Masking wrongs through brilliance: the moderating effect of vision on the relationship between abusive supervision and employee outcomes

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Leaders who exhibit abusive supervision often engage in rudeness and public criticism of subordinates. However, numerous examples exist of leaders who demonstrate such behaviour, while also articulating an inspiring vision that serves to engage their followers. Despite the existence of leaders who exhibit both abusive supervisory behaviour and visionary characteristics, little research has explored how these two variables – both potent, yet divergent, predictors of leader effectiveness – interact to impact followers. The purpose of this study was therefore to examine whether vision serves to moderate the relationship between abusive supervision and two follower outcomes – follower performance (quantity, practicality, and creativity) and affective commitment. Across two experiments, we found support for the hypothesized buffering effect of leader vision on the relationship between abusive supervision and performance quantity, both when abusive supervision was examined in its generalized form (Study 1) and when separated based on performance promotion or injury initiation attributions (Study 2). Vision also mitigated the negative effects of abusive supervision on creativity in Study 1, though these effects were not replicated in Study 2. Overall, our findings suggest that a leader’s vision impacts the way that followers respond to abusive supervision. Implications for leaders and organizations as well as future research directions are discussed.


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