When the Boss is a Bully

When the Boss is a Bully

By Jennifer Gladstone

Workplace bullies not only make your time on the job miserable, but new studies show this behavior can also be toxic to your life and relationships outside of work.

According to data from the Workplace Bullying Institute, more than a third of American workers claim they have been victimized. Research also shows that the targets of bullying can even suffer from post-traumatic stress.

A new paper from the University of Manchester in the U.K. shows that when the bully is the boss, the health effects are dramatically magnified. The study looked at 1,200 workers in wide range of industries. As you might expect, those working for “toxic” bosses reported much lower job satisfaction. But the study goes beyond the workplace to report that these workers are also more likely to suffer from clinical depression.

A study out of Michigan State University found that bosses who engage in rude behavior like sarcasm, put-downs or condescending comments cause their employees mental fatigue. This constant onslaught of incivility and fatigue makes it harder for employees to reign in their emotions, and so they tend to treat their peers in a similar way. This creates a storm of poor behavior that is hard to stop once it starts spiraling out of control.

According to Catherine Mattice, the founder of Civility Partners, the bullies who set this whole downward spiral into motion might not even realize the trouble they are causing.


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Catherine Mattice: The research really points to that bullies are really disheartened and upset when they realize just how terrible their behavior is. What you hear over and over again is that this person, maybe they knew that somebody cried because of a conversation they had, or they know they are kind of a hard-ass or that people see them a certain way, and sometimes they are almost sort of proud of that — well I’m just a tough manager. But when you coach a bully and you really present the information that this is how you are perceived and this is how you make people feel, so often they are shocked and appalled that this is what they’ve done and they didn’t realize the consequences. 


Good bosses want their people to love their jobs. Coming up on Valentine’s Day, Catherine Mattice will be presenting a webinar with EBI to teach you 50 simple steps to improve your employee engagement. We hope you will join us. You can register here for the free webinar: 


About the Author

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.

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