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How abusive supervision ultimately might enhance performance ratings among silent, neurotic employees

Dirk De Clercq (Goodman School of Business, Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada)
Sadia Jahanzeb (Goodman School of Business, Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada)
Tasneem Fatima (International Islamic University, Islamabad, Pakistan)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 21 October 2020

Issue publication date: 29 June 2021

709

Abstract

Purpose

With a theoretical anchoring in the conservation of resources (COR) theory, this study investigates how employees' exposure to abusive supervision ultimately might lead to enhanced supervisor ratings of their job performance because employees react with defensive silence. Employees' neuroticism also might catalyze this process.

Design/methodology/approach

Multi-source, three-wave data were collected from employees and their supervisors in the power-distant, collectivistic country of Pakistan.

Findings

Beliefs about the presence of verbally abusive leaders, somewhat ironically, mitigate the risk of diminished supervisor-rated performance evaluations to the extent that those beliefs prompt employees to engage in self-protective behaviors to avoid confrontations with the abusive leaders. This mediating role of defensive silence is invigorated to the extent that employees' personalities make them more sensitive to stressful work situations.

Practical implications

For practitioners, this study identifies self-protective silence as a key, potentially worrisome mechanism that employees in power-distant, collectivistic countries may use to avoid negative performance ratings by leaders they perceive as abusive, and it reveals how this process tends to vary across different employees.

Originality/value

This research cites a critical, unexplored factor through which verbally abused employees can avoid negative performance evaluations, by engaging in defensive silence, not only as a potentially detrimental solution but also as an effective short-term solution. It further clarifies that this process is more likely to occur among neurotic employees.

Keywords

Citation

De Clercq, D., Jahanzeb, S. and Fatima, T. (2021), "How abusive supervision ultimately might enhance performance ratings among silent, neurotic employees", Personnel Review, Vol. 50 No. 5, pp. 1297-1315. https://doi.org/10.1108/PR-01-2020-0007

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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