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A Multidimensional Model of Abusive Supervision and Work Incivility

School of Economics and Business Administration, Chongqing University, Chongqing 400030, China
Department of Public Administration, Faculty of Management Sciences, University of Kotli Azad Jammu & Kashmir, Kotli 11100, Pakistan
School of Economics and Management, Guangdong University of Petrochemical Technology, Maonan, Maoming 525000, China
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2022, 14(11), 6505;
Submission received: 23 March 2022 / Revised: 5 May 2022 / Accepted: 10 May 2022 / Published: 26 May 2022


The ubiquity of abusive supervision in the workplace, as well as the serious repercussions that come with it, has prompted scholars to investigate the numerous dynamics of this problem. This research examines the circumstances in which subordinates react to abusive supervisory behavior. The study hypothesizes the negative impacts of abusive supervision associated with the impression of unfairness and politics in the workplace toward a subordinate deviant attitude based on current research and theoretical perspectives. According to the suggested paradigm, abusive supervision leads to subordinates’ work incivility by creating an unfair and politically thrilling atmosphere in the workplace. Furthermore, the study found that political skill and work incivility are linked to each other; workers who are experts in using political tactics are not supposed to turn toward work incivility while responding to the abusive behavior of the top management. The research was based on the social exchange theory and uncertainty management theory.

1. Introduction

Positive leadership is always busy convincing subordinates to work toward achieving common objectives [1]. There have been a lot of studies conducted on leadership to encourage subordinates to work efficiently to achieve effective goals for the organization [1,2]. Though, a large amount of research revealed that leaders’ misbehavior toward their subordinates is common. Leadership is described as the capacity to convince a group of people to work toward a common objective [1]. There have been a lot of studies conducted on the impact of leadership encouraging subordinates to build a constructive working attitude to achieve organizational goals efficiently [1,2]. Yet, several studies have revealed that leaders engage in misconduct toward their subordinates, and this phenomenon has recently attracted the attention of both academicians and researchers.
The modern workplace is demanding and severe, with abusive monitoring and individuals participating in deceptive and negative attitudes toward the organization as a result of the abusive behavior from the supervisors which leads employees’ behavior toward organizational deviance [3]. Aggressive behavior has a detrimental influence on organizations and employees, which is a serious problem. Prior research has demonstrated that workplace aggressiveness has a detrimental impact on workers’ self-confidence, mental conditions and productivity [4,5]. Detert and Burris [6] found that these behaviors diminish organizational capital and output while also boosting costs to the corporation through increments when compensating injuries. Abusive supervision is mostly considered as destructive leadership because such practices have a negative impact on the workers and workers become involved in negative and destructive work behaviors instead of positive and constructive ones [7]. Abusive supervision is mostly discussed as the negative attitude of a leader toward a subordinate, and this phenomenon has received a lot of attention in the last two decades [8].
“Subordinates assessments of intensity to which leader participate in the prolonged exhibition of hostile verbal and non-verbal behaviors avoiding physical interaction” has been described as abusive supervision [5]. Terrorizing others by threatening job loss, withholding necessary information, forceful eye interaction and shaming or mocking the employees in the organization are some examples of abusive behavior [6].
The consequence of abusive supervision on work incivility is the topic of our research, which has been explored by many research scholars but remains fascinating [7,9]. Counterproductive work behavior and negligent working behavior is mostly referred to as incivility because workers are mostly involved in deviant workplace behavior in such kinds of situations [10]. Workplace incivility is linked to a variety of negative consequences, such as psychological discomfort, poor mental health, less job satisfaction, poor performance, negligent behavior, counterproductive work behavior and employee’s intentions to leave the workplace [9]. Abusive supervision is found to influence the workplace negatively, but how it predicts knowledge-hiding behavior is an area that has not gained due attention in the literature. Islam, Ahmed [11] investigated the effect of abusive supervision on knowledge-hiding behavior considering future orientation and Islamic work ethics (IWE) as moderators and found that a positive relationship exists between abusive supervision and knowledge-hiding behavior. Moreover, higher levels of IWE and future orientation are found to weaken the relationship [12].
Even though research has indicated that the management and organizational politics are significant precursors of multiple corporate results, such as formal and informal performance, organizational citizenship, psychological contract, intention to quit, etc., very few studies have combined abusive supervision and the POP in a framework to investigate the process by which “abusive supervision and POP” have an impact upon incivility at the workplace in relation to subordinates. Therefore, this study was designed to analyze the combined effect of abusive supervision and the POP on incivility in the workplace in relation to subordinates.

