Employees often complain about the personal impact of abusive behavior by management and how this impacts their daily productivity. New research helps highlight how abusive behavior can impact creativity in the workplace and lower the ability of employees to contribute to problem solving within an organization. Understanding how abusive mindsets are contagious in the workplace is important for understanding how to develop workplaces that push for higher levels of employee performance.
The skill of leadership is important in businesses that seek to overcome their next market challenge and make their way to the top. Transformational leadership is positively associated with creative performance (Shin & Zhou, 2003). Leaders who inspire and give a proper path are more pragmatic in their performances and therefore lead to higher levels of employee creative contributions.
The reason why leadership can have such an impact on organizations is because of the way they perceive their employees. Those leaders who label additional effort by employees as citizenship behavior versus ingratiation view and reward their employees at a higher level (Eastman, 1994). Leaders and managers create precisely the type of behaviors they view their employee with. A leader or manager who perceives employees as lazy, unproductive, and ignorant are likely to create employees who mimic this behavior.
If the very leaders on the top view employees in such a negative way the belief system will pass down through the layers of managers and impact how employees behave and view themselves. Findings help highlight how there is a cascading effect of leadership whereby middle-level managers are a pivotal psychological link between leaders and frontline workers (Zohar & Luria, 2005). The mannerisms and perceptions of leadership filters throughout the entire organization and management is the connecting point of passing these perceptions onto employees to prime behavioral expectations.
When these expectations are in a negative light the overall performance of employees is damaged. Particularly their willingness to engage in and solve problems is hampered and this lowers future growth prospects of the firm. Creativity is about free thinking, problem solving, and sharing those perspectives with others to create new economic realities. Employees have no incentive to do this if their ideas are automatically discounted due to poor management perception.
Research by Liu, Liao & Loi (2012) was conducted in a large Midwestern automobile company and had 22 departments, 108 teams and 762 employees participate in the study. The study attempted to determine the impact of abusive leadership and abusive management on worker creativity. It also analyzed the concept of cascading layers of management and how this impacts performance expectations and transference of beliefs.
-Abusive supervision by top management creates likelihood that middle level managers will also be more abusive and this damages creativity.
-How employees perceive the reasons (two perceptions) for this abuse can either exacerbate or mitigate its effectiveness.
-Departmental leadership abusive behavior has an impact on team leader behaviors (cascading layers of management) which impacts team member behavior.
The report supports attribution theory that indicates that employee characteristics and team leader characteristics interact and influence the environment. Furthermore, the research also supports social learning theory by indicating that group behaviors and organizational culture are formed by these unique attributes. Employees learn to accept their station in life or resist against such poor treatment. To change poor behavior within an organization is to ensure you have a leader with transformational skills, proper management training, and strong employee attributes.
Eastman, K. (1994). In the eyes of the beholder: an attributional approach to ingratiation and organizational citizenship behavior. Academy of Management, 37: 1379-1391
Liu, D., Liao, H. & Loi, R. (2012). The dark side of leadership: a three-level of investigation of cascading effective of abusive supervision on employee creativity. Academy of Management Journal, 55 (5).
Shin, S. & Zhou, J. (2003). Transformational leadership, conservation, and creativity: Evidence from Korea. Academy af Management Journal, 46: 703-714.
Zohar, D., & Luria, G. (2005). A multilevel model of safety climate: Gross-level relationships between organization and group-level climates. Journal of Applied Psychology, 90: 616-628.