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Multilevel influence of destructive leadership on millennial generation employees' innovative behavior.

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-group-subordinate, 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). Employees' innovative behavior is a process that includes the creation, development, and implementation of innovative thoughts (Liu et al., 2012).

From an individual perspective, destructive leadership involves frequent abuse and reprimand of subordinates (Krasikova et al., 2013). Innovative behavior, which is risky and uncertain, needs continual input of resources (Yidong & Xinxin, 2013). If employees perceive that failure of a proposed innovation may lead to abuse or reprimand from a leader, they will likely discontinue the process of emotional input to idea development. This is particularly true for Chinese millennial employees, who are emotionally sensitive and vulnerable after growing up with the indulgent love of parents and grandparents (Hou, Li, & Tu, 2014). Fear of reprimand from a destructive leader means that these employees seldom attempt to come up with new ideas or constructive suggestions. In addition, innovation occurs in conditions of support and guaranteed resources, and an open mind (Yidong & Xinxin, 2013). Restriction of these aspects by destructive leaders reduces employees' creation awareness and, consequently, impedes their innovation.

From a group perspective, aggregated leadership represents a group's common belief in the leader. Destructive leaders ignore the interests of the organization or group. This can involve acting in a corrupt manner for personal gain, showing no respect for the feelings of subordinates, brutally reprimanding or retaliating against employees, preventing employee growth, and exploiting subordinates (Einarsen et al., 2007). When group members form a shared belief about their leader's destructiveness, they avoid reprimands by becoming less open to communicating ideas or sharing resources. Employees' resulting low emotional group attachment means that the group atmosphere is not conducive to teamwork or brainstorming (Walumbwa & Schaubroeck, 2009), and effective innovative behavior is thus inhibited. Therefore, I proposed the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1: Destructive leadership, as perceived by Chinese millennial generation employees, will have a negative influence on the employees' innovative behavior.

Hypothesis 2: Actual and perceived destructive leadership in work groups will have a negative cross-level influence on Chinese millennial generation employees' innovative behavior.

Mediating Role of Employees' Individual Affective Responses

According to AET, a leader's attitudes or behavior will, as important affective events, influence subordinates' individual affective responses, attitudes, behavior, and performance (Wang & Chen, 2014). From the subordinate's point of view, a leader has statutory authority and holds the power to plan and to allocate resources, and direct, supervise, assess, reward, and punish employees. Therefore, leaders' behavior and attitudes greatly influence subordinates' affective responses (Wang & Chen, 2014). However, destructive leaders are accustomed to frequently reprimanding subordinates in the workplace or criticizing them in public, or even suppressing subordinates to maintain their individual authority or personal interests (Shaw, Erickson, & Harvey, 2011). As a result, when Chinese millennial employees--who have strong personalities--pursue freedom, challenge authority, and perceive the existence of destructive leadership, they will undoubtedly have strong affective responses, such as feeling angry and perceiving that there have been setbacks (Duan et al., 2011), and will experience negative moods, such as depression and agitation. Similarly, when group members share the belief that their relationships with coworkers are replete with blame and complaints, that teamwork and free communication pose high interpersonal risks, and that resource allocation, performance assessment, rewards, and punishments cannot be fairly distributed, negative individual affective responses will occur.

In addition, employees' individual affective responses influence their attitudes, behavior, and work performance (Duan et al., 2011). In contrast to negative emotions, positive emotions can arouse employees' social tendency to engage with an organization and improve their performance (Parke et al., 2015). In the field of innovation, creativity is associated with employees' abilities and their willingness to engage in creative activities (Amabile, Barsade, Mueller, & Staw, 2005). Because Chinese millennial employees generally have weak emotion management abilities (Hou et al., 2014), they struggle to concentrate on work when they are occupied with perceived setbacks and anger, causing them to become burnt out and experience self-denial. Their absence of confidence and focus will inhibit their development of ideas about, and input into, innovations. Thus, I proposed the following hypotheses:

Hypothesis 3: The influence of destructive leadership, as perceived by Chinese millennial generation employees, on the employees' innovative behavior will be mediated by the employees' individual affective responses.