2. Critical Literature Analysis

The term “Abusive Supervision” refers to a tyrant supervisor with a contemptuous demeanor who continuously exerts their dominance over the people who report to them [13]. Abusive supervision is prevalent, according to anecdotal and empirical data, and has consequences on the performance of the workers and their career development [8,14]. In the last 20 years, scholars have used terminology such as despotic leadership, social discouragement, workplace bullying and autocratic management to describe the anger and negative feelings of the subordinates toward their leader [15].
Tepper [5] has discussed the essential features of abusive supervision, such as (a) abusive supervision being the perception of a worker that he has been abused by the supervisor and is treated differently than other workers, (b) that the supervisor has continuous abusive behavior toward them as compared to other workers, and (c) the employee perceives that the supervisor always mistreats and shows discrimination among the workers, especially toward them and is always mocking toward them [8].
In civilizations with collectivism, abusive monitoring is a common occurrence [16]. It is generally considered as an essential immoral behavior when bosses use abrasive tactics to achieve positive goals, such as improving staff abilities or productivity [17]. These attitudes are frequently misinterpreted as “tough love” instead of managerial assault [15]. Such a dissimilar attitude by the supervisor creates a sense of discrimination among the workers and forces them to think that there is inequality and injustice occurring in the organization, where one employee is treated positively who has a close affiliation with the supervisors and others are treated badly who do not have this opportunity [5].
According to Mackey, Frieder [14], abusive supervision is actually the attitude of a supervisor’s discrimination which is also incorporated in the social exchange theory.

2.1. Abusive Management’s Precursors

Managerial factors, such as managers’ individual understanding of abusive supervision from the top management [18], managers’ awareness of inequality [19], strain in the organizational environment [20], employee’s background history [21] and an observed contrast with assistants, are all explored in the considerable collected work on previous circumstances of abusive supervision [22]. Furthermore, its consequences are yet to be discussed for further research [16]. There is a good chance that callous employee behavior causes abusive supervision, both theoretically and statistically [23]. The topic’s broad application and powerful effects on workers and relationships and institutions made it sufficiently attractive to draw a lot of interest on this particular issue. According to Martinko, Sikora [24], subordinates’ hostile attribution techniques contributed to the sense of abusive supervision. As a result, subordinates who blame others for their shortcomings evaluated their bosses as harsh. Individual differences in the perception of abusive supervision were validated in these studies. According to Tepper, Moss [22], it is suggested that supervisors’ abusive behavior was caused by an observed deep-level variation, such as arrogance, standards and temperament as well as relationship conflict with subordinates. Such behavior of the supervisors reduces the commitments of the workers toward the organization and enforces them to become involved in destructive behaviors which are harmful to the organization. Another study specified two ways of obtaining support from coworkers and generating positive emotions to attenuate the toxic effects of abusive supervision on victims [25].

