The pernicious effects of a bullying boss can replicate like a virus, says a new study in The Journal of Social Psychology (http://bit.ly/1C1qlQh). Abusive bosses not only demoralize employees in their direct line of fire, but also demoralize the co-workers of those they mistreat.
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.
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