Forgiveness and attribution: when abusive supervision enhances performance

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Yonghong (Tracy) Liu, Assistant Professor (Creator)
Madelynn Stackhouse, Assistant Professor (Creator)
Jun "Michelle" Yang, Assistant Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: Purpose: While much research shows that abusive supervision reduces employee performance, the purpose of this study is to reverse the lens to question how and under what circumstances abusive supervision leads to enhanced employee performance. The authors argue that the linkages between abusive supervision and employee performance occurs via performance-promotion attributions and that employee levels of dispositional forgiveness alter the relationship between abusive supervision and employee interpretations of abuse, such that more forgiving individuals interpret abuse as more benign behavior designed to help them perform better (i.e. are performance promoting). Design/methodology/approach: In a three-wave field survey of 318 employees matched with 89 supervisors, employees completed measures of dispositional forgiveness (Time 1) abusive supervision (Time 1), and performance-promotion attributions of abusive supervision's motives (Time 2). Supervisors rated the job performance of their employees (Time 3). Multilevel structural equation modeling was employed to test a multilevel moderated mediation model. Findings: The findings indicate abusive supervision predicts diminished employee performance only when employees are low in dispositional forgiveness, explained by lowered performance-promotion attributions for abusive supervision. Originality/value: This study is the first to explore the mechanism (i.e. attribution of abusive supervision's motives to be performance-promoting) and the condition (i.e. employee's high forgiveness) under which abusive supervision may be performance enhancing. It extends the research of abusive supervision on employees' constructive reactions, as well as the effect of dispositional forgiveness on how it reframes employees' attributions of workplace mistreatment.

Additional Information

Journal of Managerial Psychology, 35(7/8), 575-587.
Language: English
Date: 2020
abusive personality, job performance, attributions, personality

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