Bad Apples, Bad Barrels, and Broken Followers? An Empirical Examination of Contextual Influences on Follower Perceptions and Reactions to Aversive Leadership

Christian N. Thoroughgood, Samuel T. Hunter, Katina B. Sawyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations

Abstract

Research on destructive leadership has largely focused on leader characteristics thought to be responsible for harmful organizational outcomes. Recent findings, however, demonstrate the need to examine important contextual factors underlying such processes. Thus, the present study sought to determine the effects of an organization's climate and financial performance, as well as the leader's gender, on subordinate perceptions of and reactions (i.e., whistle-blowing intentions) to aversive leadership, a form of destructive leadership based on coercive power. 302 undergraduate participants read through a series of vignettes describing a fictional organization, its employees, and an aversive leader in charge of the company's sales department. They were then asked to envision themselves as subordinates of the leader and respond to several quantitative measures and open-ended questions. Consistent with Padilla and colleagues' (2007) toxic triangle theory, results suggest that both perceptions and reactions to aversive leadership depend on the three aforementioned factors. Specifically, aversive leaders were perceived more aversively and elicited greater whistle-blowing intentions in financially unstable organizations possessing climates intolerant of negative leader behavior. Moreover, female aversive leaders were perceived more aversively than their male counterparts under such conditions. Theoretical and practical implications as well as future research directions are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)647-672
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Volume100
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Law

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