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The economic costs of poor governance are significant. Gallup It is estimated that about $1 trillion a year is lost due to unrealized productivity and declining employee engagement in the United States. Some of these economic losses are due to rather harmless factors, such as inadequate training or outdated management practices. But the non-trivial part can probably be attributed to a special form of toxic leadership.
It is called abusive supervision is a term used to describe managers who regularly engage in hostile behavior towards their employees, including outbursts of anger, public expressions of ridicule, and unfounded accusations or criticism. Research It is estimated that abusive bosses cost American employers $23.8 billion a year, which is not surprising since victims of workplace ab*se often report increased emotional stress, burnout, and other health related issues.
In addition to such physiological and psychosomatic problems, abusive bosses threaten their victims’ ability to form and maintain meaningful relationships at work. For example, studies show that victims of ab*se at work may internalize ab*se and blame themselves for causing it, which can lead ab*sed employees to believe that others will interpret the ab*se as evidence that they are not worth being friends with.
Supporting this idea, recently research shows that ab*sed employees may worry about whether they are relatively valuable (trustworthy, likeable, respected) in the eyes of others and will work hard to try and stay in the good graces of their colleagues.
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Since building and maintaining positive social relationships at work is critical to both the well-being and productivity of all employees, it is important to understand how to deal with the potential social harm that can be caused by an abusive boss.
Try to understand why the ab*se happens
When you are exposed to someone’s anger and hostility, especially if it comes from those in power, your first instinct may be to look inside yourself and consider if you are somehow responsible for the ab*se.
This is not necessarily bad practice. These forms of honest self-reflection are important for maintaining positive social relationships. However, sometimes ab*se is unjustified. In such cases, it may be important to understand why ab*se has occurred.
For example, while abusive leadership may be habitual, sometimes leaders engage in such behavior impulsively due to failures in self-regulation. That is, things like poor sleep quality or the daily requirements that come with dealing with clients can cause managers to mindlessly lash out at their employees.
While this does not justify their behavior, it can provide context for why the behavior happened, whether it can be expected to happen again, and whether attempts to salvage the relationship are possible. After all, when leaders engage in abusive behavior impulsively, they are more likely to feel guilty and work to repair the relationship with the ab*sed employee.
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Be careful not to perpetuate the cycle of ab*se
Sometimes it’s possible and worth trying to salvage a relationship with an abusive boss. However, it is important to recognize that such attempts can also backfire and end up perpetuating the cycle of violence, especially when the leader’s violence is habitual or an expression of a latent toxic personality.
One recent study published in Management log found that ab*sed employees who valued positive interpersonal relationships at work became concerned about their self-worth and tried to protect it with acts of kindness and fawning. Specifically, the ab*sed employees they studied tried to demonstrate their worth to their colleagues by giving them support or helping them with their work tasks, and tried to win their leader’s favor with compliments and flattery.
While these behaviors may reflect victims’ attempts to reconnect with their abusive leader, the authors warn that they may inadvertently perpetuate the cycle of ab*se, as they may signal to the leader that their abusive behavior is producing positive outcomes.
The study states: “While we fully acknowledge the many and varied reasons why some people tolerate abusive relationships at work (job insecurity, financial hardship, lack of other options, etc.), we encourage those who experience with workplace violence, consider taking action to end the ab*se, if at all possible, even if it means their reputation in the workplace could suffer.”
Such actions may include discussing the issue with your manager’s boss, filing a formal complaint with Human Resources, requesting a transfer to another department, or, if all else fails, looking for work elsewhere.
As the authors note, “bringing more attention to the ab*se they face can be a difficult step, but it may be the only way to stop the cycle of ab*se.”