Can abusive supervision prompt supervisor-directed helping? Yes! The role of LMX, locus of control, and guilt

Past event — 13 February 2019

Kühne Logistics University
Grosser Grasbrook 17, 20457 Hamburg, Room EE Lecture 2

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Prof. Christian Tröster, PhD

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior

Kühne Logistics University - KLU

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Studies typically find that employees responds to abusive supervision with reduced helping. Most of these studies take the perspective that the target of the abuse will blame the supervisor or the organization and thus will reduce their cooperativeness. Building on psychological research on (sexual) abuse, we, however, argue that under certain circumstances victims of abusive supervision may blame themselves for the abuse, feel guilty, and then try to make it up to their abusive supervisors by helping them more. In this dynamic, we posit that abusive supervision targets are more likely to feel guilty when a) they otherwise experience the relationship with their supervisors to be good (high LMX) and b) have an internal locus of control. Three studies—a time-lagged study, a two-week daily survey study, and an experiment—provide support for our reasoning. As such, our study not only significantly extends theorizing on consequences of abusive supervision, but it can also provide a parsimonious explanation why supervisors may continue to engage in abusive supervision - because it helps them get what they want.
Co-author: Prof. Niels Van Quaquebeke


Dr. Christian Tröster is Associate Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the KLU. A sociologist by trade, he received his PhD with a focus on organizational behavior from the Rotterdam School of Management (Erasmus University) (NL). He is a frequent visitor to top business schools around the world and had been a visiting Assistant Professor at the Singapore Management University from 2010-2011 before joining KLU.

In his research, Christian Tröster explores questions regarding people’s selves and their identity. Specifically, he investigates why people often respond in adverse and sometimes self-defeating ways when they do less well than others and how they can develop ways to use this information for their benefit. Second, he is interested in how one’s identity influences a person’s behavior in a culturally diverse workforce to understand why diverse groups often underperform in comparison to more homogeneous teams (and to change this). Finally, he uses (social) psychological theory to research how people shape and at the same time are being shaped by the complex – and to them often unknown - patterns of social networks surrounding them. His research has been published in top-tier journals and is currently funded by the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft). Currently, he serves on the editorial board of the Leadership Quarterly.


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Birgit Kappert

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