2.2. Outcomes of Abusive Supervision

The abusive behavior of the supervisor leads the workers toward negative outcomes, such as organizational deviance, both at an individual and a group level, and forces them to become involved in destructive work behavior [15], emotional suffering [5,26], less productivity [27], less creativeness [28], a counterproductive work attitude [29,30], organizational deviance [30], negative feedback [31] and psychological withdrawal [23].
On the other hand, there is some bleak research that supports the concept that harsh monitoring may be useful when properly balanced [32]. However, there is little scientific data that suggest that increasing abusive monitoring improves outcomes [33]. A unique study from Asia shows a “U-shaped” association between a worker’s innovation and abusive supervision and argues that employees who face less abusive behavior from the supervisor are more creative and innovative as compared to the worker who faces abusive supervision from their supervisor [34]. In a performance-oriented work atmosphere, supervisors are frequently involved in dictatorial supervision or harsh love to enhance performance, according to the authors. Employees’ perceptions of their manager’s motivation for reasonable/discriminating conduct affect their trust and favorable attitude toward them, which has been demonstrated to have considerable beneficial effects on achieving specified organizational goals and to improve the working performance of the workers [35]. Excessive harsh monitoring, on the other hand, will lead to emotional tiredness and undermine the organization’s originality and achievement in the long term [34]. Abusive supervision leads to a decrease in work and an individual’s happiness, organizational obligation, performance and commitment in the long term [5]. Workplace victimization is associated with abusive supervision, which is classified as a work stressor [36], and it creates a stress factor among the workers [36], reduces productivity [37], increases unhappiness [8], makes employees’ alcoholic and creates anxiety among the workers [16]. Another study was conducted on abusive supervision in India and it found that abusive supervision has positive impacts on employees’ intention to quit and employees’ misconduct [38].

2.3. Incivility at Workplace

It is a less intense attitude that violates workplace rules for mutual respect and has an uncertain aim to damage others. Rude, discourteous and disrespectful behavior for others are examples of uncivil behavior [10]. Disrespect, condescension, humiliation and other forms of workplace incivility are common. Workplace incivility is distinct from other types of unproductive behavior and interpersonal aggressiveness, which refers to actions taken with the explicit aim to damage others [39]. Bullying and deviant behavior in the workplace are more severe than workplace incivility [40]. According to Martin and Hine [41], uncivil behavior may include making condescending comments, emails, disrupting meetings, talking behind someone’s back, avoiding giving credit and rolling eyes, all such behaviors that have very bad implications on an organization.
Even though incivility is classified as a deviant attitude with low intensity, it nonetheless contradicts organizational standards that are intended to foster obliging and creative collaborations between the workers [10]. Different unwritten norms exist to support such relationships among staff [40]. According to [10,31], workplace incivility can develop as a result of one party’s bad treatment being returned by another, culminating in a “tit-for-tat” interchange of more rude acts.
Although incivility is a minor kind of aberrant attitude, it can become a major issue for the company [10]. It is very important to handle workplace incivility properly with a professional manner because it creates a destructive and negative working attitude among the workers of the organization which results in low productivity and high turnovers [42] while causing workers’ mental dysfunction [9]. Workplace incivility has a number of harmful outcomes, including mental stress, less satisfaction in the workplace [9], increased anxiety [43], reduced organizational citizenship behavior [40], violent behavior [44], decreased organizational commitment [45] and high turnover intentions [45,46]. Another study proposed and investigated factors contributing to the workplace incivility through an integrative framework [47].
Researchers go on to describe in detail how work incivility is generated by the supervisor’s abusive attitude in an unequal and politically accused workplace.

3. Hypothesis Development

We investigated the impact of abusive supervision on the work incivility of the worker in this study. We presented a conceptual framework constructed around the available body of knowledge of abusive supervision, work incivility, the perception of organizational politics and organizational justice, with theoretic backgrounds of social exchange theory and uncertainty management theory. The POP and organizational unfairness are used as mediators to explain the effect of abusive supervision on worker’s incivility.

