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Vicarious Abusive Supervision at Work Has Negative Impact

Significantly impacts job frustration, coworker abuse, and perceived organizational support

MONDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Secondhand, or vicarious, abusive supervision at work can have significant impacts on worker frustration with their job, coworker abuse, and perceived organizational support, especially when combined with firsthand abusive supervision, according to research published in the January/February issue of the Journal of Social Psychology.

Kenneth J. Harris, Ph.D., of Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, and colleagues surveyed 233 workers from a wide-range of organizations with 10 or more employees. The authors sought to study the effects of vicarious abusive supervision, defined as observation or awareness of abusive supervision that is not experienced firsthand, on the outcomes of job frustration, coworker abuse, and perceived organizational support.

The researchers observed a significant correlation between abusive supervision and vicarious abuse. Both abusive supervision and vicarious abusive supervision correlated positively with job frustration and coworker abuse, and were negatively linked with perceived organizational support. When both abusive supervision and vicarious abusive supervision were high, the outcomes were the worst (high coworker abuse, low perceived organizational support). Although the interactions were significant, the effect sizes were small.

"Our research suggests that vicarious abusive supervision is as likely as abusive supervision to negatively affect desired outcomes, with the worst outcomes resulting when both vicarious abusive supervision and abusive supervision are present," the authors write. "Top management needs further education regarding the potential impacts of vicarious abusive supervision on employees to prevent and/or mitigate the effects of such abuse."

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