Finding the silver lining: why and when abusive supervision improves the objective service performance of abused employees

Ahsan Ali, Hussain Tariq, Yanling Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The abusive supervision literature commonly suggests that employees who experience abuse from their supervisors may blame either the supervisors or the organization for the misconduct, leading to reduced job performance as a form of retaliation to ‘even the scales’. However, this study contributes to a recent stream of research that suggests one positive aspect of abusive supervision by highlighting the bright side of self-blame, where abused employees engage in prosocial behaviors to improve their situation, in order to negate any perception of themselves as victims. Drawing on the social cognitive theory of self-regulation, this study predicts a dual-stage moderated mediation pattern linking abusive supervision to objective service performance via abused employees’ self-blame, with interpersonal justice and work centrality as the first-stage moderators and core self-evaluation as a second-stage moderator. Using time-lagged and multi-source data collected from 411 employees, this study found that in a context of high interpersonal justice, work centrality, and core self-evaluation, abused employees blame themselves for the abusive supervision to negate any perception of themselves as victims, and subsequently make an attempt in the form of improving their objective service performance to prevent future supervisory misconduct. These findings challenge the predominant narrative by introducing circumstances in which abusive supervisors can elicit productive responses from their abused direct reports. This study also discusses the theoretical contributions and practical implications for managers, direct reports, and practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Management
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Abusive supervision
  • Core self-evaluation
  • Interpersonal justice
  • Objective service performance
  • Self-blame
  • Work-centrality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Strategy and Management


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