Symposium 1369 - Abusive Leadership: A Matter Of Actual Behaviour Or Followers' Subjective Perception Bias?

Leadership and followership
Saturday May 20   11:30 AM to 12:30 PM (1 hour)
Prevention and intervention
Abusive leadership: A matter of actual behaviour or followers' subjective perception bias?
B. Schyns 1,*, J. Felfe 2, J. Schilling 3
1Durham University Business School, Durham, United Kingdom, 2Helmut-Schmidt University, Hamburg, 3University of Applied Administrative Sciences Hannover, Hannover, Germany
Main Abstract Content: Purpose: There is a growing interest in understanding perception and emergence of destructive leadership. Abusive supervision is explicitly defined as follower perception and ratings are interpreted as actual leader behavior. It is an open question in how far followers’ ratings reflect actual behavior or is prone to perceiver biases caused by categorization (Lord & Emrich, 2001) or negative affectivity, and cynical attribution (Zhang & Bednall, 2015). Moreover there are concerns with causality: followers' poor performance may lead to negative reactions of the leader which are perceived as abusive.
Design/Methodology: This study with N = 310 employees used a vignettes to examine the influence of leadership behaviours (constructive, laissez faire, low and high abusive) and followers’ characteristics (e.g., suspicion, dark triad) on the perception and the reaction. Manipulating the behaviour allows separating followers’ and leaders’ effects, and controlling for causality. An additional study using a similar approach, included attribution processes (external – internal).
Results: As expected, the results showed that the variation of leadership behavior results in systematic differences in perception and reaction. We also found that the relationship between displayed abusive supervision behaviors and reactions (quitting, anger, complaining, and acceptance) were mediated by perception. Contrary to expectations followers’ personality did not impact perception or reaction.
Limitations: The external validity of vignettes may be limited.
Research/Practical Implications: The study underpins the validity of follower ratings as a appropriate reflection of abusive leadership.
Originality/Value: This is the first study to detangle effects of leader behavior and follower perception bias. 


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