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Understanding the use of intimidation as a response to job tension: Career implications for the global leader

Vickie Coleman Gallagher (College of Business, Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights, Kentucky, USA)
Kenneth J. Harris (School of Business, Indiana University Southeast, New Albany, Indiana, USA)
Matthew Valle (Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, Elon University, Elon, North Carolina, USA)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 24 October 2008




The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between job tension (JT) and the use of intimidation in the workplace, as well as positive and negative affectivity as two potential personality trait moderators of this relationship.


The paper hypothesizes that employees would use more intimidation when they perceive higher levels of JT based on a fight response. Furthermore, it hypothesizes that when JT was high, people high in negative affectivity would use more intimidation in the workplace due to trait activation, whereas individuals high in positive affectivity would use less intimidation due to greater resource pools. The hypotheses was tested with a sample of 134 employees from a wide range of occupations and industries who completed an online survey measuring their levels of felt JT, usage of intimidation behaviors, and self‐reported affectivity.


Hierarchical moderated regression analyses revealed that JT was positively related to intimidation usage. The analyses also showed support for negative affectivity as a moderator, such that high levels of intimidation occurred when JT and negative affectivity were both high. Positive affectivity did not moderate the relationship.


Although persons high in negative affectivity are particularly vulnerable to the effects of JT, organizations must be aware of the potential for behaviors (e.g. intimidation) that can result from felt tension. Prior research has primarily viewed tension as an outcome variable; the research conceptualizes tension as an antecedent in the stressor‐strain‐outcome paradigm. Intimidation is shown to be an outcome of workplace tension – a behavioral reaction to psychological strain that is an attempt to protect valued resources.



Coleman Gallagher, V., Harris, K.J. and Valle, M. (2008), "Understanding the use of intimidation as a response to job tension: Career implications for the global leader", Career Development International, Vol. 13 No. 7, pp. 648-666.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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