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When the boss is blue: examining the effects of supervisors' negative emotions on subordinates' cognitive work engagement and family undermining

Xi Wen Chan (School of Applied Psychology, Griffith Health, Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, Australia)
Thomas Kalliath (Research School of Management, College of Business and Economics, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
David Cheng (Research School of Management, College of Business and Economics, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)

Personnel Review

ISSN: 0048-3486

Article publication date: 3 August 2020

Issue publication date: 4 February 2021

1819

Abstract

Purpose

Research has largely shown that supervisors' negative emotions lead to subordinates' negative emotions and detrimental work outcomes, but recent studies are showing that supervisor negative emotions may yield both negative and positive subordinate behaviours. Drawing on the work–home resources model, this research sought to unpack the interpersonal, cross-domain effects of supervisor negative emotions on subordinate cognitive work engagement and family undermining through subordinate perceived leader effectiveness and self-efficacy to manage work and life.

Design/methodology/approach

To test the relationships, confirmatory factor analysis and structural equation modelling were conducted on time-lagged dyadic data collected from 372 supervisor–subordinate pairs.

Findings

Results revealed that supervisor negative emotions led to higher levels of subordinate cognitive work engagement and family undermining.

Research limitations/implications

Supervisor negative emotions had unintended consequences on subordinates' work and family outcomes – they enhanced subordinates' cognitive work engagement (positive work outcome) but also increased subordinates' family undermining (negative family outcome). Future studies could benefit from a diary study with a within-subject design since emotions are known to fluctuate in a day.

Practical implications

This research provides supervisors with insights about the consequences of their negative emotions on their subordinates, calls upon organisations to provide cognitive regulation training, and encourages subordinates to develop self-efficacy in managing their work and life.

Originality/value

This study is among the first to incorporate self-efficacy to manage work and life as a personal resource and subordinate family undermining as an outcome of supervisor negative emotions, which enhances understanding of the resource allocation and loss processes between supervisors and subordinates.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

We would like to thank our action editor, Professor Eddy Ng, and our two anonymous reviewers for their helpful and constructive feedback throughout the review process.

Citation

Chan, X.W., Kalliath, T. and Cheng, D. (2021), "When the boss is blue: examining the effects of supervisors' negative emotions on subordinates' cognitive work engagement and family undermining", Personnel Review, Vol. 50 No. 2, pp. 575-595. https://doi.org/10.1108/PR-04-2019-0177

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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