Hypothesis 4: The multilevel influence of actual group destructive leadership on Chinese millennial generation employees' innovative behavior will be mediated by the employees' individual affective responses.

Mediating Role of Group Affective Tone

Group-level emotions are built on group identification and are shared among members, contributing to motivating and regulating intragroup and intergroup attitudes and behavior (Smith, Seger, & Mackie, 2007). Group affective tone reflects group-level positive or negative emotions, and is the homogenous or internally emotional feature of a group. Nonetheless, not all groups develop group affective tone. George and Zhou (2007) suggested that groups consisting of individuals with similar emotional features can more easily attract new members than can groups comprising individuals with dissimilar emotional features. Shared experiences and socialization influence the development and continuity of a group's affective tone, which exists only when group members share a similar level (i.e., have high consistency) of emotions. To some extent, Chinese millennial employees have childhood background and family structure, or personality traits and values, in common (Hou et al., 2014). These shared experiences allow the employees to form a cohesive group affective tone.

Leadership styles have been found to be strongly associated with a group's positive or negative mood (Volmer, 2012). Within the context of a group's shared beliefs, destructive leaders focus on private interests, rather than pursuing organizational goals, and frequently abuse or suppress subordinates, thereby sabotaging group harmony (Gao & Wang, 2014). Chinese millennial employees are noted for being very emotional and having weak self-control, and they seek freedom and challenge authority (Y.-P. Li & Hou, 2012). These elements of the work environment lay the foundation for building the group's affective frame and developing affective tone. According to AET, the relationship between destructive leaders and Chinese millennial employees forms work environment features that lead to negative work events, for example, conflict caused by criticism and abuse, and that bring out strong negative emotions in the employees. These employees then bring their negative individual emotions and emotional experiences into the group context for external interaction and internal sharing. In certain group affective frames, emotional contagion then further promotes the development of a negative group affective tone (Barsade & Gibson, 2007).

Sharing more positive, rather than negative, emotions has been found to prompt more broadening-and-building interactions within a group (George & Zhou, 2007; Rhee, 2006). Such interactions positively influence group creativity, members' satisfaction with the group, and member knowledge sharing. Barsade and Gibson (2007) contended that positive emotional contagion among group members contributes to enhancing cooperation, reducing conflict, and improving perceived task performance. However, a group affective tone that features complaints and blame, mistrust among group members, and blockage of communication and sharing because of destructive leadership, will undoubtedly impede the idea development and innovation of Chinese millennial employees, who pursue internal harmony and stress fairness and justice. Therefore, I proposed the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis 5: The multilevel influence of actual group destructive leadership on Chinese millennial generation employees' innovative behavior will be mediated by group affective tone.

Method

Participants and Procedure

Participants were recruited from three companies in the healthcare, communication, and finance industries in Beijing and Nanchang, China. I first contacted the companies' human resource managers to ask their permission to conduct this study. The human resource managers then helped me to telephone the group leaders to ask them to provide the names and identification numbers of supervisor-subordinate pairs who might be willing to take part in the study.

The questionnaires were divided into two batches and participants completed these on a voluntary basis. The first batch was answered by millennial generation employees. Each employee received an unsealed envelope that contained a cover letter explaining the purpose and procedure of this study and assuring confidentiality, and a copy of a questionnaire assessing perceived destructive leadership and individual affective responses. Employees were asked to put the completed questionnaires into the envelopes, seal them, and return them to me. In the second batch, group leaders evaluated millennial employees' innovative behavior, sealed the envelopes, and returned them to me.

In the first batch, 256 questionnaires were distributed to 32 groups in the three companies (eight employees in each group on average), and valid responses were collected from 223 employees (87.11%) from 32 work groups (100%). In the second batch, 223 questionnaires were distributed and 223 valid responses were collected (100%). After pairing the two batches, I acquired 223 paired questionnaires from 32 groups. The average group size was 6.97 employees and the average service period in the group was 3.31 years. Of the employee participants, 121 were men (54.26%) and the mean age was 27.36 (SD = 5.84).

