Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 153, Issue 3, pp 775–792 | Cite as

Abusive Supervision, Psychological Distress, and Silence: The Effects of Gender Dissimilarity Between Supervisors and Subordinates

  • Joon Hyung ParkEmail author
  • Min Z. Carter
  • Richard S. DeFrank
  • Qianwen Deng
Original Paper


Previous research has shed light on the detrimental effects of abusive supervision. To extend this area of research, we draw upon conservation of resources theory to propose (a) a causal relationship between abusive supervision and psychological distress, (b) a mediating role of psychological distress on the relationship between abusive supervision and employee silence, and (c) a moderating effect of the supervisor–subordinate relational context (i.e., gender dissimilarity) on the mediating effect of abusive supervision on silence. Through an experimental study (Study 1), we found the causal path linking abusive supervision and psychological distress. Results of both the experimental study and a field study (Study 2) provided evidence that psychological distress mediated the relationship between abusive supervision and silence. Lastly, we found support that this mediation effect was contingent upon the relational context in Study 2 but not in Study 1. We discuss implications for theory and practice.


Abusive supervision Psychological distress Gender dissimilarity Silence 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author(s) declare(s) that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Study 1: The research project has been reviewed according to the ethical review processes in place in the University of Nottingham Ningbo. These processes are governed by the University’s Code of Research Conduct and Research Ethics. Any questions regarding human rights as a research subject may be addressed to UNNC Research Ethics Sub-Committee Coordinator: Please refer to An anonymous online-based questionnaire was distributed to the participants and the data was treated anonymously and confidentially. The participant information sheet was shown to them and they were asked to choose “agree” or “disagree” button to participate in the survey. Study 2: The research project has been reviewed according to the ethical review processes in place in the University of Houston. These processes are governed by the University of Houston committee for the protection of human subjects. Any questions regarding human rights as a research subject may be addressed to the University of Houston committee for the protection of human subjects (713-743-9204). Please refer to Informed consent was obtained from individual participants who completed the paper survey. Some participants preferred an online version of the survey. The data was treated anonymously and confidentially. Informed consent was shown to them and they were asked to choose “agree” or “disagree” button to participate in the survey.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joon Hyung Park
    • 1
    Email author
  • Min Z. Carter
    • 2
  • Richard S. DeFrank
    • 3
  • Qianwen Deng
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of International Business and ManagementNottingham University Business School ChinaNingboChina
  2. 2.Department of Management, College of BusinessSouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Management, C.T. Bauer College of BusinessUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  4. 4.Bank of China Ningbo BranchNingboChina

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