Multilevel Influence of Destructive Leadership on Millennial Generation Employees' Innovative Behavior

By Hou, Xuanfang | Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal, January 7, 2017 | Go to article overview

Multilevel Influence of Destructive Leadership on Millennial Generation Employees' Innovative Behavior


Hou, Xuanfang, Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal


There is an increasing amount of intensive research being conducted on leadership, resulting in more academic attention to the features of destructive leadership (Gao & Wang, 2014). In particular, in the case of Chinese millennial generation employees, who emphasize their own emotions and internal preferences over those of others (Lin, Li, & Hou, 2015), workplace conflict brought about by leaders' abusive, coercive, and authoritarian management (Padilla, Hogan, & Kaiser, 2007) presents significant challenges to organizational management. Innovation is indispensable to the existence and growth of an organization, and Chinese millennial employees who display innovative minds and behavior, and have the courage to think outside the box (Y.-P. Li & Hou, 2012), can drive this innovation. Therefore, organizations should examine how destructive leadership affects the emotions and behavior of Chinese millennial employees, the emotional changes that take place when these employees work with destructive leaders, and how the employees' innovative behavior is affected.

I believe that there are three drawbacks in existing research on destructive leadership and employee innovation. First, although the negative influence of destructive leadership on subordinates' work behavior has been established (Gao & Wang, 2014), few researchers have focused on Chinese millennial employees (Liu, Liao, & Loi, 2012). In particular, it has not been empirically demonstrated how millennial employees' innovative behavior is affected by destructive leadership during the creation, development, and implementation of innovative ideas.

Second, researchers have discussed the leader-subordinate relationship based on equality theory, pressure theory, and power theory (Gao & Wang, 2014; H. Li, Hao, & Xi, 2015). However, when a leader frequently imposes a hostile attitude on Chinese millennial employees, those susceptible to their emotions and moods are more likely to have their innovative behavior compromised by the transfer of passive emotions. An accurate theoretical perspective is needed to interpret the process of emotion transfer. The focus in affective events theory (AET) is on the reasons for, processes involved in, and results of employees' emotional reactions in the workplace (Duan, Fu, Tian, & Kong, 2011). Therefore, I used AET as the theoretical foundation for my exploration of the connection between destructive leadership and millennial employees' innovative behavior.

Third, most prior researchers have focused on destructive leadership from an individual perspective and conducted empirical analyses by treating leadership style as perceived by subordinates as the appraisal source (Schyns & Schilling, 2013). However, from a group perspective, subordinates may change their perceptions of the same destructive leadership behavior (Krasikova, Green, & LeBreton, 2013) when the scenario, for example, the group atmosphere, changes. As a result, I expanded the perspective from leader-subordinate to leader-groupsubordinate, and focused on how group-level destructive leadership affects subordinates' innovative behavior through the emotional interplay among group members.

Literature Review and Hypotheses Development

Destructive Leadership and Employees' Innovative Behavior

Destructive leadership is regarded as power-based negative or improper behavior by an organization's leader toward the organization's internal or external stakeholders (H. Li et al., 2015). This behavior can be directed toward both the organization (such as theft and corruption) and subordinates (such as abuse and retaliation; Einarsen, Aasland, & Skogstad, 2007), and may be intentional (e.g., suppressing or exploiting subordinates) or may simply result from a bad temper. Innovation refers to the novel and feasible products, processes, methodologies, and ideas of an employee that are valuable to an organization (Parke, Seo, & Sherf, 2015). …

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