You Abuse and I Criticize: An Ego Depletion and Leader–Member Exchange Examination of Abusive Supervision and Destructive Voice

Journal of Business Ethics 164 (3):579-591 (2020)
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We draw from ego depletion and leader–member exchange theories to provide nuanced insight into why abusive supervision is indirectly associated with supervisor-directed destructive voice. A multi-wave, multi-source field study demonstrates evidence that abusive supervision has a positive conditional indirect effect on supervisor-directed destructive voice through subordinates’ relational ego depletion with their supervisors that is stronger for higher LMX differentiation contexts than lower LMX differentiation contexts. We make novel theoretical, empirical, and practical contributions by providing a parsimonious explanation for why relational aspects of supervisory treatment drain subordinates’ capacities for controlling their volitional actions during interactions with their supervisors and how this relationship impacts subordinates’ supervisor-directed destructive voice. Overall, our study extends the application of ego depletion and LMX theories to the examination of abusive supervision and destructive voice in order to meaningfully inform researchers’ attempts to build cohesive streams of research in these areas and practitioners’ attempts to promote ethical workplace environments.



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Lei Huang
University of Western Australia