Working for a boss who uses bullying tactics like ridicule or public criticism has a negative impact on all employees – not just those targeted for criticism.
New research published in the Journal of Social Psychology reveals the full extent of harm caused by abusive bosses on the working environment, with colleagues of victims identified as suffering from “second-hand” or vicarious abusive supervision.
In the first study of its kind, researchers found this was associated with job frustration, abuse of other co-workers and a lack of perceived organisational support beyond the effects of the boss’s behaviour.
“Abusive supervision” is regarded as a dysfunctional form of leadership that includes a continuous display of hostile verbal and non-verbal behaviour towards subordinate. Meanwhile, “vicarious supervisory abuse” is defined as the witnessing or awareness of a boss abusing a colleague.
Examples could include a worker observing abusive behaviour, hearing rumours from co-workers or reading about it in an email.
"Our research suggests that vicarious abusive supervision is as likely as abusive supervision to negatively affect desired outcomes, with the worst outcomes resulting when both vicarious abusive supervision and abusive supervision are present," the study researchers from the University of New Hampshire said.
"Top management needs further education regarding the potential impacts of vicarious abuse supervision on employees to prevent and/or mitigate the effects of such abuse." Words by Clair Weaver
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