Careers

Have a bad boss or bullying manager? The research shows they’ll pay for it eventually

Posted by
Anna Brech
Published
Women are feeling the strain of stress in the work place.

Research has found that bullying behaviour from bosses and managers is detrimental to their own work life. It leads to damaged social worth that has a knock-on effect on their performance in the workplace. We can’t say we feel too sorry for them…

It takes years to build a great career but just months for a bad boss to destroy it. A manager who bullies and blames will spread insecurity wherever they go, with a drip-drip pattern of behavior designed to undermine all who stand in their path. 

Over a third of America’s workforce has experienced abuse from their colleagues in the form of threats, humiliation or sabotage of performance. A further 75% of those who quit do so because of a difficult supervisor rather than the position itself.

The Workplace Bullying Institute has a list of the top 25 workplace bullying tactics and it’s pretty bleak reading.  These include behaviours like singling out and isolating one person from co-workers; publicly displaying “gross,” undignified behaviour; abusing the evaluation process by lying about the person’s performance and even using confidential information about a person to humiliate privately or publicly. It ranges from the hard to identify to the outright aggressive.

But for those feeling rundown by overbearing managers, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. New research indicates that abusive bosses are their own worst enemy in the workplace. 

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“Abusive bosses experience significant social costs from their behavior in the workplace, most notably by losing social worth,” says Professor Manuela Priesemuth, whose paper on the effects of office bullying has just been published in the Journal of Applied Psychology

Priesemuth and co-author Barbara Bigelow carried out two independent field studies into the impact of abusive behaviour on managers and their workplace performance.

Colleagues working together
Bullying behaviour comes with social repercussions in the workplace

Presenting the results in Psychology Today, Priesemuth explains that prior research on the topic has mostly focused on victim impact of workplace abuse. But this new insight shows that bosses also get a significant hitback from inflicting emotional pain on others.

This takes the form of “feeling less valued” and appreciated by their colleagues, and thereby performing “more poorly” as a result.

So, by behaving in a bullying manner, bosses typically end up harming their own career trajectory. And, having sensed the impact of their behavior on their team, around 85% are open to modifying their ways.

“Our research also showed that the majority of supervisors felt and understood the social repercussions of their actions and were willing to change,” says Priesemuth. 

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The study shows that the remaining 15% of bosses display psychopathic tendencies, meaning they are unreceptive “to any social cues and repercussions of their actions”.

The bottom line? As long as your boss isn’t an actual psychopath, there’s hope. Find out more about tackling workplace bullying here

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Images: Getty, Co-Women on Unsplash

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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