Abusive supervision and retaliation: A self-control framework

Huiwen Lian, Douglas J. Brown, D. Lance Ferris, Lindie H. Liang, Lisa M. Keeping, Rachel Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

212 Scopus citations


There are conflicting perspectives on whether subordinates will or will not aggress against an abusive supervisor. To address this paradox we develop a self-control model of retaliatory behavior, wherein subordinates' self-control capacity and motivation to selfcontrol influence emotional and retaliatory reactions to provocations by enabling individuals to override their hostile impulses. In Study 1, we demonstrate that self-control capacity, motivation to self-control (supervisor coercive power), and abusive supervision interact in such a way that the strongest association between abusive supervision and supervisor-directed aggression occurs when subordinates are low in self-control capacity and perceive their supervisor to be low in coercive power. In Study 2, we extend this finding, testing a moderated mediation model, wherein hostility toward a supervisor represents the hostile impulse resulting in retaliatory behavior, mediating the relation between abusive supervision and supervisor-directed aggression. Results from Study 2 indicate that self-control capacity allows individuals to regulate the hostile feelings experienced following abusive supervision, while self-control capacity and supervisor coercive power jointly moderate the tendency to act on one's hostile feelings toward an abusive supervisor. We discuss implications for retaliatory behaviors at work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-139
Number of pages24
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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