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Worse-off than others? Abusive supervision’s effects in teams

Chen Zhao (School of Economics and Management, Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, Beijing, China)
Zhonghua Gao (College of Business Administration, Capital University of Economics and Business, Beijing, China)
Yonghong Liu (Bryan School of Business and Economics, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Article publication date: 3 October 2018

Issue publication date: 18 October 2018




The purpose of this paper is to examine how relative abusive supervision (i.e. team member’s perceived abusive supervision as compared with the team mean) influences team member’s job attitudes through the mediating role of relative leader–member exchange. This study also explores the cross-level moderating roles of team-level abusive supervision and team-level leader–member exchange (LMX) in the process.


This study used two-wave data from 1,479 employees in 145 work teams, and tested a cross-level moderated mediation model using multilevel structural equation modeling.


Results demonstrate that the negative indirect effects of relative abusive supervision on job satisfaction and team affective commitment through relative LMX are stronger when team-level abusive supervision is low rather than high.


Integrating LMX theory with a relative deprivation perspective, this study conceptualizes and operationalizes relative abusive supervision, develops an individual-within-group model of abusive supervision’s consequences in teams and demonstrates a cross-level moderating effect of team-level abusive supervision in buffering relative abusive supervision’s negative consequences.



This work was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos 71572119; 71672118; 71302170; 71302119).


Zhao, C., Gao, Z. and Liu, Y. (2018), "Worse-off than others? Abusive supervision’s effects in teams", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 33 No. 6, pp. 418-436.



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