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Abusive Supervision Dispersion: An Affective Events Theory Perspective

aPrincipal Consultant, Australia
bUQ Business School, The University of Queensland, Australia
cThe University of Queensland, Australia

Emotion in Organizations

ISBN: 978-1-83797-251-7, eISBN: 978-1-83797-250-0

Publication date: 29 January 2024



The existing literature on abusive supervision, defined as a perception by subordinates that their supervisor displays hostility toward them (but falling short of physical abuse), is deficient insofar as it fails to account for workgroup differences in employees' perceptions of abusive supervision. We therefore sought to study such differences, which refer to as “abusive supervision dispersion (ASD).”


We interviewed 40 employees from a variety of organizations in Australia, focusing on the role of affective events in ASD dynamics, with a view to understanding how this phenomenon relates to individual and team processes.


We found that ASD stimulates employees to harbor negative emotions and resentment toward their supervisor, causing them to perceive even positive events negatively. We found further that, while low ASD facilitates team-member exchange by forcing abused members to band together resulting in low team conflict, high dispersion facilitates formation of subgroups and high team conflict.


These findings illuminate the paradoxical nature of ASD and suggest that employees experience dispersion through three paradoxes: (1) dispersion paradox, (2) resentment paradox, and (3) team paradox. Overall, these findings suggest that subordinates' perceptions of high ASD are associated with detrimental impacts on team performance.



Nguyen, H., Ashkanasy, N.M. and Parker, S. (2024), "Abusive Supervision Dispersion: An Affective Events Theory Perspective", Ashkanasy, N.M., Troth, A.C. and Humphrey, R.H. (Ed.) Emotion in Organizations (Research on Emotion in Organizations, Vol. 19), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 57-83.



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