بخشی از مقاله (انگلیسی)
To understand the relationship between employee performance and abusive reactions from supervisors, we examine the role of supervisors' attributions about employees' performance. Drawing on the fundamental attribution error, we argue that supervisors over-attribute lower levels of performance to employees' internal factors (i.e., conscientiousness), which then triggers higher levels of abusive supervision. In Study 1, we collected data from 189 supervisor–employee dyads. The results indicated that lower levels of supervisor-rated employee performance related to supervisor biased attributions to employee conscientiousness, which in turn resulted in employee-rated abusive supervision. In Study 2, we combined a recall task with a vignette design to replicate and extend our findings. We demonstrated that after adjusting for the baseline level of employee conscientiousness, supervisors overattributed poor performance to employee conscientiousness and then engaged in higher levels of abusive behaviors. Further, consistent with premises of fundamental attribution error, we found that in the absence of information about who was at fault for poor performance, supervisors over-attributed poor performance to internal factors (employee) as compared to external factors (software malfunction). Taken together, our findings demonstrate that biased attributions about employee conscientiousness help explain the relationship between employee performance and abusive supervision.
1 | INTRODUCTION
Abusive supervision represents a range of negative behaviors directed at employees (Tepper, 2002). Not surprisingly, previous research has demonstrated an array of adverse consequences related to abusive behaviors from supervisors, including reduced employee well-being, lower job satisfaction, higher levels of work–family conflict, increased depression, and higher levels of emotional exhaustion (Hershcovis & Barling, 2010; Mackey et al., 2017). Recognizing that even a low-base phenomenon can significantly damage employee and organizational outcomes, research on abusive supervision has exploded in recent years (see Tepper et al., 2017). Notwithstanding recent advancements in this area of research, we have much to learn about the mechanisms that help explain abusive behaviors (see Zhang & Bednall, 2016).
In this paper, we consider a cognitive mechanism for explaining abusive supervisory reactions: We posit that supervisors may engage in abusive behaviors based on potentially biased attributions of observed behaviors (employee performance) to employee personality (employee conscientiousness). More specifically, we explore whether supervisors over-attribute performance issues to employee lower conscientiousness yielding higher levels of abusive supervision.1 We theorize that it is not necessarily actual employees' conscientiousness, but rather how supervisors make sense of employees' behaviors that explains higher levels of abusive supervision. Drawing on the fundamental attribution error (FAE, Ross, 1977), we theorize that supervisors, like all of us, are prone to make biased attributions of observed behaviors to internal factors. These attributions, in turn, can give rise to negative behaviors such as abusive supervision directed at the employee. Thus, we demonstrate that supervisors may engage in higher levels of harming their employees as a result of unconscious perceptual biases.
In this paper, we investigated the extent to which lower levels of employee performance related to higher levels of abusive supervision and theorized that supervisor attributions to employee dispositional characteristics (i.e., conscientiousness) play a key role in this relationship. We consider the notion that supervisors may engage in more abusive behaviors as a result of perceptual biases. The current paper examined whether supervisor attributions of employee performance to employee internal factors influence supervisors to engage in more abusive supervision toward the employee. We demonstrated that supervisors have a tendency to over-attribute lower performance to employees' lower conscientiousness, which in turn relates to higher levels of abusive behaviors. In addition, our results provide a direct test of FAE by showing that supervisors assign more blame to internal factors (i.e., employee) rather than external factors (i.e., software malfunction) in the absence of information about the cause of poor performance. Overall, our findings show that supervisors are prone to perceptual biases that lead them to engage in more abusive behaviors. LYUBYKH ET AL. 15 We suggest researchers investigate what strategies supervisors can use to reduce the strength of attributional biases.