Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Shame as an Alternate Mechanism for the Abusive Supervision-Performance Relation and the Role of Power Distance Values

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Scott Highhouse (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Michael Zickar (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Yiwei Chen (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Dwayne Gremler (Committee Member)


Research on workplace mistreatment indicates that abusive supervision negatively relates to employee-related criteria through perceived injustice. The consensus in the literature is that this effect is attenuated for employees who have a higher power distance orientation because they perceive abusive supervision to be more normative and legitimate. However, drawing from the group value model, the present study tests the experience of shame as an alternate mechanism that explains the effects of abusive supervision. In particular, the negative effect of abusive supervision on employee outcomes (performance and organizational citizenship behaviors) through the experience of shame is proposed to be stronger for subordinates with higher power distance values because of the relatively maladaptive way that these individuals cope with feelings of shame. Using a multi-wave survey of 211 matched supervisor-subordinate dyads, results indicate that the negative indirect effect of abusive supervision on employee performance through experienced shame is stronger for recipients with a high power distance orientation. This investigation contributes to the existing literature by testing an affective pathway by which abusive supervision relates to employee job performance and challenges the notion that high power distance followers are necessarily shielded from the negative effects of abusive leaders.