3.1. Workers’ Perceptions toward Organizational Justice in Addition to Abusive Supervision

The researchers will expand the existing literature by adding more about the important issue of abusive supervision and its effects on the worker’s perception of organizational justice in this study. When an employee feels a sense of injustice within the organization that all employees are not treated equally, they feel a mental stress which ultimately disturbs the health of the worker [48]. Injustice creates more health issues among the workers and reduces career development [49,50].
According to [51,52,53], there are four different types of organizational justice, which have been shown in many studies. The perceived fairness of an individual’s output from a social exchange connection is referred to as distributive justice [54]. As per [49], there must be fairness in the evaluation process which must conducted according to the set standards of the organization, and the factor of biasness must not be involved in the performance evaluation process so that employees can feel the justice in the organization. Procedural justice refers to the appropriateness of the procedure utilized to reach a conclusion [54]. Procedural justice also refers to the fairness of the procedure utilized to reach a conclusion [17]. Interactional justice is separated into two sub-types, interpersonal and informational justice. The excellence of interpersonal conduct which individuals receive when the set measures are performed is referred to as interpersonal justice [49,54]. While interpersonal justice relates to civility and decency, informational justice refers to the sincerity and honesty with which acts and features of processes are explained [53]. Individual and organizational deviance are linked to any injustice, whether distributive, procedural, interpersonal or informational [55,56].
Initially, we combine “interpersonal and informational justice” to their upper measurement of interactional justice in accordance with recent developments in the justice literature [55,57]. Then, we consider “organizational justice” as a “higher-order construct”, with the three aspects, “distributive, interactional and procedural”, serving as various expressions or an understanding of the whole concept. The “fairness heuristic”, which is consistent with the latent construct, is how new workers at the workplace are evaluated according to the outputs [58]. The concept of the “fairness heuristic” just shows a reflection of “distributive”, “interpersonal”, “informational” or “procedural justice” and shapes the newcomer’s cooperation or deviance [57,58]. As a result, we have combined these three forms of justice (distributive, procedural and interactional) in our model while still acknowledging their differences.
We propose that worker’s reply to an unequal connection toward unpleasant emotional situations which are reduced if fairness is restored by using organizational justice and SET [50,53]. As a result, any abuse elicits an undesirable emotional reaction (impoliteness, uncourteous behavior) in individuals, motivating them to undertake behaviors that will aid in the restoration of justice [51]. We predict a positive and strong association between abusive supervision and worker’s perceptions of unfairness because abusive supervision establishes an unjust relationship.
According to Hoobler and Hu [59], interactional injustices create bad affects which then lead to abusive supervision, and this abusive behavior of the manager has a really bad influence on the worker’s mental health with effects on work to family conflicts. According to the trickle-down concept, abusive supervision does not happen in a vacuum. Employees mostly pay back what they receive; if they receive respect and honor, they pay back to the organization in a positive way, Restubog, Scott [26], and if employees feel that they are discriminated and they are treated more abusively than other employees, they must react differently and the result will be destructive for the organization [19].

