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: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

34 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


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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