How does abusive supervision hurt employees? The role of positive psychological capital

Document Type


Department or Administrative Unit


Publication Date




The purpose of this research was to understand the mediating role of employee positive psychological capital on the negative relationship between abusive supervision and employee outcomes.


The research design consisted of a multi-wave study with a heterogeneous sample of working adults in the United States. Study variables included the independent variable of abusive supervision, the mediating variable of positive psychological capital and the dependent variables of psychological well-being, job satisfaction and general health.


Results from 293 working adults in the United States suggest employee positive psychological capital is an explanatory mechanism as a mediator in the relationship between abusive supervision and outcomes. In other words, abusive supervisors reduce employee psychological capital leading to sub-optimal outcomes.

Practical implications

Results of this study suggest several practical implications, however one is primary. In sum, we found the deleterious effects of abusive supervisors occur through positive psychological capital. While it is often difficult to immediately terminate manager employment for abusive supervision, results here suggest firms can use psychological capital interventions to buffer the negative impact of abusive supervisors.


It is well understood that abusive supervision has a negative impact on employees. However, the underlying mechanisms of how and why this occurs is not well understood. While much research has speculated on why this happens prior to this study, few explanatory mechanisms have been subjected to empirical tests.


This article was originally published in International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management


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