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Serves Them Right: Belittling and Bullying Employees Backfire on the Abusive Boss After One Week, Study Reveals


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Belittling and bullying employees will take its toll on the abusive boss' mental state about a week after the condescending behavior is begun, a new study by a Michigan State University scholar has revealed.

The study showed that in the short-term, abuse may be helpful and mentally restorative for supervisors.But over the long-term, it will come back to haunt the bully and abusive boss, Russell Johnson, an associate professor of management and an expert on workplace psychology, said.Past research showed abusive supervision is bad for the company, but some bosses still do it, which led experts to investigate the benefits of office bullying.

Sense of Recovery

Johnson said the abusive bosses felt a sense of recovery because their behavior helped replenish their mental health and resources.He explained that it requires mental health to suppress abusive behavior, but bosses who act on that impulse save the mental energy which, otherwise, would have been depleted by refraining from abuse.

American and Chinese supervisors were the respondent in several field studies and experiments conducted by Johnson and his team to verify that the results were not specific to a particular culture.Over a four-week period, they collected data daily and observed supervisors and workers in several industries, such as manufacturing, service, and education, Science Daily reported.

The psychology expert noted that the benefits of psychology are short-lived, lasting about one week.The abusive supervisors will then begin to experience decreased trust, support, and productivity from the staff, who are critical to the recovery and engagement of the boss.

Workers React Negatively in Other Ways

The study said that while the employees may not immediately confront their supervisors because of his abusive behavior, over time, they react in negative ways, such as engaging in counterproductive and aggressive behaviors.Some would even resign from their jobs.

Among the suggestions of the researchers for the supervisors to take well-timed breaks, cut their workloads, and communicate more with their staff.Communicating with employees will help the bosses in releasing their negative emotions through sharing, receiving social support, and gaining relational energy from their coworkers.

5 Types of Work Bullies

However, there are different forms of abusive bosses, Daily Herald reported.The bestseller “The A-hole Survival Guide: How to Deal with People Who Treat You Like Dirt” by Stanford University Professor Robert Sutton listed the five types of work bullies that people often encounter.

The lone bosshole begins a single instance of rudeness at work, which would lead other employees to respond in kind.Organizations must oust a single pompous jerk quickly.If that bosshole cannot be removed, switch team within the company, Trevor Foulk, a University of Maryland researcher, said.

The second work bully is the supervisor with hard-to-replace skills, such as the engineer.Sutton noted that many organizations look the other way around when the top performers or top bosses behave badly.He cited the case of Roger Ailes, the CEO of Fox News, wherein it did not do bullied Fox News workers any good to go to the HR and report the behavior of Ailes.

The third work bully is the clueless jerk.These are the people who are unaware of how much their rude remarks or short-tempered outburst can hurt other people.Sutton said that for abusive supervisors who are aware and purposely doing it – which was how Steve Jobs motivated Apple employees – they have to be convinced that “treating the other person that way is detrimental to their career.”

The fourth work bully is the petty tyrant.The list includes the office administrator who approves the expense reports and the HR coordinators who slow the hiring process because of imposing so many requirements.Their jobs may lack prestige, but their influence is felt by employees daily.These instances confirm what research has established that people with moderate responsibility but low levels of respect tend to take it out on other people to make themselves in control and exact a little bit of revenge.

Finally, the fifth work bully is the overbearing client.These are the rude customers who are too demanding.Because it is not easy to fire the person paying the bills, the trick, according to Sutton, is not to answer angry emails right away and stoop down to their level.

Avoiding the Abusive Boss After Leaving the Company

Some of the queries received by Seattle Times is that employees who quit because of an abusive boss may still be hounded in future job applications.The response was for the employee who quit not to mention the boss at all and to give only the name of the HR on applications.If the company asks for the name of the supervisor, tell them that you are not allowed to provide that information.


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