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Holding Others in Contempt: the Moderating Role of Power in the Relationship Between Leaders’ Contempt and their Behavior Vis-à-vis Employees

  • Stacey Sanders (a1), Barbara M. Wisse (a1) and Nico W. Van Yperen (a1)


The purpose of the present research was to investigate if and when leaders’ trait-like tendency to experience contempt would result in a lack of constructive attitudes and behaviors towards subordinates and an increase in destructive attitudes and behaviors towards subordinates. Previous research shows that increased power aligns individuals’ behavior with their trait-like tendencies. Accordingly, we hypothesized that leader contempt and power will interact to predict leaders’ people orientation, ethical leadership, dehumanization, and self-serving behavior. Across three studies, we indeed found that contempt was more negatively associated with leaders’ people orientation and ethical leadership, and more positively associated with dehumanization and leaders’ self-serving behavior, when the leader had higher levels of power rather than lower levels of power. These results are discussed in the context of corporate ethical scandals demonstrating leaders’ focus on personal gain to the detriment of the needs of their subordinates.

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Holding Others in Contempt: the Moderating Role of Power in the Relationship Between Leaders’ Contempt and their Behavior Vis-à-vis Employees

  • Stacey Sanders (a1), Barbara M. Wisse (a1) and Nico W. Van Yperen (a1)


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