Abusive supervisors result to less productivity, higher costs in work places, researchers from the University of Texas (UT) in the U.S. city of Dallas said.
Abusive supervision refers to subordinates’ perceptions of supervisors engaging in sustained hostile verbal and non-verbal behaviors, excluding physical contact.
Junfeng Wu, assistant professor, Strategy and International Management at the UT’s Naveen Jindal School of Management, said; “abusive supervision in the workplace is quite a prevalent phenomenon, and employees should not have to suffer from this.
“Our study shows that there are certain costs associated with abusive supervisors and even the leaders who engage in abusive supervision do not benefit from it.
“We want to convey this important message to organization leaders in order to have them stop these kinds of behaviours,” Wu said.
It can affect employees’ well-being, health and work performance.
Research has shown that abusive supervision affects more than 13 per cent of U.S. workers. Costs incurred by corporations because of absenteeism, health care costs and lost productivity have been estimated at 23.8 billion U.S. dollars annually.
Wu and his co-authors also found that those who experience abusive supervision tend to emulate such abusive behaviors and even bully their co-workers.
“Employees see their leader as a role model in the workplace and they tend to follow suit.
“This is a social learning effect.”
They also explored whether the impact of abusive supervision on employees’ perceptions of justice and deviant behavior differ based on cultural values.
Power distance is a national cultural value that captures the extent to which people tolerate power differences in interpersonal relationships.
In countries with lower power distance, such as the U.S., people tend to feel that power should be equally distributed.
However, in countries with higher power distance, such as Japan, people tend to have more tolerance for the inequalities of power distributions.
Wu said the cross-cultural aspects of this study have important implications for international companies.
For example, if a manager from a higher power distance country is assigned to work in a lower power distance country, he should be aware that employees will not tolerate abusive supervision behaviors due to their lower power distance orientation values.
They suggested that organisations should use leadership development programmes, coach supervisors and pay more attention to employee feedback to reduce the occurrence of abusive supervision in the workplace.