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Potential buffering effect of being a right-hand subordinate on the influence of abusive supervision

Iris D. Zhang (School of Management, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, China)
Yina Mao (Department of Human Resource Management, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China)
Chi-Sum Wong (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China) (Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 3 February 2023

Issue publication date: 8 March 2023




The purpose of this paper is to borrow the concept of right-hand person as a specific type of work arrangement and propose a moderated mediation model highlighting the important role of work arrangement in affecting the relationship between abusive supervision and subordinate work outcomes.


The authors tested the hypotheses with a sample of 275 supervisor–subordinate dyads in China (68.8% response rate).


Results showed that if the subordinate was a right-hand person of the supervisor, abusive supervision played a relatively weaker role on the subordinates' performance and organizational citizenship behaviors through leader–member exchange (LMX).

Practical implications

Abusive supervision is a major concern in contemporary organizations, and the current research found that work arrangement such as being a right-hand subordinate could buffer its negative effects. This finding indicates that it is important for organizations and supervisors to make clear work and role assignments.


Abusive supervision has received a lot of research attention in the past decades. On top of the nature of supervisory abusive behaviors, researchers have investigated its antecedents and consequences. However, little is known concerning the roles of the work arrangement for the subordinate that may affect the impact of abusive supervision on subordinate work outcomes. This study empirically tests that being a right-hand subordinate may weaken the negative effect of abusive supervision on subordinate performance and organizational citizenship behaviors, which highlight the importance of work arrangement in studying abusive supervision.



The authors acknowledge that the work in this article (LODJ-05–2022–0216 entitled “Potential Buffering Effect of Being a Right-Hand Subordinate on the Influence of Abusive Supervision”) was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NNSFC; Project No.: 72272044 and 71872083).


Zhang, I.D., Mao, Y. and Wong, C.-S. (2023), "Potential buffering effect of being a right-hand subordinate on the influence of abusive supervision", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 44 No. 1, pp. 72-86.



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