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Do two rights fix a wrong? A study of employee and organizational responses to abusive supervision in New Zealand

Organizational justice theories suggest that employees who are abused by their supervisor are likely to respond with lower job and personal outcomes. However, an under-explored area has been the influence of support perceptions. The present study suggests that perceived supervisor support (PSS) and perceived organizational support (POS) may moderate the influence of abusive supervision, and this was tested with three-way interactions. Data was collected from two samples: (1) 100 blue-collar workers in construction and (2) 218 random Maori employees from a variety of industries and professions. Structural equation modeling confirmed the unique constructs of the study measures towards abusive supervision and PSS and POS. Direct effects showed abusive supervision was significant and negative in both samples towards life satisfaction, job satisfaction, and organizational-based self-esteem (OBSE), and significant and positive in both samples towards turnover intentions, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The results indicated that abusive supervision accounted for large amounts of variance towards all outcomes, with the exception of life satisfaction in study two (7%), and insomnia (8% in study one, and 4% in study two), ranging from 13%-32% variance. Significant three-way interactions were found for all outcomes except turnover intentions and insomnia. The three-way interaction towards life satisfaction in study one indicated that under abusive supervision, respondents with high PSS and high POS experienced the greatest levels of life satisfaction. Similar relationships were found toward depression (study one and two) and anxiety (study one), showing that respondents who experienced high abusive supervision, high PSS, and high POS had the lowest levels of negative mental health outcomes amongst all abused respondents. This suggested a potentially cumulative effect of multiple sources of support. Furthermore, towards job satisfaction in study two, findings show respondents with high abusive supervision and high POS reported the highest job satisfaction, irrespective of levels of PSS. A similar relationship was found toward OBSE in study two, suggesting that of the support variables examined, POS may have greater effect on outcomes, thereby supporting research of Dawley, Andrews and Bucklew (2008) who found POS to be the best predictor of organizational outcomes. Overall, this paper supports the notion that perceptions of support may moderate the influence of abusive supervision perceptions on employee’s work and personal outcomes. The findings show that while abusive supervision can play a dominant role on outcomes, this can be somewhat nullified by greater support from the organization. This has strong implications for firms dealing with problem supervisors, signaling the importance of establishing POS, and emphasizing that creating a supportive organization may be the first step to enabling employees to develop positive work and individual outcomes.
Type of thesis
de Fluiter, A. J. (2011). Do two rights fix a wrong? A study of employee and organizational responses to abusive supervision in New Zealand (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5293
University of Waikato
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