the employed methodology. Other significant limitations were associated with the causal relationship between emotional exhaustion or sleep patterns and work-related environment.

Another channel of the negative influence of abusive supervision on employees’ creativity is associated with social aspects. Employees tend to choose knowledge-hiding when exposed to abusive supervision, and this working environment decreases personnel’s creativity and hinders the effectiveness of creativity processes (Jahanzeb et al., 2019). People’s reciprocity beliefs have a strong impact on their attitude and responses to perceived abusive supervision. Knowledge hiding is one of the common reactions to abusive leadership due to a number of reasons (Jahanzeb et al., 2019). Employees are afraid of leaders who tend to manage rewards and other benefits, they also see knowledge concealment as an act that can be obscured rather easily. In addition, employees experiencing negative reciprocity may be willing to engage in behaviors that can harm the organization and the leader, in particular. Knowledge hiding is one of the methods to harm the organization and react to leaders’ abusive behavior.

The forms of abuse that resonate most with highly creative individuals are public criticism, aggressive outbursts in the workplace, rude demeanor and lack of respect, coercion, and belittlement of person or achievements. Additionally, creative individuals are much more likely to leave their company if they are abused, whereas employees who are less creative,such as manufacturing employees, are less likely to leave (Gerstein & Friedman, 2017; Gu, Tang & Jiang, 2015).

Abusive Supervision and Gender

Researchers have paid significant attention to the influence of abusive leadership on different genders. Abusive supervision can have a positive effect on male employees in the short-term perspective (Haryanto & Cahyono, 2019). Masculine employees can improve their performance after the occasional exposure to abusive supervision. However, male employees experiencing prolonged abusive leadership tend to underperform within a certain period of time. In such situations, the workplace environment becomes unfavorable, and deviant behaviors and a high rate of turnover may be present.

This pattern is not apparent among female employees. This population tends to perceive abusive leadership in a more intense manner (Pradhan et al., 2018). Female employees are more likely to make a decision to quit as compared to their male peers if they are exposed to their leaders’ abusive behaviors. Male employees tend to be more confident and defend themselves in different ways, including their engagement in deviant behaviors, while females try to avoid such negative experiences and choose to quit. At that, these findings although consistent with previous research are more typical of the Indian context as compared to North American trends (Pradhan et al., 2018). Based on the results, Pradhan et al. (2018) note that abusive leadership can hardly be eliminated, but its adverse outcomes can be mitigated with the help of educational interventions for leaders and employees aimed at the development of communication skills, collaboration, and conflict management. Gender differences are associated with the psychological peculiarities of genders making them use different coping strategies.

At the same time, Zhou et al. (2020) found no meaningful gender differences in terms of psychological distress, work-family conflicts, and the risk of alcohol abuse resulting from abusive supervision. In these domains, subordinates irrespective of gender were equally affected by the abusive behaviors of their leaders and responded similarly. Importantly, no direct link between alcohol abuse and negative leadership was identified (Zhou et al., 2020). Although these studies and reviews shed light on some peculiarities of employees’ reactions based on their gender, various gaps are yet to be filled. For instance, the role gender plays in choosing abusive supervision is under-researched.

Cultural Peculiarities and Abusive Leadership

The consequences of leaders’ abusive behavior can be shaped by the cultural peculiarities of followers. For instance, Asian and Western cultures differ in terms of the outcomes of abusive supervision, and researchers identify the positive effects of abusive leadership in the Asian context (Zhang & Liu, 2018). Being the culture with high power distance, Asia Pacific is the region where leaders expect a higher degree of obedience, and subordinates have a higher level of abuse tolerance. Employees often occupy a lower social layer, which makes them more submissive since they accept the authority of a person with a higher status (Zhang & Liu, 2018). These peculiarities are associated with certain favorable outcomes of abusive supervision as this type of leadership tends to have a favorable impact on employees’ performance. At that, the work in cross-cultural teams may be hindered due to the different perceptions of abuse and diverse reactions people of different cultures are likely to display.

Bregenzer et al. (2019) examined the relationship between abusive supervision and health-related and social resources of employees in high- and low-power-distance cultures. It was found that in high power contexts, employees need more health-related resources due to abusive leadership as they find this type of supervision inappropriate and counterproductive. At the same time, in low power distance cultures employees accept the authority of the supervisor whose abusive behavior is tolerated. Nevertheless, under abusive supervision, employees in such settings require more social resources, which facilitates the development of strong teams where team members support each other. This response to abusive supervision tends to lead to positive workplace outcomes, but it will not be favorable for high power distance cultures.