3.2. Abusive Supervision, Organizational Politics and Worker’s Perceptions of Organizational Injustice

We seek to investigate more on the missing research area regarding the relationship between organizational injustice and the perception of politics which is caused by abusive supervision by drawing on the existing literature that addresses the undesirable outcomes related with organizational injustice and using the UMT.
According to the equity theory, which proposes that worker’s judge distributive fairness by associating their apparent “input & output” and link them with other employee’s working. When disparity exists, both parties have a sense of injustice. Individuals are motivated to respond behaviorally or mentally as a result of their sense of injustice [51]. As a result, wage inequity was linked to a variety of work-related outcomes, including reduced organizational obligation, low productivity and high turnover [60].
Retaliation toward the person who is accountable for the procedural injustice (or unfavorable condition) is a natural reaction to procedural injustices [50,54]. Negative emotions arising from procedural unfairness have been found in previous investigations to be directed to handy objectives [61]. Organizational injustice has a strong association to sadness and low self-efficacy [22]. Unhappiness is linked to a sense of powerlessness, which can lead to an aberrant and violent attitude [62]. Tepper [5] found that supervisor sadness mediates the relationship between unfairness and abusive behavior. As a result, it is possible to conclude that injustice causes unpleasant emotional states linked with helplessness, which in turn prompts deviant behavior in trying to achieve equality.
Interactional fairness is actually the belief of the workers that are given respect and honor from the management of the organization [53]. Employees who are treated with hostility and contempt by their supervisors feel unwanted, and this exclusionary experience diminishes commitment with the organization and increases the likelihood of attrition [63]. Using SET, previous research has found a link between interaction unfairness and a manager heading for workplace aggressiveness [39,55]. Workers who are subjected to aggressiveness and disrespect will be driven to correct the situation.
The UMT illuminates the fundamental motivation of workers who seek equity through retaliation. According to the notion, living with uncertainties in a social interaction is the most difficult issue for everyone because doubts decrease one’s capabilities to work efficiently [64]; in such situations, both managers and workers accept the uncertainty cognitively [65]. Uncertainty takes place with high intensity in a work setting when employees experience a lack of self-control as a result of interactional, distributive and procedural unfairness. Individuals are motivated to act badly toward the organization as a result of these uncertainties [66].
A lack of certainty is a crucial factor in the development of the perception of politics [67]. Such ambiguities at the workplace point to the organization’s widespread politics. The POP is a subjective assessment of how self-centered several persons and groups are at the workplace, or how hostile at the cost of individuals or groups the workplace is [68]. To put it another way, organizational members’ perceptions of the amount of politics in the workplace contribute to the pressure, emotional exhaustion, an unproductive work attitude and employee’s turnover intention from the workplace [69,70]. According to [71], an individual’s view of a work atmosphere is determined by their own intellectual assessment of the surroundings. When the policymaking process is unfair and discriminating and set standard procedures are not adopted in the evaluation process, employees perceive that a factor of politics is prevailing in the organization [72].
The working atmosphere is viewed as politically involved in such an instance of organizational injustice combined with harsh monitoring. Subordinates regard the work atmosphere as unfair [49] and politically heated as a result of the supervisor’s abusive behavior, which reflects a lack of integrity and objectivity in dealing with the workers at the workplace [55]. Abusive behavior and political involvement in the decision-making process creates aggressiveness and the perception of unfair treatment among the workers in the organization. They can be strategic at times, employing their animosity and political savvy in circumstances when it is thought to be acceptable and impulsive and neurotic at other times [63]. In an atmosphere that encourages animosity and politics, leaders and workers (working under leaders) acquire political strategies to improve their self-interested objectives, either openly or circuitously [73]. Another study highlights that abusive supervision does not result in any form of retaliation. Supervisor undermining has a trickle-down effect on the desire for revenge, quiescent silence and turnover intentions [74].
We have observed and analyzed the function of organizational injustice in moderating the relation between abusive supervision and a variety of workplace consequences [15,19,37]. According to current research, abusive supervision causes subordinates to perceive organizational unfairness, and organizational inequality is linked to emotional exhaustion, such as nervousness, tension, organizational deviance and supervisor hostility. We predict a favorable link between all three categories of injustice and the perception of politics based on the UMT and previous research. Finally, the UMT implies that ambiguity (arising from injustice) combined with abuse, such as abusive monitoring, pushes workers to react badly against the institution and allows them to get back their control over the conditions [65]. The presence of politics in the workplace is signaled by uncertainty caused by unfairness and oppressive oversight. The lack of justice and fairness in the workplace, as well as the prevalence of politics, aids individuals in learning unofficial work processes. As a result, we anticipate a positive link between abusive supervision and the POP, which has been mediated by “organizational injustice”:
Hypothesis 1.
The association between abusive supervision and the POP is mediated by subordinate perceptions of organizational injustice.

3.3. Incivility at Work

In this study, we concentrated on incivility in the workplace as a reaction toward abusive supervision and the perception of politics by workers. An explanation in this regard is constructed on the strong grounds of the SET: a worker pays back an abusive boss by behaving badly. Individuals respond in contrast to perceived injustices [75], which is destructive for the organization [76] and leads to the destruction of psychological contracts [77].
Personnel who are well treated in the organization with admiration and honor are much motivated and feel appreciated [75]. According to the social exchange theory, individuals return the advantages they obtain at work and vice versa [73]. Persons are more inclined to reciprocate unfavorable responses against individuals or organizations deemed to be damaging to them, according to the SET. Employees have been demonstrated, in previous research, to retaliate against superiors when they believe they have been abused by them [5,78].
According to several studies on place-of-work victimization, sufferers of abusive supervision view revenge as an appropriate method of ending their treatment, and hence mistreated workers react aggressively toward their boss who is in charge for the abusive behavior or maltreatment [55,79]. According to Tepper [8], subordinates engaged in hidden behavior in contradiction to their bosses, such as disregarding the assignments and tasks assigned by the boss, being less motivated toward given duties and showing a negative attitude toward their responsibilities to let down their supervisors. The results of the previous research show that supervisors are less involved in abusing powerful workers who have their strong affiliations and close ties with the supervisors and are more abusive toward the employees who are less close to the supervisors, and as a result, such employees are mostly busy in destructive organizational practices, such as organizational deviance, and mostly busy in taking revenge on their supervisor which is very harmful for the organization [80,81].

