It is a well-known fact that a difficult and bad boss can be responsible for stressing you out, slowing down your career, denying you appreciation or credit, or downright making your life hellish. But do you believe that bad behaviour, towards you by your boss, can change your personality as well? If the claims of a new study are anything to go by, bosses with a dark personality can negatively affect their employee’s behaviour as well.
The study, presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Liverpool last week, and established the negative impact of a toxic boss on the behaviour of his/her employees. A team of researchers at the University of Manchester’s Business School surveyed 1,200 participants regarding their well being, and also about the nature of the relationship with their boss. The respondents belonged to varied industries, and also spanned different countries.
The study confirmed that employees who worked for bosses who had narcissistic or psychopathic traits naturally had lower levels of job satisfaction, and also scored higher on the clinical measure of depression. However, interestingly, the study also found that such employees indulged in counter-productive work behaviour, and workplace bullying more than others, and take advantage of their colleagues, more than others. The study suggested that disgruntled employees working under a difficult boss find ways to ‘get back’ at the company, and this manifests in negative behaviour such as bullying their co-workers.
Abigail Phillips, lead author of the study says, 'Overall the picture is clear: leaders high in dark traits can be bad news for organisations. Those high in psychopathy and narcissism have a strong desire for power and often lack empathy. This toxic combination can result in these individuals taking advantage of others, taking credit for their work, being overly critical, and generally behaving aggressively... Workplace bullying is obviously unpleasant for the target but also creates a toxic working environment for all involved.”
The study reiterates the importance and significance of a good, able and kind leader to deliver good results. We have all come across credit-hogging, vain, insecure, cold, manipulative or impulsive bosses at some point in our careers, and, as shown by this study, assuming that all they take away is our peace of mind is a serious under-estimation. Since the human brains works in different and unexpected ways, the study helps one understand how such a leader leaves a lasting impact on one’s personality and behaviour. Working under a difficult and toxic boss can undeniably take a toll on your health, mind and career, but there are ways to spot one, and even effectively deal with one, no matter how frosty your relationship with your boss might be.
What cannot be denied is the role that bosses play in retaining and managing employees, and therefore this study, and issue, assumes critical importance. Employers all over the world need to formulate effective and transparent policies and mechanisms to ensure that people who manage other people are also held accountable, and abuse of power and position is prevented. Howsoever impossible such a utopian concept may sound, employers, and the HR fraternity, needs to keep working towards it to ensure that employees do not suffer at the hands of biased bosses.