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J Appl Psychol. 2006 Sep;91(5):1125-33.

Abusive supervision and family undermining as displaced aggression.

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  • 1Department of Managerial Studies, College of Business Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.


This study focuses on factors that contribute to abusive supervision, one form of nonphysical aggression, and the results of such abuse on subordinates and their family members. Using a "kick the dog" metaphor (As Marcus-Newhall, Pedersen, Carlson, and Miller (2000) state, this is a "commonly used anecdote to illustrate displaced aggression. . .a man is berated by his boss but does not retaliate because he fears losing his job. Hours later, when he arrives home to the greeting barks of his dog he responds by kicking it," p. 670), the authors investigated whether abusive supervision may be the result of a supervisor's displeasure with his or her organization. Using a sample of 210 supervisors, their subordinates, and the subordinates' family members or partners, the authors hypothesized that supervisors' reports of psychological contract violations, moderated by hostile attribution bias, would be associated with subordinates' perceptions of abusive supervision. In turn, the authors hypothesized that abused subordinates' family members would report sustained negative affect and negative evaluations directed toward them in the home. The hypotheses were supported.

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