Another cultural dimension that can have a considerable effect on the relationship between abusive leadership and employee performance is future orientation. Followers’ future orientation has a moderating impact on the relationship between abusive supervision and organizational citizenship behavior, as well as the link between abusive leadership and employees’ originality behaviors (Yang et al., 2019). Employees who focus on future outcomes and long-term goals are less negatively affected by the abusive behavior of the leader and perform better. It has been found that employees’ seniority is linked to their responses to their leaders’ abusive behaviors. Junior subordinates are more likely to have a lower tolerance for abusive leadership, and the role of future orientation is less pronounced.

Yang et al. (2019) explain that this phenomenon can persist due to these employees’ fears and a lack of familiarity. It is suggested that companies may mitigate the adverse effects of abusive supervision by developing future orientation culture and facilitating job enrichment, job rotation, and originality incentives. Learning goal orientation also has a mediating impact and alleviates the negative consequences of abusive supervision (Islam et al., 2020). Islam et al (2020) mention that the Islamic work ethic can play a moderating role and dilute the negative outcomes of abusive leadership.

Other cultural domains also have an influence on the way negative leadership styles affect followers’ performance. Collectivism enhances the adverse effect of abusive leadership on employees’ social resources, which results in lower morale, creativity, and performance (Bregenzer et al., 2019). Although previous research found that health-promoting behaviors can mitigate the negative outcomes of abusive leadership in cultures characterized by a high degree of collectivism, Bregenzer et al. (2019) did not identify this kind of effect.

People who differ in terms of high-power and low-power distance are differently affected by the leader’s abusive behaviors. The negative implications of abusive supervision are stronger among the representatives of lower power distance cultures as compared to employees in high-power distance cultures (Park et al., 2017). In the Chinese context, it has been found that high-power-distance employees are more sensitive to abusive supervision and tend to engage more frequently in acquiescent silence (Lam & Xu, 2018). These employees are also unwilling to provide feedback, which is a common outcome of abusive leadership. Lam and Xu (2018) added that strong political organizational setting moderates considerably the impact of abusive supervision on employees’ silence and power distance orientation. High power orientation serves as a moderating factor that prevents employees’ deviant behaviors irrespective of the degree of the leader’s abusive behaviors (Hussain & Sia, 2017).

Masculinity contest cultures are characterized by a high level of abusive leadership in the work environment. This cultural domain is associated with high competitiveness, goal orientation, high levels of stress, and work/life conflict. The focus on goal attainment and achievements makes masculine cultures more prone to abusive supervision (Zhang et al., 2019). Moreover, employees’ reactions to abusive supervision differ in masculine and feminine cultural domains. The former is characterized by increased counterproductive work behavior in the presence of abusive leadership. Therefore, in masculine cultures, leaders’ abusive behavior results in enhanced adverse work outcomes as the performance of employees deteriorates substantially. The mediating factors for both cultures are organizational justice and work-related stress. Organizational justice displays a strong moderating effect, especially when ethical leadership is utilized. Nevertheless, Matos et al. (2018) described a surprising attitude of employees who displayed high work meaningfulness and work engagement irrespective of the toxic leadership style of their supervisors.

The experiences of immigrants and their response to abusive supervision also differ from the reactions of the majority of employees. One of the coping strategies for some immigrants is the rejection of cultural heritage that they find to be one of the primary reasons for their leaders’ abusive behaviors (Bernardo et al., 2018). Detachment from their heritage impairs immigrants’ physical state and mental health and can lead to rather negative outcomes, so abusive supervision may have detrimental effects on immigrants’ wellbeing.

Major Trends in Abusive Supervision Research

The research regarding abusive leadership is rather extensive, but some aspects still need further investigation. Zhang and Liu (2018) identified six emerging trends in abusive supervision research, including team-level climate, comparisons of theoretical perspectives, coworker impact, comparisons of objective and perceived behaviors, reciprocity, and abusive supervision inconsistency. Researches also explore the effects of inconsistent leadership when supervisors utilize transformational leadership and abusive supervision in different or even similar contexts (Mullen et al., 2018). Certain attention has been paid to the relationship between abusive leadership and the identity of the leader and followers (Epitropaki et al., 2017). Different dimensions of identity formation have been explored although diverse gaps remain unaddressed, including but not confined to antecedents and moderating factors.

