The mediating role of representational predicaments between autocratic leadership and subordinates' workplace behaviors

  • Nan WANG

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


A representational predicament for an employee is a negative experience in which that employee believes that a key authority, such as his/her supervisor, has unfavorable perceptions about himself/herself caused by misconception, bias, or ignorance. That implies he/she is experiencing injustice at the workplace. Drawing for underlying explanations on the theories of interactional justice and equity, this study examines, through quantitative and qualitative methods, how autocratic leadership influences subordinates’ representational predicaments and in turn adversely affects subordinates’ behaviors in the workplace. The model developed in this thesis proposes that a subordinate is likely to have a stronger experience of representational predicaments if his/her supervisor adopts an autocratic leadership approach. It also predicts that a subordinate’s workplace behaviors are more likely to be influenced if he/she perceives that he/she has a representational predicament vis-a-vis his/her supervisor.

To test the hypotheses, a total of 222 employees from 7 business enterprises in mainland China were surveyed through multi-wave questionnaires. Among this sample, 14 subordinates who scored high and 7 subordinates who scored low on a scale for representational predicaments were interviewed one to one and face to face. Results of structural equation modeling supported the mediating role of representational predicaments between autocratic leadership and subordinates’ workplace behaviors. In other words, the whole hypothesized model was well supported by both quantitative and qualitative data.

Findings of this research bear both theoretical and practical implications, for the research not only examines representational predicaments in a new geographical context, but also advances the understanding of the underlying mechanisms that explain the mediating effect of representational predicaments. Furthermore, by having deeper insights into the adverse impacts of both autocratic leadership and representational predicaments, managers may be encouraged to seek to understand their subordinates better and thus avoid the adverse impacts that this research identifies.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Department of Management
SupervisorRobin Stanley SNELL (Supervisor) & Yifeng Nancy CHEN (Supervisor)

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