Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine whether negative emotions mediate the relationship between supervisor rudeness and subordinates’ retaliatory reactions and how the reactions to supervisor rudeness differ between US Americans and Koreans and between in-group and out-group supervisors. Design/methodology/approach – A survey involving 197 employees from USA and South Korea. MANCOVA was used to analyze the data. Findings – Employees who were rudely (rather than politely) treated when receiving explanations for organizational decisions were more likely to engage in retaliation. The latter tendency was partially mediated by the negative emotions that the employees felt about their rude treatment. In addition, the rudeness-retaliation effects became stronger when the supervisor was dissimilar (rather than similar) to them, and the latter two-way interaction effect was even stronger to those who highly value vertical collectivism. Surprisingly, however, Koreans were more likely to retaliate against their supervisor rather than US Americans. Research limitations/implications – Previous scenario-based studies contrasting Koreans and US Americans have yielded findings suggesting that Koreans and US American employees may differ in their responses to supervisory rudeness. Additionally, the tendency of people to be more attracted to similar rather than dissimilar others (consistent with the similarity-attraction paradigm) suggests that the (dis)similarity of a supervisor is likely to influence the rudeness-retaliation effect. Future research needs to examine when, how, and why employees retaliate against supervisory rudeness to better understand the retaliation dynamics in organizations. Originality/value – This is the only study that has examined how, in the context of receiving rude treatment from a supervisor, retaliatory reactions by US American versus Korean employees may differ and why (i.e. via emotional mediating variables), and whether US American-Korean differences in retaliation under these circumstances are influenced by the supervisor’s perceived (dis)similarity.
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