Measures

To create a Chinese version of the original English instrument, I adopted the double-blind back-translation procedure. All variables were rated on a 5-point Likert-type scale ranging from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree.

Perceived destructive leadership. To measure perceived destructive leadership, I used the five-item scale developed by Mitchell and Ambrose (2007). A sample item is "My superior often debases his or her subordinates in public." Cronbach's [alpha] was .92 in this study.

Actual group destructive leadership. I took the approach used by Yidong and Xinxin (2013) to acquire group-level leadership data and actual destructive leadership data. This involved aggregating average group values of each group member's comments about their leader. Cronbach's [alpha] was .93 in this study.

Individual affective responses. I used eight items of the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (George & Zhou, 2007) to measure employees' negative emotions. A sample item is "I felt agitated in the past week." Cronbach's [alpha] was .89 in this study.

Group affective tone. I aggregated the average values of individual affective responses across members of the same group to assess the group's affective tone. Cronbach's [alpha] was .91 in this study.

Innovative behavior. To assess innovative behavior, I used the scale developed by Scott and Bruce (1994). A sample item is "At work, he/she actively seeks to apply new technologies, processes, or methods." Cronbach's [alpha] was .87 in this study.

Control variables. As employees' tenure, age, and gender have been found to influence innovative behavior (Yidong & Xinxin, 2013), I controlled for these variables at the individual level. Tenure and age were measured in years, and gender was coded as 1 = male and 2 = female.

Aggregation Test

I conducted a test to determine if destructive leadership, as perceived by employees, and individual affective responses could be aggregated to the group level by evaluating three data indicators: intraclass correlations (ICC) 1 and 2, and within-group agreement (rwg). For the two variables, the ICC1 values were .48 and .45 (> .12), the ICC2 values were .98 and .97 (> .70), and the average rwg values were .87 and .88 (> .70), respectively. Thus, I concluded that individuals' perceptions of destructive leadership and individual affective responses could be aggregated to group-level variables.

Analytic Techniques

I used hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to test the multilevel hypotheses. Individual affective responses should be considered as a lower level mediator (1-1-1 model) in the relationship between individuals' perceptions of destructive leadership and innovative behavior; individual affective responses should be considered as a cross-level mediator/lower level mediator (2-1-1 model) in the relationship between actual group destructive leadership and innovative behavior; and group affective tone should be considered as a cross-level mediator/higher level mediator (2-2-1 model) in the relationship between actual group destructive leadership and innovative behavior.

Results

Descriptive Statistics

The means, standard deviations, and correlations among the study variables are shown in Table 1.

Hypotheses Tests

As can be seen in Table 2, Model 1 of the HLM analyses illustrates the negative effects of employees' perceptions of destructive leadership on innovative behavior, supporting Hypothesis 1. Model 2 shows the weaker negative effects of employees' perceptions of destructive leadership on innovative behavior after individual affective responses were included, and individual affective responses also had negative effects on innovative behavior, thus supporting Hypothesis 3.

In Table 3, Model 1 illustrates the negative effects of actual group destructive leadership on innovative behavior, supporting Hypothesis 2. Model 2 indicates that the negative effects of actual group destructive leadership on innovative behavior weakened after individual affective responses were added, and individual affective responses also had negative effects on innovative behavior. Thus, Hypothesis 4 was supported.

Model 2 in Table 4 also demonstrates that, after group affective tone was added, the negative effects of actual group destructive leadership on innovative behavior weakened, and group affective tone also had negative effects on innovative behavior. Thus, Hypothesis 5 was supported.

Discussion

I examined the influence of perceived and actual group destructive leadership on the innovative behavior of Chinese millennial employees, as well as the mediating roles of individual affective responses and group affective tone in this relationship, from the multilevel perspective of affective events.

