Toxic bosses are, unsurprisingly, the top cause of unhappiness in the workplace. Half of employees have left their jobs to get away from a bad manager, according to a 2015 Gallup survey, and 41 percent of American workers say they’ve been “psychologically harassed” on the job. Anyone who’s had a bad boss knows what it can do to your stress levels and job satisfaction. But it could also increase your risk for clinical depression and even lead to bullying behavior of your own, according to a new University of Manchester study.
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. 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.
Bad bosses fall into one of two categories : dark or dysfunctional. The bosses with narcissistic and psychopathic traits are an example of “dark” bosses. These types of managers may engage in destructive behaviors and hurt others for their own gain. [These are] people who enjoy the pain and suffering of others — they’re going to be mean, abusive and harassing in daily life. Dysfunctional bosses, on the other hand, are pretty harmless ― they’re just not very good at their job. Both types of bosses can be particularly toxic for employees if they lead by micromanaging. Studies have shown that employees who feel that they are being watched too closely perform more poorly, and people in demanding jobs with little control over their workflow have a significantly increased risk of premature death. A person with narcissistic and sociopathic tendencies is someone who shows a strong desire for power and lacks empathy for others. In a boss, this can manifest in taking advantage of employees, taking credit for others’ work, being hyper-critical and bullying co-workers. These bosses are mostly focused on getting to the top, and they’re not concerned about who they might hurt in the process. The research showed that employees of these types of bosses had reduced psychological well-being, including lower job satisfaction and higher scores on measures of clinical depression.
A boss’ bad behavior can trickle down to his or her employees and affect the workplace at large, triggering a vicious cycle of bullying in a company. This could be one factor contributing to the increased depression and low job satisfaction that employees of toxic bosses experience. Working for a toxic boss can lead to other types of health problems. Employees of bad managers are at greater risk for high blood pressure, chronic stress, sleep problems, anxiety, substance abuse issues, overeating, heart attacks and other health problems. If your boss is truly tyrannical, it might be time to consider a breakup. But if quitting isn’t an option at the moment, then talking a psychotherapist or a counsellor may be helpful in busting through work stress.