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Insubordination: Validation of a Measure and an Examination of Insubordinate Responses to Unethical Supervisory Treatment

  • Jeremy D. MackeyEmail author
  • Charn P. McAllister
  • Katherine C. Alexander
Original Paper

Abstract

Research that examines unethical interpersonal treatment has received a great deal of attention from scholars and practitioners in recent years due to the remarkable impact of mistreatment in the workplace. However, the literature is incomplete because we have an inadequate understanding of insubordination, which we define as “subordinates’ disobedient behaviors that intentionally exhibit a defiant refusal of their supervisors’ authority.” In our study, we integrate social exchange theory and the advantageous comparison component of moral disengagement within the integrative model of experiencing and responding to mistreatment at work. Then, we explain why subordinates disengage from moral control as they balance experiencing abusive supervision with perpetrating insubordination within negative supervisor–subordinate social exchange relationships. In Studies 1–4, we validate a five-item measure of insubordination and demonstrate its content, convergent, discriminant, criterion-related, and predictive validity. In Study 5 (n = 287), we demonstrate that there is a positive indirect effect of abusive supervision on insubordination through negative social exchange relationship quality that strengthens for subordinates who perceive higher levels of supervisors’ task performance than others. Overall, our study advances the conversation in the business ethics literature by creating a solid conceptual, empirical, and theoretical foundation for a cohesive program of insubordination research that meaningfully builds on prior findings in unethical interpersonal treatment research.

Keywords

Insubordination Abusive supervision CWB Mistreatment Ethics 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

All of the study authors declare that they have no conflicts 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

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeremy D. Mackey
    • 1
    Email author
  • Charn P. McAllister
    • 2
  • Katherine C. Alexander
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Management, Harbert College of BusinessAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  2. 2.D’Amore-McKim School of BusinessNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

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