Ambivalent bosses: An examination of supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence on subordinate task engagement

Jia Hui LIM, Kenneth Tai, Maryam Kouchaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Supervisors often have to manage conflicting and contradictory demands in increasingly dynamic work environments. In the process of doing so, they may express emotional ambivalence observed by subordinates. Drawing on emotions as social information (EASI) theory and research on unpredictability and stress, we examine when and why supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence influence subordinate outcomes. In two studies, we find that supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence is indirectly related to subordinate task engagement via supervisor unpredictability (Studies 1 and 2). In addition, supervisor unpredictability and anticipated stress serially mediate the effect of supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence on task engagement (Studies 3 and 4). Furthermore, the target of supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence moderates this indirect effect, such that the negative indirect effect is stronger for a subordinate when supervisor expressed emotional ambivalence is directed toward him/her as opposed to another subordinate (Study 4). We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our findings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-152
Number of pages14
JournalOrganizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes
Volume165
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management

User-Defined Keywords

  • Anticipated stress
  • Emotional ambivalence
  • Emotions
  • Target of expressed emotional ambivalence
  • Task engagement
  • Unpredictability

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