First, both perceived and actual group destructive leadership were effective predictors of the Chinese millennial employees' innovative behavior, confirming that leadership style has an important influence on employees' performance, work attitudes, and behavior (Kalshoven, Den Hartog, & De Hoogh, 2011). From the individual perspective, destructive leadership has a negative influence on millennial employees' innovative behavior (Shaw et al., 2011), materially increasing employees' innovation input risks and reducing their passion for innovation and group emotional attachment. Long-term suppression or restriction of subordinates' open imagination and transformational minds by destructive leaders (Einarsen et al., 2007) has a negative effect on millennial employees' idea development and innovation. Moreover, unfair resource allocation or inappropriate reward and punishment measures further undermine employees' innovative behavior. At the group level, a leader's destructive features consolidate group members' negative notions of the leader's management style and personality traits. Group leadership characterized by complaints, abuse, and criticism has a negative impact on knowledge sharing and information exchange, thus undoubtedly reducing millennial employees' innovative behavior.

Second, employees' individual affective responses mediated the influence of perceived and actual group destructive leadership on the Chinese millennial employees' innovative behavior. Prior researchers have used other theories, for example, equality, pressure, and power theories (Gao & Wang, 2014; H. Li et al., 2015) to explore how leadership styles influenced subordinates' work attitudes or behavior. Parke et al. (2015) used recognition theory and motivation theory to explain how employees' individual emotions influenced their innovative behavior by increasing recognition flexibility and psychological devotion. In contrast, I applied AET and found that negative work events, such as criticism, abuse, and suppression by destructive leaders, caused negative emotions among employees, lessening their passion for innovation, inhibiting creativity, diminishing innovation input, and eventually blocking actual innovative behavior.

Third, group affective tone mediated the influence of actual group destructive leadership on the Chinese millennial employees' innovative behavior. Empirical researchers have demonstrated that groups consisting of millennial employees with similar growth experiences and socialization processes are likely to develop a consistent group affective tone, with group members sharing emotions and mutual recognition (Sy, Cote, & Saavedra, 2005). When group members share a common belief that their leaders are characterized by apparent destructiveness, negative emotional responses, such as anger, complaints, and blame, spread throughout the group, and a negative group affective tone develops (Barsade & Gibson, 2007). Sharing positive emotions promotes teamwork, reduces conflict, and increases group creativity, but a negative group affective tone enhances negative emotional moods, such as hatred, suspicion, and selfishness, damaging the innovation processes that promote open communication and knowledge sharing.

Theoretical Implications

I have made three significant theoretical contributions to the literature. First, destructive leadership is conceptualized into two levels: individual and group. Previous researchers have focused on the relationship between destructive leadership as perceived by individuals and subordinates (Schyns & Schilling, 2013), but have disregarded the structural connotation of actual group destructive leadership.

Second, I found that destructive leadership has a multilevel influence on Chinese millennial employees' innovative behavior. Previous researchers have mainly explored the influence of positive leadership styles (Yidong & Xinxin, 2013), whereas I found that destructive leadership, which is a negative leadership style, hinders the innovation of millennial employees at the individual level, and also spreads negative emotions at the group level, inhibiting these employees' passion for innovation.

Third, in contrast to the use of other theories by prior researchers, I used AET as a theoretical framework to illustrate the multivariate, multilevel model of the effects of leaders' destructive behavior on employees' innovation. My results suggest that individual affective responses and group affective tone had a multilevel influence on the negative work events caused by destructive leadership, thereby affecting the Chinese millennial employees' innovative behavior.

Practical Implications

I have also made three significant practical contributions to the literature. First, Chinese organizations should increase their management of leaders' destructive behavior (Liu et al., 2012). Although modern managers emphasize leaders' ability to make strategic decisions and operate businesses, the destructiveness incurred by a leader's personality or the pursuit of private interests is often overlooked (Gao & Wang, 2014). My findings indicate that destructive leadership has a negative influence on both subordinates' individual behavior and groups' emotions and moods.

Second, Chinese organizations should seek to promote a harmonious group affective tone and inspire positive emotions in individual employees. My findings suggest that because Chinese millennial employees share a similar childhood background and socialization process, they are particularly susceptible to leadership styles and group moods. In summary, when negative emotions dominate a group's affective tone, individual employees' innovative behavior is inhibited (Hou et al., 2014).

Third, Chinese organizations should go beyond simply increasing capital and equipment investment for innovation and instead should manage millennial employees by determining how to contain leaders' destructive behavior, create a harmonious group affective tone, and inspire positive emotions in employees (Li & Hou, 2012).

