Goal Setting as an Antecedent of Destructive Leader Behaviors

A relatively new stream of research has emerged that examines the dark, or destructive, side of leadership. This research examines negative leaderbehaviors in several forms including abusive supervision, petty tyranny, […]

A relatively new stream of research has emerged that examines the dark, or destructive, side of leadership. This research examines negative leaderbehaviors in several forms including abusive supervision, petty tyranny, destructive leadership, social undermining, workplace aggression, and workplace bullying.  Recently, scholars have begun to consider the reasons why leaders choose to engage in these negative behaviors toward their subordinates. In this chapter, we review extant research on antecedents of negative supervisory behaviors. Then, we add to these findings by presenting a theoretical model that suggests aspects of goals and reward systems can act as contextual antecedents of destructive leader behaviors. Despite the vast literature in support of goal setting theory, a small but emerging line of research suggests that goals can have negative consequences. We draw on this research, as well as research on stress, to propose that goal difficulty and goal-contingent reward can contribute to destructive leader behaviors through the effects these characteristics have on levels of stress.

Bardes, M., & Piccolo, R. F. (2010). Aspects of goals and reward systems as antecedents of destructive leadership. In B. Schyns & T. Hansbrough (Eds.), When Leadership Goes Wrong: Destructive Leadership, Mistakes, and Ethical Failures. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing. link

About RFP

Ronald F. Piccolo is the Galloway Professor of Management at the University of Central Florida.