3.4. Incivility at Work and POP

Organizational politics are ubiquitous in businesses and refers to the unofficial influence attempts that seek to advance personal interests at the expense of the organization’s objectives [71]. According to Greenberg [52], a politically sensitive workplace suggested that employees are extra involved in self-interested attitudes and mostly try to achieve personal goals which are in their own interest. A worker cannot be guaranteed that their hard work will be admired in such an atmosphere so this uncertainty mostly leads workers to feelings of injustice [71] and the violation of the psychological contract [52]. This uncertainty is a major contributor to the perception of politics [67].
Pearson, Andersson [40] found that the perception of politics is linked to uncivil and aggressive behavior in contradiction to other members of an organization, particularly those who are regarded to be offenders or benefactors of political behavior. Employees may demonstrate uncivil behavior against receivers of such political behavior to retaliate for the bad results in terms of strain, ambiguity and unfairness [39,55]. Workers respond to sentiments of unfairness by participating in different sorts of uncivil behavior, such as offensiveness, rudeness and bad-mannered behavior headed for others [10,82]. Another study investigated that incivility and intolerance occur in meaningfully different discussion settings. Whereas incivility is associated with features that reveal meaningful discursive engagement, such as justified opinion expression and engagement with disagreements, intolerance is likely to occur in homogeneous discussions about minorities and civil society [83].
According to Kieserling [84], workers sense they are obligated to return good treatment to the management and its representatives (boss/supervisors) after receiving good treatment from the supervisor [85]. The POP, on the other hand, is marked by insecurity and injustice, which can lead to hatred [70]. Workers feel a sense of discrimination when they perceive that they are not equally treated by the management of the organization in terms of resource distribution rules and a clear code of behavior, among other things, and they get disheartened and powerless. Uncertainty leads to a sense of helplessness and a loss of the strength of the mind. Workers who believe their efforts are not being properly rewarded begin to engage in uncivil behavior [70].
Various studies [51,54,55] have verified the aberrant behavior of employees as a result of workplace injustices. We believe that the POP will lead to uncivil behavior and that there is a positive association between the perception of politics and unfairness in the workplace; hence, we can hypothesize:
Hypothesis 2.
The perception of politics is linked to workplace incivility.
Hypothesis 3.
The perception of politics mediates the link among subordinate’s perceptions of organizational unfairness and workplace incivility.

