Bad bosses can be bad for your health, experts say

August 7, 2012 By Sharon Jayson

Mondays can start off poorly, especially if you've got a bad boss. Or a mean boss. Or an incompetent boss.

Psychologist Robert Hogan, an expert on personality assessments, has seen them all.

"Every employed adult reports some significant time working for an 'intolerable boss' and those (employees) that try to defend themselves are gone," Hogan, of Amelia Island, Fla., told a session this weekend at the annual conference. The meeting, which drew more than 10,900 psychology professionals, wrapped up Sunday.

"Seventy-five percent of working adults say the worst aspect of their job - the most stressful aspect of their job - is their immediate boss," Hogan said. "Bad managers create enormous and are a major source of misery for many people."

Hogan says a "major cause of stress in modern life is bad management," because stress negatively affects the immune system and health.

His firm, based in Tulsa, Okla., helps large companies determine which individuals to hire for top-level management positions or to coach existing managers.

Other leadership consultants across the country agree that the impact of immediate supervisors is more far-reaching than many would believe.

" 'Employee engagement' has become a buzzword in corporate America," said Gordy Curphy, a leadership consultant in St. Paul, Minn., who did not attend the conference. "Twenty years ago, was (a) big deal. That has morphed into employee engagement. Research shows that the higher percentage of people engaged in the workforce, the better business results companies get. There is a clear link between employee engagement and financial results.

"There's also a clear link between your immediate boss and the level of . We know mean bosses and incompetent bosses are some of the biggest reasons why employees become disengaged," Curphy said.

Hogan's presentation included a mix of research, including a 2010 survey conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit, part of the international company the Economist Group. It found that 84 percent of respondents believe alienated employees are one of the biggest threats to their business. He also cited a 1999 job-stress report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which included data showing that one-quarter of employees view their jobs as the major stressor in their lives and that problems at work are more strongly associated with health complaints than any other life stressor, including financial or family problems.

Business psychology professor Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic of University College in London, a visiting professor at New York University, agrees that those who reach the top tier of management don't always mesh with employees.

"The factors that help these people get promoted contribute to ruthless top managers, who are ambitious, selfish, very tough and harm staff morale," he said.

But Chamorro-Premuzic, who is also a consultant, added that it's not always the manager's fault. He says three potential sources of trouble are the manager, the employee and the fit between the employee and the job.

"People choose jobs that are not ideal for them," he said. "The realities of the job market today is to have a job or take an offer without thinking whether it's the right job for them. That leads to dissatisfaction and complaints. They might blame their bosses or managers."

The consultants agree that in this economic climate, trying to find another job isn't the best solution.

Rob Kaiser, a partner with a leadership firm in Greensboro, N.C., said it's best to "hunker down and hope the bad boss gets in trouble and removed or kicked upstairs and you get somebody else or you get that transfer."

Explore further: Your abusive boss may not be good for your marriage: study

Related Stories

Your abusive boss may not be good for your marriage: study

November 28, 2011
Having an abusive boss not only causes problems at work but can lead to strained relationships at home, according to a Baylor University study published online in journal, Personnel Psychology. The study found that stress ...

Recommended for you

Talking to yourself can help you control stressful emotions

July 26, 2017
The simple act of silently talking to yourself in the third person during stressful times may help you control emotions without any additional mental effort than what you would use for first-person self-talk – the way people ...

Heart rate study tests emotional impact of Shakespeare

July 26, 2017
In a world where on-screen violence has become commonplace, Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company is turning to science to discover whether the playwright can still make our hearts race more than 400 years on.

Do all people experience similar near-death-experiences?

July 26, 2017
No one really knows what happens when we die, but many people have stories to tell about what they experienced while being close to death. People who have had a near-death-experience usually report very rich and detailed ...

Risk for bipolar disorder associated with faster aging

July 26, 2017
New King's College London research suggests that people with a family history of bipolar disorder may 'age' more rapidly than those without a history of the disease.

Visual clues we use during walking and when we use them

July 25, 2017
(Medical Xpress)—A trio of researchers with the University of Texas and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has discovered which phase of visual information processing during human walking is used most to guide the feet accurately. ...

Toddlers begin learning rules of reading, writing at very early age, study finds

July 25, 2017
Even the proudest of parents may struggle to find some semblance of meaning behind the seemingly random mish-mash of letters that often emerge from a toddler's first scribbled and scrawled attempts at putting words on paper.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.