The study, which examined 233 workers, looked at the effects of second-hand or “vicarious” abuse--the impact of simply hearing rumors about how badly a boss treated a colleague. Results revealed that both personally experienced and vicarious abuse had negative impacts. Second-hand abuse, like firsthand, lowers employees’ effectiveness as well as their opinion of the organization as a whole. “When vicarious abusive supervision is present,” the authors write, “employees realize that the organization is allowing this negative treatment to exist, even if they are not experiencing it directly.” What leaders permit, they promote.
We agree with the study’s authors, who recommend that managers take a close look at the impact of their styles and the ripple effects of those styles throughout their organizations. Toxicity starts at the top, but then—unfortunately—takes on a life of its own.
We want to hear. Have you been impacted by abusive firsthand or “second-hand” supervision? How does it affect you and your organization’s culture? Join the conversation and click "comments" on our Community of Practice Forum.