The tone at the top: A trickle-down model of how manager anger relates to employee moral behaviour

Jakob Stollberger, Mireia Las Heras, Yasin Rofcanin, Maria Jose Bosch, Pascale Daher

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The question of how leaders’ expressions of anger influence employees have been the subject of considerable scholarly debate. So far, however, research on the consequences of angry leadership has predominantly focused on the effects of supervisor expressions of anger, neglecting the potential influence of higher-level managerial anger. In this study, we integrate the emotions as social information theory with the adapted elaboration likelihood model to examine how manager anger trickles down across organizational hierarchical levels (i.e., managers, supervisors, and employees) to affect employee moral behaviour. Results of a multi-source field study conducted in Chile demonstrate that perceptions of manager moral behaviour and supervisor servant leadership serially mediate a negative relationship between manager anger and employee moral behaviour. Furthermore, counter to our predictions, trait negative affectivity of supervisors did not moderate the trickle-down relation of manager anger on employee moral behaviour. Our research elucidates the process by which manager anger can “set the tone” in an organization and trickle down across hierarchical levels to predict the moral behaviour of employees.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-921
JournalEuropean Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology
Issue number6
Early online date7 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Anger
  • moral behaviour
  • multilevel structural equation modelling
  • servant leadership
  • trickle-down model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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