Ethical leadership, morality, and ethics have become common concepts in recent research in abusive leadership. For instance, leaders’ moral identity and ethical behaviors are regarded as potent mediators and factors responsible for the decrease of abusive behaviors (Taylor et al., 2019). Subordinates’ with higher moral identity levels are affected more significantly both directly and indirectly by abusive supervision. For instance, supervisors experiencing abuse from their managers tend to choose less abusive leadership with their subordinated due to the disidentification with these abusive mangers. Therefore, the development of a strong culture based on high moral standards can mitigate the negative effects of abusive leadership.

The methodology used to explore diverse aspects of the phenomenon has also been discussed in academia. The negative impact of abusive leadership on employee performance, workplace environment, and other outcomes appears to be universal while the magnitude of the link between outcomes and antecedents of abusive supervision varies based on the studies’ design peculiarities (Mackey et al., 2017). Mackey et al. (2017) implemented a comprehensive meta-analysis and found that Tepper’s abusive supervision measurement was used in the reviewed studies, but the method was modified in various cases. The focus on frequency and the use of agreement scales were some of the most common alternations. These modifications were associated with certain differences in results regarding the magnitude of abusive leadership, which shows that perceived abusive behavior differs due to diverse factors.

Considerable attention is paid towards the strategies organizations can utilize to avoid abusive leadership or mitigate its negative outcomes. The enhancement of employees’ psychological capital is another method to mitigate the impact of abusive supervision (Raza et al., 2019). The minimization of abusive leadership can be achieved through various human resources methods, as well as staff training and development (Eissa & Lester, 2017). The focus on personal traits and diverse competencies development in leaders can minimize abusive supervision. Leaders can be trained to gain such skills as self-control, emotional intelligence, as well as time management, to name a few. Training for leaders may encompass the development of skills necessary for the use of supportive supervision strategies (Gonzalez-Morales et al., 2018). The focus can be on benevolence, experiential processing, fairness, and sincerity, which leads to the development of a favorable workplace environment and enhances employees’ motivation and productivity.

Both subordinates and leaders can also receive training regarding possible health-related outcomes of abusive behavior and different types of responses, which will be instrumental in making employees more responsible and willing to comply with high ethical standards (Lopes et al., 2018). When choosing the most appropriate training interventions, it is critical to it is important to pay attention to such cultural domains as power distance, collectivism, future orientation and other dimensions (Bregenzer et al., 2019; Zhang & Liu, 2018). Since employees perceive abusive supervision differently, their responses to abusive leadership and the coping strategies to be acquired tend to differ.

The creation of effective organizational culture is another goal as strong culture based on high moral standards and proactive relationships facilitated by psychological capital and different competences is regarded as a potential solution that can minimize abusive leadership and address its negative effects if leaders’ abusive behaviors persist (Ju et al., 2019). Suggested models and frameworks differ in terms of their focus and contexts, but they are aimed at reducing abusive leadership outcomes rather than the complete elimination of this phenomenon.


This literature review aimed to shed light on some of the more salient issues regarding workplace abuse. The first section of the literature review examined the present state of research regarding workplace abuse. The most notable elements that emanated from the review were the lack of policy concerning abuse and the breadth of research that deals with this phenomenon.

The literature suggests that most detrimental effects of abuse stem from vertical rather than horizontal abuse. Vertical abuse is present throughout almost every industry and includes leaders exerting significant influence on employees. This is because the authority and the power of managers and leaders who abuse their subordinates prevents or minimizes any form of effective response.

The literature review examined the consequences of abuse which can be divided into three key groups: physical, psychological, and economic. Although each of these has a strong impact on the wellbeing of employees, the most impactful are psychological and physical. Employees who endure abuse for prolonged periods face stress, elevated blood pressure, heart conditions, depression, anxiety, and psychotic breakdowns. All of these can severely diminish their work abilities. The effects of abusive leadership are evidenced by loss of productivity, deteriorating interpersonal relationships, and subsequent economic downturn, which can compromise companies’ positions in the market. Therefore, the most profound effect of abusive leadership on the creativity of employees comes from the deterioration of intrinsic motivation. Without motivation and enjoyment, creativity is diminished.

The review also addresses such aspects as the influence of culture and personal traits on employee performance under abusive supervision. It is clear that individual features, as well as cultural backgrounds, shape people’s attitudes and reactions to abusive leadership, which has to be considered when developing an effective organizational culture and launching educational incentives for employees. Training and staff development are seen as the most appropriate strategies to utilize to diminish abusive supervision and mitigates its negative workplace outcomes. Although diverse peculiarities of the relationship between abusive supervision and employee performance have been explored, certain gaps remain unaddressed. Further research may be concerned with interventions to eliminate or diminish the relationship between abusive leadership and employee productivity, as well as the development of an effective methodology to ensure the validity of obtained results and avoid any possible bias.


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