Science: Your Toxic Boss Really Is Driving You Insane

Life & Culture Editor
01.11.17

NBC

If you dread your job because your boss spends more time commenting on the internet than he does working or speaks in a mixture of corporate jargon and Polyanna-style aphorisms that make you clench your jaw, it’s time to sit down and face a hard truth: Your boss is ruining your life. There’s science to back it up!

Sadly, the kind of boss mentioned above is only one of two types that a new study has found to be detrimental to the mental health of their employees. According to the research, out of the University of Manchester, having a boss that’s “dark” or “dysfunctional” can do more than make you stressed or unsatisfied with your job. It can also lead to clinical depression or bullying behaviors of your own.

Just one more thing you needed on top of wanting to jump out the window every time the person tasked with leading you uses the term “false dichotomy” where it doesn’t belong!

From The Huffington Post:

The findings, which will be presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference on occupational psychology, showed that employees of bosses with narcissistic and psychopathic traits are more likely to show signs of depression and to engage in bullying and other uncooperative behaviors at work.

“Workplace bullying is obviously unpleasant for the target, but also creates a toxic working environment for all involved,” Abigail Philips, a Ph.D. student at Manchester School of Business and the study’s lead author, said in a statement. “In short, bad bosses, those high in psychopathy and narcissism, have unhappy and dissatisfied employees who seek to ‘get their own back’ on the company.”

How can you tell if your boss is “dark” or “dysfunctional”? Consider the following: does your boss routinely harass you? Do they make life a living hell for you and your co-workers? Are they tyrannical and mean? Do they hurt for personal gain? And does it seem like they’re enjoying the pain they’re causing? Then you’ve got a “dark” boss on your hands. If your manager is generally just feckless, though, they’re likely just “dysfunctional,” which, in the long run, is much better (although not by much).

The University of Manchester study focused on the bosses that fall into the first category and can do real and lasting harm to your psyche. The authors asked 1,200 people (from all around the world) to answer questions about their boss’s personality and workplace bullying. What they found was that having a terrible boss — especially one that wants to get on top at any cost — is mentally harmful. Not only that, but in a case where trickle-down theory actually works, it turns out that a bad boss’ behavior will put their employees more at risk for bullying others, too, turning the workplace into a cutthroat environment where everyone loses.

So what to do if you’ve got one of those bosses? You could slyly slip them the study (at least the abstract, don’t print the whole thing) and walk away, get a new job, or, as The Huffington Post suggests, try some techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy to get your sanity back.

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