Abusive supervision: A content analysis of theory and methodology

Yucheng Zhang, Zhongwei Hou, Xingxing Zhou*, Yumeng Yue, Siqi Liu, Xiao Xiao Jiang, Ling Li

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Purpose: Despite recent organizational behavior studies have witnessed considerable progress in abusive supervision research; some demerits for both theory and methodology still remain in the past years. To clarify the current state of knowledge in the field, this study aims to analyze the current state of theories and methods on abusive supervision and provides a detailed future research agenda. 

Design/methodology/approach: This paper conducted a literature review for both theory and methodology of the abusive supervision research using a content analysis of 134 publications. 

Findings: For the theory part, this paper summarized the theories that had been applied to explain the relationship between abusive supervision and its consequences as well as antecedents. For the methodology part, this paper outlined some critical issues regarding country of origin, research design, measurement, analysis strategy and also summarized with a discussion of the relationship between methodological issues and article impact. Finally, this paper concluded by presenting an agenda for future abusive supervision research regarding both theory and methodology. 

Originality/value: First, this paper summarizes the main theories, antecedents and consequences often used in abusive supervision research to allow scholars to carry out theoretically driven research investigating abusive supervision in the future. Second, through a content analysis of the methods sections of abusive supervision research in the samples (i.e. country of origin, research design, measurement and analytical procedures), this paper identified the potential reasons underlying the inconsistency in the conclusions of abusive supervision research and provide some guidance for future empirical studies. Third, based on the qualitative review, this paper provides an agenda for future research investigating abusive supervision by developing a content-specific theoretical framework to benchmark abusive supervision research against other research related to leadership and offers an accurate response to scholars’ criticisms of abusive supervision research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalChinese Management Studies
Early online date10 Sept 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Sept 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • abusive supervision
  • content analysis
  • knowledge transfer
  • review of methodology
  • review of theory


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