Coping with destructive leadership behaviour: A qualitative study of nonphysical abuse in South African companies

Brink, Beatrix (2019-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Whereas there tends to be a research focus on positive and constructive leadership, the investigation of negative or destructive leadership behaviour receives less attention. Further, with the focus of leadership being the leader, research less often gives prominence to followers and the complicated dynamic between leader and follower. The main focus of this research was to explore followers’ direct experiences with destructive leadership behaviour in South African organisational contexts and coping strategies they employed to engage with this behaviour. The study was also interested in follower perceptions of the characteristics of the phenomenon of destructive leadership behaviour. In this regard, the study particularly explored participants’ perceptions of relational authenticity with the leader. To what extent does a follower’s identification with the leader in terms of congruent traits, values and social representation (i.e., socio-economic, racial, gender and age cohort) influence the coping process? Further, the study explored whether participants’ psychological capital played a role in their coping process. In order to respond to the explorative aims of the study and mindful of the complicated nuances of interpersonal social relationships in the South African work context, the study adopted a qualitative approach, which was informed by aspects of constructivist grounded theory. Locating the study within qualitative data gathering techniques, a semistructured person-to-person interview approach was followed. To complement and support the interview data, participants completed the Psychological Capital Questionnaire (PCQ) at the end of the interview. The findings indicate that the managers’ perceived destructive leadership styles had consequences for the participants, the managers themselves and the work unit, affecting the execution of tasks and the attainment of goals, as well as the well-being of other team members in the work unit. In order to cope with the negative relationship, participants tried to find control in the situation; they attempted to distance themselves from the situation, their own thoughts and emotions; they sought ways to affirm their closely held self-beliefs; indulged in positive and negative self-nurturing; tried to find solace in religion/spirituality; sought social and family support; and attempted to re-direct cognitions. These coping attempts were accomplished with varying degrees of effectiveness. Participants’ perceptions of relational authenticity with the leader played a role in perceiving the managers’ behaviour as destructive; and in coping with the destructive leader behaviour. The findings indicate that participants’ psychological capital may have played a role in their coping with the managers’ destructive leadership style. The shared experiences of the participants gave voice to their intrinsic needs to be able to live their work lives in ways that were authentic to their values as expressions of their self-concepts. When the ability to live authentic lives congruent with their self-beliefs were challenged by the destructive leadership styles of their direct managers, participants’ various coping attempts were largely aimed at re-affirming their self-beliefs.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Te midde van ‘n neiging tot ‘n navorsingsfokus op positiewe en konstruktiewe leierskap word daar minder aandag geskenk aan die ondersoek na negatiewe of destruktiewe leierskapsgedrag. Verder, met die fokus op die hoofrol van leierskap, word daar met navorsing dikwels minder prominensie gegee aan volgelinge en die ingewikkelde dinamika tussen leier en volgeling. Die hooffokus van hierdie navorsing is die ondersoek na volgelinge se direkte ervarings met destruktiewe leierskapsgedrag in die Suid-Afrikaanse organisasie-konteks en die strategieë wat aangewend word om hierdie soort gedrag te hanteer. Die studie is ook gerig op die volgelinge se persepsies van die eienskappe van die verskynsel van destruktiewe leierskapsgedrag. In hierdie verband het die studie veral die deelnemers se persepsies van verhoudingsegtheid (“relational authenticity”) met die leier ondersoek. Die vraag is gestel oor in watter mate ‘n volgeling se hanteringsproses beïnvloed word deur identifikasie met die leier in terme van kongruente eienskappe, waardes en sosiale verteenwoordiging (dit wil sê sosio-ekonomiese-, rasse-, gender/geslags- en ouderdomsgroep). Die studie het ook ondersoek of deelnemers se psigologiese kapitaal ’n rol gespeel het in hul hanteringsprosesse. Om te beantwoord aan die ondersoekende doelstelling van die studie en met inagneming van die ingewikkelde nuanses van interpersoonlike sosiale verhoudings in die Suid-Afrikaanse werkskonteks het die studie n kwalitatiewe benadering aangeneem wat geïnspireer is deur aspekte van konstruktief gegronde teorie. Om die studie binne die gebied van kwalitatiewe data-insamelingstegnieke te hou is ‘n semi-gestruktureerde persoon-totpersoon- onderhoudsbenadering gevolg. Om die onderhoudsdata aan te vul en te ondersteun het die deelnemers die Psigologiese Kapitaalvraelys (“Psychological Capital Questionnaire” (PCQ)) aan die einde van elke onderhoud voltooi. Die bevindings dui aan dat die bestuurders se waargeneemde destruktiewe leierskapstyle gevolge ingehou het vir die deelnemers, die bestuurders self en die betrokke werkeenhede en sodoende die uitvoering van take en die bereiking van doelwitte, sowel as die welstand van ander spanlede in die werkeenhede beïnvloed het. Ten einde die negatiewe verhoudings te hanteer het deelnemers probeer om: beheer in die situasie te vind; hulself van die situasie en hul eie gedagtes en emosies te probeer distansieer; wyses te vind om hul selfbeskouings te bevestig; hul te wend tot positiewe en negatiewe selfsorg; troos te vind in godsdiens/spiritualiteit; sosiale en gesinsondersteuning te soek en waarnemings te heradresseer. Hierdie hanteringspogings is met verskillende grade van doeltreffendheid aangewend. Deelnemers se persepsies van verhoudingsegtheid (“relational authenticity”) met die leier het ‘n rol gespeel in die beskouing van die bestuurders se gedrag as destruktief en in die hantering van die destruktiewe leiersgedrag. Die bevinding dui daarop dat die deelnemers se psigologiese kapitaal ‘n rol kon gespeel het in hul hantering van die bestuurders se destruktiewe leierskapstyle. Die ervaringe wat die deelnemers in gemeen gehad het, het hul intrinsieke behoeftes verwoord om hul beroepslewens te lei op wyses getrou aan hul waardes as uitdrukking van hul onderskeie selfbeskouings. Met die uitdaging van hierdie leefwyses getrou aan hul selfbeskouings deur hul direkte bestuurders se destruktiewe leierskapstyle was deelnemers se onderskeie hanteringspogings grootliks gerig op die herbevestiging van hul selfbeskouings.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/107313
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