A look at horrible bosses

Each day, people across the country dread going to work because they fear being ridiculed, belittled or humiliated by their superior. Indeed, research has demonstrated the vast negative consequences of abusive supervision — including mental-health issues, distress along with damaging work attitudes and behaviors for victims.

However, as we start to increasingly understand how victims of abuse feel and act, little is known about how the perpetrator of such derogatory actions is impacted. In this newest research[1], my coauthor and I focused exactly on this particular question. Specifically, we wanted to know how supervisors respond after being abusive toward their subordinates, and we conducted multiple field studies with managers across a variety of industries and companies to find out.

What we discovered is that abused employees are not the only ones who suffer. The perpetrators do too. Abusive bosses experience significant social costs in the form of a reduced sense of social worth, which indicates whether individuals still feel valued and appreciated by others at work. Findings further revealed that these social repercussions are critical because they make supervisors worse performers in the end, such that they are unable to fulfill their supervisory job duties.

Taken together, this research shows that the consequences of workplace abuse are even more widespread than previously assumed. Entire departments (employees and supervisors alike) are negatively impacted by transgressions, which raises urgent calls to finally shed light on when managers might put an end to abusive behaviors.

Our study also address this question, and we found that psychopath supervisors (those that are callous and insensitive by nature) presented the greatest threat to eliminating abusive acts in the workplace. These managers neither experience nor particularly care about any social repercussions or their sense of social worth. As such, they were less likely to terminate the bad behavior. In fact, there might even be a risk that psychopath bosses perpetuate abusive actions in the future.

The silver lining is that the most managers (about 85 percent of them that don’t harbor psychopathic tendencies) are inclined to change their behavior and stop abusing others after realizing the social costs of their actions. As such, it might be fruitful to provide greater discourse and social feedback about destructive supervisor behaviors, which could help perpetrators realize and correct their faulty behaviors in the end.

Read more articles on abusive bosses:




[1] https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2019-48978-001

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.



Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.