To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Forgiveness and attribution: when abusive supervision enhances performance

Jun Yang (Department of Management, Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)
Yonghong Liu (Department of Management, Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)
Madelynn Stackhouse (Department of Management, Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)
Wei Wang (Graduate Center, City University of New York System, New York, New York, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 17 November 2020

Issue publication date: 5 December 2020

656

Abstract

Purpose

While much research shows that abusive supervision reduces employee performance, the purpose of this study is to reverse the lens to question how and under what circumstances abusive supervision leads to enhanced employee performance. The authors argue that the linkages between abusive supervision and employee performance occurs via performance-promotion attributions and that employee levels of dispositional forgiveness alter the relationship between abusive supervision and employee interpretations of abuse, such that more forgiving individuals interpret abuse as more benign behavior designed to help them perform better (i.e. are performance promoting).

Design/methodology/approach

In a three-wave field survey of 318 employees matched with 89 supervisors, employees completed measures of dispositional forgiveness (Time 1) abusive supervision (Time 1), and performance-promotion attributions of abusive supervision's motives (Time 2). Supervisors rated the job performance of their employees (Time 3). Multilevel structural equation modeling was employed to test a multilevel moderated mediation model.

Findings

The findings indicate abusive supervision predicts diminished employee performance only when employees are low in dispositional forgiveness, explained by lowered performance-promotion attributions for abusive supervision.

Originality/value

This study is the first to explore the mechanism (i.e. attribution of abusive supervision's motives to be performance-promoting) and the condition (i.e. employee's high forgiveness) under which abusive supervision may be performance enhancing. It extends the research of abusive supervision on employees' constructive reactions, as well as the effect of dispositional forgiveness on how it reframes employees' attributions of workplace mistreatment.

Keywords

Citation

Yang, J., Liu, Y., Stackhouse, M. and Wang, W. (2020), "Forgiveness and attribution: when abusive supervision enhances performance", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 35 No. 7/8, pp. 575-587. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMP-04-2019-0239

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

Related articles