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Suffering in silence: Investigating the role of fear in the relationship between abusive supervision and defensive silence

Suffering in silence: Investigating the role of fear

Christian Kiewitz, Simon Restubog,  Mindy Shoss, Patrick Garcia and Robert Tang

Drawing from an approach-avoidance perspective, we examine the relationships between subordinates’ perceptions of abusive supervision, fear, defensive silence, and ultimately with abusive supervision at a later time point. We also account for the effects of subordinates’ assertiveness and individual perceptions of a climate of fear to influence the predicted mediated relationships. We test this moderated mediation model with data from three studies involving different sources collected across various measurement periods.

Results corroborated our predictions by showing: 1) a significant association between abusive supervision and subordinates’ fear; 2) second-stage moderation effects of subordinates’ assertiveness and their individual perceptions of a climate of fear in the abusive supervision/fear/defensive silence relationships (with lower assertiveness and higher levels of climate-of-fear perceptions exacerbating the detrimental effects of abusive supervision); and 3) first-stage moderation effects of subordinates’ assertiveness and climate-of-fear perceptions in the relationships linking fear to defensive silence and abusive supervision at a later time.

Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.

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Updated:   18 February 2017 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team