3.5. Subordinates’ Political Skills Play a Moderating Role

According to the UMT, individuals try to gain control in an uncertain situation by engaging in a variety of bad behaviors. They can reduce uncertainty and achieve self-control by engaging in political behavior. Individuals aim to decrease ambiguity, deal with embarrassment and achieve it successfully, according to the UMT [86]. Over long periods of time, studies show that political competence moderates the association between the perceived pressures and strain [87].
In the perception of politics outcome connections, control and comprehension are commonly employed moderators [67]. The intensity of influence in an atmosphere is described as control [88]. Stressors are transformed into opportunities or dangers when you have control over your work environment [23]. Organizational politics, according to Harrell-Cook, Ferris [68], exist when there is less control over a process, which is a stressor and might be regarded as a danger, resulting in bad effects. Understanding also moderates, which is employed by several investigators, among others. It refers to being aware of the circumstances around important/significant events that occurred at work [89]. This knowledge will help to lessen the subjective nature of stress and environmental unpredictability, as well as the negative impacts of the perception of politics. Another study concluded that when employees possess low levels of political skill, engaging in high levels of voice exacerbates the detrimental effects of a supervisor undermining employee psychological empowerment and subsequently decreases employee work-related well-being and heightens employee turnover intentions [90].
Political competence is a powerful moderator because it encompasses cooperation to control and comprehension tasks. Perrewé, Ferris [91] found that politically savvy persons can recognize workers in a workplace and utilize that understanding to persuade others to achieve the goals of the organization. Politically savvy persons are able to take advantage of chances to advance their own interests [92], as well as complete tasks. These people are informally aware, affiliated with each other outside of work and capable of understanding events and adapting their behavior toward the organization [93]. As a result, political expertise may be thought of as a strong mediator of the perception of politics to job-related results [94].
People are uneasy in an unknown situation, according to the UMT, and they tend to forecast the repercussions [66]. Individuals’ perceptions and sentiments are influenced by this ambiguity, which challenges the self-motivation of the employees [86]. Individuals employ political skills to decrease ambiguity and establish a mechanism over their work circumstances, according to the UMT. Individuals with strong political skills are better at understanding their work environment and getting their work done, so such workers do not engage in uncivil attitudes because such workers have not seen politics in the workplace with them as a source of stress or an impediment to their advancement [95]. We propose the following hypothesis:
Hypothesis 4.
Subordinate political skills regulate the association between the perception of politics and work incivility, resulting in a lower positive relationship between the perception of politics and work incivility in the presence of superior political skills (as shown in Figure 1).

4. Consequences for Theory and Future Research Guidelines

Our investigation adds to the literature of abusive supervision, the perception of politics and organizational justice. This research study offers a significant addition by investigating “the impact of abusive supervision on employee incivility” while also considering two negative factors, the “sense of organizational injustice and perception of politics”. The research also establishes a state line requirement for the impacted worker’s political competence in reaction to incivility in abusive supervision. Furthermore, because the research framework has not been experimentally verified, it provides an opportunity for hypothesis testing. Previous research from Khattak, Zolin [55] looked at the influence of injustice in the workplace on deviant workplace attitudes directed against the institution and individuals, as arbitrated by the perception of politics. Our approach goes a step further by including political skill as a moderator, making incivility (deviance) dependent on how an employee who suffers abusive supervision from a supervisor responds to a particular situation.
As previously stated, abusive supervision and the POP have a variety of negative repercussions on the outcomes of a workplace as well as employee mental healthiness. Individuals and organizations bear significant direct and indirect costs associated with negative consequences, such as mental and emotional health, employee’s intention to quit the workplace, less organizational commitment, bad performance, a lack of trust, feelings of inequality, negligent behavior associated with abusive supervision, the POP and workplace incivility. The monetary expenditures connected with these negative attitudes and behaviors are enormous, drawing organizations’ attention to the rising concerns of leadership’s dark side. Organizations must place a greater emphasis on avoidance and professional management to tackle destructive behaviors, such as abusive behavior and the perception of politics.
Once abusive supervision and the perception of politics are recognized, the setting becomes socially toxic and its negative consequences are rarely overturned or hidden. Though, such negative consequences may be avoided by maintaining justice and openness in compensation, assessment, upgrade and relocation rules and processes, as well as communicating these policies and practices to employees. Kolodinsky, Hochwarter [93] went on to say that developing politically aware and other personal expertise by providing proper training and development, this practice can support workers to operate more efficiently and effectively in a politically indicted workplace. Relying on the conclusions of this research, we propose that an effective and professional communication network be established, personal expertise be developed and the leader–member interchange be improved in order to avoid the harmful impacts of abusive supervision in a politically sensitive workplace.
Maximum organizations are now working through online (home-based) working after the COVID-19 situation. This low direct interaction among employees and supervisors, a shortage of nonverbal communication and interactive attachment may all contribute to a loss of trust, a sense of unfairness and exclusion and abusive supervision (which can vary in degree depending on the situation). As the future of work arrangements (such as work from home) grows increasingly unpredictable and essential, managers and supervisors relating to HR departments and immediate bosses must comprehend the changing aspects of abusive supervision in such an ambiguous and secretive atmosphere.
Researchers also assume that working through virtual teams can cause abusive supervision from supervisors because it may be possible that employees may not be so familiar with virtual or online working, especially in developing countries, so a lack of trust among supervisors and employees can occur. In regard to online working, many new standards have been set by different organizations and most of the employees feel insecurity in their jobs and uncertain about their career development, so this factor can also be responsible for workplace incivility. As a result, we recommend experts be aware of monitoring, trust development and developing a positive social exchange connection in order to maintain a strong and positive working atmosphere in the current day.
The accurate understanding of the conceptual model is critical, as previously stated. In research like this, where the investigational units are nested in a pecking order, such as leadership data from assistants or co-workers gathered from several operation groups reporting to different bosses as per groups and divisions, a multilevel technique becomes essential in order to investigate the true picture of the issue. In addition, while calculating team-level coefficients, individual-level factors must be controlled, and the variation in the personalized result must be estimated [96]. It is also possible to assess the influence of organizational-level factors, such as culture and organizational norms. The appearance of abusive supervision in workers’ uncivil behavior may be explained by sectoral disparities across various businesses, such as universities, NGOs, police departments or health sectors.