Limitations and Directions for Future Research

There are several limitations in this study. I tested individual affective responses to negative emotions. Future researchers can use individual affective responses associated with both positive and negative emotions as an explanatory variable in the relationship between destructive leadership and employee innovation. In addition, I focused on destructive leadership at the individual and group level. However, the leader's role in a group is affected by organizational atmosphere and structure (Morgeson, DeRue, & Karam, 2010). Therefore, future researchers should consider the influence of factors such as organizational culture and structure on the effects of destructive leadership.

https://doi.org/ 10.2224/sbp.6117

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XUANFANG HOU

Jiangxi Normal University

Xuanfang Hou, Business College, Jiangxi Normal University.

This study was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (71562021), the Social Science Planning Project of Jiangxi Province (15GL14), and the Research

Project of Humanities and Social Sciences in Universities of Jiangxi Province (GL1559).

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Xuanfang Hou, Business College, Jiangxi Normal University, 99 Ziyang Road, Nanchang, Jiangxi 330022, People's Republic of China.

Email: 244797823@qq.com
Table 1. Means, Standard Deviations, and Correlations Among
Study Variables

Variable                  M       SD     1         2         3

Individual level
  Gender                   1.47   0.48   1
  Age                     27.36   5.84    .12      1
  Tenure                   3.31   2.15    .15 *     .48 **   1
  Perceived destructive    3.52   0.76   -.03      -.13      -.07
    leadership
  Individual affective     3.65   0.71   -.06      -.05       .05
    response
  Innovative behavior      3.74   0.68    .05      -.06       .02
Group level
  Actual destructive       3.56   0.54   1
    leadership
  Group affective tone     3.67   0.43    .25 **   1

Variable                  4         5         6

Individual level
  Gender
  Age
  Tenure
  Perceived destructive   1
    leadership
  Individual affective     .21 **   1
    response
  Innovative behavior     -.31 **   -.43 **   1
Group level
  Actual destructive
    leadership
  Group affective tone

Note. [N.sub.individual] = 223, [N.sub.group] = 32;
* p < .05, ** p < .01.

Table 2. Results of Hierarchical Linear Modeling Predicting
Innovative Behavior: Lower Level Mediator (1-1-1 Model)

Variable                             Null     Model 1    Model 2
                                    model

[[gamma].sup.00]                   3.63 ***   3.71 ***   3.65 ***
Perceived destructive leadership   -.46 ***   -.24 ***
Individual affective response                 -.62 ***
[[sigma].sup.2]                     .32        .37        .34
[tau]                               .15        .07        .01
[R.sup.2]                           .09        .23

Note. [N.sub.individual] = 223, [N.sub.group] = 32; *** p < .001.

Table 3. Results of Hierarchical Linear Modeling Predicting
Innovative Behavior: Cross-Level Mediator-Lower Level Mediator
(2-1-1 Model)

Variable                        Null model   Model 1    Model 2

[[gamma].sub.00]                3.63 ***     3.72 ***   3.68 ***
Actual destructive leadership   -.47 ***     -.25 **
Individual affective response                -.68 ***
[[sigma].sup.2]                  .32          .38        .35
[tau]                            .15          .06        .01
[R.sup.2]                        .29          .68

Note. [N.sub.individual] = 223, [N.sub.group] = 32; ** p < .01, *** p
< .001.

Table 4. Results of Hierarchical Linear Modeling Predicting
Innovative Behavior: Cross-Level Mediator-Higher Level Mediator
(2-2-1 Model)

Variable                        Null model   Model 1    Model 2

[[gamma].sub.00]                3.63 ***     3.72 ***   3.68 ***
Actual destructive leadership   -.47 ***     -.15 **
Group affective tone                         -.58 ***
[[sigma].sup.2]                  .32          .38        .34
[tau]                            .15          .06        .01
[R.sup.2]                        .29          .67

Note. [N.sub.individual] = 223, [N.sub.group] = 32; *** P < .001.
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Author:Hou, Xuanfang
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Date:Aug 1, 2017
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