Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations


Abusive Supervision and Group-Level Perceptions: Looking at the Social Context of Abuse in the Workplace

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Steve M. Jex, PhD

Second Advisor

Mike Zickar, PhD (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

William O'Brien, PhD (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Mary E. Benedict, PhD (Committee Member)


Abusive supervision refers to an employee’s perceptions of negative interactions with one’s supervisor that are threatening in a non-physical way. Abusive supervision has been shown to have a negative impact on the individual as well as the organization. However, there is little known about how the social context in which abuse might occur can influence the relationship between abusive supervision and outcome variables. This study proposed to look at how group-level perceptions of supervisor behaviors moderate the relationship between individual level perceptions of abuse and individual level experiences of strain such as physical and psychological health, emotion exhaustion and job satisfaction. Group-level perceptions were predicted to act as a buffer and reduce the negative impact of abusive supervision on individual level outcomes. Groups where there may be a lack of/ low group-level perceptions of abusive supervision, the relationship between abusive supervision and individual level outcomes was expected to be stronger. Data were collected from 43 groups of employees with a final N of 172. Hierarchical Linear Modeling and regression analyses were conducted and the results revealed that there was not enough variability between groups for the moderation effects to be significant. Individual level abusive supervision significantly predicted the individual level outcomes, except in the case of job satisfaction. Since the cross-level analyses using HLM were not significant, moderation analyses were conducted using OLS regression. The moderation analyses were significant only in the case of physical health symptoms and the results were not in the expected direction. Potential explanations for the results and future directions are discussed.