License to Misbehave: Organizational Citizenship Behavior as a Moral License for Deviant Reactions to Abusive Supervision
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Abusive supervision research has found that subordinates engage in deviance following abuse despite the negative consequences of doing so. Why do individuals engage in deviance despite the expected sanctions? To explain this relationship a model is proposed based on moral licensing theory wherein the relationship of abusive supervision and subsequent negative voluntary work behaviors will be moderated by the extent to which subordinates performed positive voluntary work behaviors. In Study 1, I demonstrate that high organizational citizenship behaviors (OCB) as rated by subordinates’ significant others significantly increased the relationship between abusive supervision and organizational deviance, while the relationship was not significant at low levels of significant other rated OCB. In Study 2 I replicate and extend this finding using time-lagged data, finding that in the context of abusive supervision, OCB directed at the supervisor at day t significantly increased the incidence of counterproductive work behaviors directed at the supervisor and organization at day t + 1. Implications for moral licensing and abusive supervision research are discussed.