The "evil Pleasure": Abusive supervision and third-party observers' malicious reactions toward victims

Erica Xu, Xu Huang, Rongwen Jia, Jane Xu, Wu Liu, Les Graham, Ed Snape

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

    42 Citations (Scopus)


    We investigated how abusive supervision influences interactions between thirdparty observers and abused victims and hypothesized when and why third parties react maliciously toward victims of abusive supervision. Drawing on the theory of rivalry, we predicted that third-party observers would experience an "evil pleasure" (schadenfreude) when they perceive a high level of rivalry with the victims of abusive supervision and that the experienced schadenfreude then would motivate third parties to engage in interpersonal destructive behaviors (i.e., undermining, incivility, and interpersonal deviance) toward the victims. We further proposed that such malicious reactions would be attenuated if groups have a high level of cooperative goals. Results based on one experimental study and two time-lagged field studies lend support to our propositions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1115-1137
    Number of pages23
    JournalOrganization Science
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020

    Scopus Subject Areas

    • Strategy and Management
    • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
    • Management of Technology and Innovation

    User-Defined Keywords

    • Abusive supervision
    • Incivility
    • Interpersonal deviance
    • Rivalry
    • Schadenfreude
    • Third-party observers
    • Undermining


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