How do authoritarian leadership and abusive supervision jointly thwart follower proactivity? A social control perspective

Rui Li, Zhijun Chen, Huihua Zhang, Jinlian Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A number of studies have examined how employees regulate their behaviors in keeping with their leaders’ formal control (e.g., authoritarian leadership) or informal control (e.g., abusive supervision). Yet, these two lines of investigation are largely unintegrated. Drawing on a social control perspective, we integrate these two forms of controlling behaviors into one coherent model and link them to employee proactive behaviors. We propose that authoritarian leadership and abusive supervision substitute effects from each other in thwarting followers’ proactivity by increasing their perceived powerlessness. We then test our hypotheses with three field samples of Chinese supervisor-subordinate dyads, using different exemplary behaviors to operationalize proactivity (i.e., taking charge, personal initiative, and proactive performance). The findings across the three studies show that authoritarian leadership and abusive supervision weaken each other’s effects in terms of inhibiting subordinate proactive behaviors. Moreover, in our third study, perceived powerlessness mediates this interaction effect. These results, however, do not generalize to employee affiliative behaviors, operationalized as altruism, cooperation, and conscientious behaviors. The implications of our findings for theory and practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)930-956
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Management
Volume47
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021
Externally publishedYes

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