5. Conclusions

This research focuses on the theoretical method regarding abusive supervision and its impact upon employee incivility in the workplace. According to the suggested model, abusive supervision fosters a sense of organizational unfairness and injustice, which in turn impacts employees’ attitudes and behavior, resulting in undesirable workplace behavior. Non-desirable attitudes, such as workplace incivility, unproductive workplace attitude and negligent behavior, and, without any doubt, abusive supervision have a negative impact on employee productivity as well as the organization’s reputational capital.
In severe circumstances, it degrades organizational culture and jeopardizes the organization’s social fiber. Existing research suggests that different people react differently to abusive supervision depending on demographic and characteristic variations, organizational conditions and management (Mackey et al., 2017). Present research argues that individuals with political competence, rather than demonstrating workplace incivility, would successfully navigate through this politically charged atmosphere caused by abusive supervision and perceived organizational unfairness. This research suggests political competence as a criterion for determining the influence of abusive supervision on employee incivility at work [97].
The implications of this study suggest organizational systems should discourage supervisors from undermining subordinates. There is a need to offer regular training to supervisors. Furthermore, employees should be provided some platforms and the freedom to positively speak at work. Above all, supervisors should be more inspiring, which can dilute negative perceptions of abuse.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, I.H. and S.A.; methodology, S.A.; software, F.S.; validation, A.A., F.S. and S.A.; formal analysis, S.A.; investigation, A.A.; resources, F.S.; writing—original draft preparation, S.A. and I.H.; writing—review and editing, S.A., I.H. and F.S.; visualization, S.A.; supervision, F.S.; project administration, F.S.; funding acquisition, F.S. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by the Fundamental Research Start-up Funds from Guangdong University of Petrochemical Technology (Project No. 702-72100003004 and 702/5210012) (Grant No. 2020rc059) and the APC was funded by Farrukh Shahzad.

Institutional Review Board Statement

The study was conducted according to the guidelines of the Declaration of Helsinki and approved by the Ethics Committee of the Chongqing University, China.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data Availability Statement

Data can be obtained through email at [email protected].

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Figure 1. Hypothesized Model of Abusive Supervision & Work Incivility.
Figure 1. Hypothesized Model of Abusive Supervision & Work Incivility.
Sustainability 14 06505 g001
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Ali, S.; Hussain, I.; Shahzad, F.; Afaq, A. A Multidimensional Model of Abusive Supervision and Work Incivility. Sustainability 2022, 14, 6505.

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Ali S, Hussain I, Shahzad F, Afaq A. A Multidimensional Model of Abusive Supervision and Work Incivility. Sustainability. 2022; 14(11):6505.

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Ali, Shahab, Iftikhar Hussain, Farrukh Shahzad, and Aneeqa Afaq. 2022. "A Multidimensional Model of Abusive Supervision and Work Incivility" Sustainability 14, no. 11: 6505.

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