Abusive supervision as a symbolic act: The roles of shame and power distance

Publication Type

Conference Proceeding Article

Publication Date



The literature on abusive supervision consistently links abused subordinates’ anger with employee deviance. However, with the exception of anger, there is a dearth of research assessing how, and under what conditions, other discrete negative emotions may mediate the relations between abusive supervision and employee deviance. In this study, we explore guilt and shame, in addition to anger, as potential mediators of the relations between abusive supervision and employee deviance. We also explore the potential boundary conditions of power distance orientation in affecting the relations between abusive supervision and the experienced emotions and the relations between the discrete emotions and outcomes (i.e., organizational, interpersonal, and supervisor-directed deviance). Three-wave survey data from a sample of 364 subordinates indicate that abusive supervision primarily leads to employee deviance through employee guilt. In addition, high power distance subordinates, compared to low power distance subordinates, are less likely to experience anger, but more likely to experience guilt and shame. Further, power distance orientation moderates the positive relationships between the guilt and all types of deviance, such that high power distance subordinates are more likely to act deviantly.


Human Resources Management | Organizational Behavior and Theory

Research Areas

Organisational Behaviour and Human Resources


Academy of Management Proceedings 2017




Academy of Management

City or Country

Atlanta, Georgia

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