Troester, Christian and Niels Van Quaquebeke

When Victims Help their Abusive Supervisors: The Role of LMX, Self-Blame, and Guilt.

Academy of Management Journal, (In press).

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Abstract: Studies on abusive supervision typically posit that targets of abuse will either directly blame the perpetrating supervisor or indirectly blame the organization for allowing the abuse, and as a result reduce their cooperativeness at work. We pivot from this predominant logic and argue that, under certain circumstances, targets of abusive supervision may blame themselves, feel guilty, and then try to make it up to their abusive supervisors by helping them more. Drawing on the emotional process theory of abusive supervision and the more general socio-functional perspective of emotions, we specify that such a dynamic is more likely to ensue when subordinates otherwise experience the relationship with their supervisors as good (high LMX). Two studies—an experiment and a two-weeks bi-daily experience sampling study—provide support for our reasoning. As such, our study extends theorizing on the consequences of abusive supervision, which has typically found that it reduces cooperative behaviors. Moreover, it contributes to previous speculations that leaders may engage in abusive supervision because it has beneficial consequences for them.

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