The Dark Side of Leadership: A Three-Level Investigation of the Cascading Effect of Abusive Supervision on Employee Creativity

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" Academy of Management Journal 2012. Vol. 55. No. 5. 1187-1212. hltp://

THE DARK SIDE OF LEADERSHIP: A THREE-LEVEL INVESTIGATION OF THE CASCADING EFFECT OF ABUSIVE SUPERVISION ON EMPLOYEE CREATIVITY DONG LIU Georgia Institute of Technology HUILIAO University of Maryland RAYMOND LOI University of Macau This research sheds light on the role of the dark side of leadership in employee creativity by examining how and when department leader abusive supervision may flow down organizational levels to undermine team member creativity. Analyses of multiphase, multisource, and multilevel data show that team leader abusive supervision mediates the negative relationship between department leader abusive supervision and team member creativity. Team leaders' and members' attributions for the motives behind their own supervisors' abusive supervision, which we classify as performance-promotion and injury-initiation motives, determine the extent to which team leader abusive supervision accounts for the effect of department leader abusive supervision on team member creativity.

Because of the rapidly changing economy and continuing globalization of business, employee creativity—referring to the development of novel and useful ideas about products, practices, services or procedures—has become increasingly crucial for the survival and competitiveness of organizations today (Shalley, Gilson, & Blum, 2009). A plethora of research has looked at the link between positive leader behaviors such as "transformational leadership" and employee creativity (e.g.. Shin & Zhou, 2003). Nevertheless, existing knowledge on the role of leadership in employee creativity remains incomplete because little is known as to whether the dark side of leadership in general and abusive supervision in particular may affect creative performance of employees. Drawing on a comprehensive review of psychological studies, Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Finkenauer, and Vohs (2001) concluded that a general principle across a broad range of

Editor's note: The manuscript for this article was accepted for publication during the term of AMfs former editor-in-chief, R. Duane Ireland. We thank our action editor, Jason Golquitt, three anonymous reviewers, and Subrahmaniam Tangirala for helpful comments and suggestions. We are also grateful to Edward Timothy and Susan Lau for their invaluable assistance in data collection. 1187

psychological phenomena is that individuals are more responsive to negative than to positive aspects of external context, so the negative contextual aspects thus tend to have stronger influence on individual attitudes and behaviors than the positive ones. More recently, Zhou (2010) pointed out that a critical and fruitful future avenue for research on creativity would be to explore the relationship between the negative side of leadership and employee creativity. Given the prevalence and far-reaching impact of abusive supervision (Tepper, 2007; Tepper, Carr, Breaux, Geider, Hu, & Hua, 2009), it is of both theoretical and empirical importance to illuminate the influence of abusive supervision on employee creativity as well as tbe boundary conditions for this influence. Tepper conceptualized abusive supervision as leaders' engagement in "the sustained display of hostile, verbal and nonverbal behaviors, excluding physical contact" (2000: 178). A number of studies have reported that, owing to their higher organizational positions and stronger decisional power, leaders are inclined to exhibit abusive supervisory behaviors such as ridiculing, yelling at, and intimidating subordinates; taking credit for subordinates' achievements; and attributing undesirable outcomes to subordinates' personal factors (e.g., Hoobler & Brass, 2006; Tepper et al, 2009). Tepper,

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