License to Retaliate: Good Deeds as a Moral License for Misdeeds in Reaction to Abusive Supervision

Lindie H. Liang, Claudie Coulombe, Sarah Skyvington, Douglas J. Brown, D. Lance Ferris, Huiwen Lian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Abusive supervision research demonstrates that subordinates often engage in deviance following abuse despite the negative consequences of doing so. Drawing on moral licensing theory, we propose that the relationship between abusive supervision and deviance is moderated by the extent to which subordinates perform positive voluntary work behaviors. We further suggest that moral disengagement moderates this moral licensing effect and that this relationship will hold when controlling for social exchange principles. In Study 1, we found that the relationship between abusive supervision and organizational deviance was strengthened by high organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and was not significant at low levels of OCB. In Study 2, we found that the moral licensing effect was strengthened in individuals with a propensity to morally disengage, even when controlling for negative reciprocity beliefs and social exchange orientation. Implications for moral licensing and abusive supervision research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-112
Number of pages19
JournalHuman Performance
Volume35
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China [71771133]; Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [430-2018-00053,435-2018-0629].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology (all)
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

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