What having a horrible boss really does to employees

Have you ever had to work for an irresponsible supervisor or an aggressive team leader? Have you ever had to perform in front of a truly detestable sports coach or been tortured by that really mean teacher in secondary school? Do you see his or her face in front of you? Can you remember that evil grin or furious look that used to drive you crazy? Very good! Abusive supervision is a daily routine for 14% of U.S. workers at a cost of nearly 24 billion $ each year – alone in the corporate world. Why is that so? What risk is there for your own business and how to prevent it?


Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?

Schyns and Schilling (2013) conducted a meta-analysis of 57 relevant articles not older than September 2010 and described various negative effects of destructive leadership. It is defined as voluntary acts (committed by a person in a leadership, supervisory, or managerial position) which most people would perceive as harmful and deviant towards followers and/or the organization and which can either be physical or verbal, active or passive, direct or indirect. As a first consequence, the employee’s attitudes towards the leader suffer a lot. The conseqence could consist in subtle counterproductive work behaviors. Moreover, the authors reported lower employee scores of well-being, job satisfaction, intention to stay, organizational commitment, as well as individual performance.


Takeaway for your practice

Bad leadership can seriously sabotage your business success. The hidden revenge of employees may appear in form of a sudden notice to quit, a decrease in commitment or performance, or in a more severe – and unfortunately even more likely – case in form of counterproductive work behaviors.

To detect destructive leaders inside your organization it is recommendable to assess the leadership qualities of your supervisors on a regular basis including the anonymous feedback of the subordinates (e.g. by the means of a 360 degree feedback method). Leaders who receive alarming ratings should be confronted with their evaluation by their superiors to find a way of improving their inappropriate leadership behaviors – if necessary the toolbox of Human Resources Development might help (in form of trainings, coaching, mentoring, focus groups etc.).

If the desired changes cannot be achieved or you face a hopeless situation it might even be required to relocate or completely dismiss the leader in question in order to put the team back on track. The best solution however is a structural one concerning the hiring and promotion processes: Adjust the selection procedures in a way that external and internal candidates can only achieve a leadership role if they have sufficiently proved to have the necessary functional as well as people skills.


Schyns, B., & Schilling, J. (2013). How bad are the effects of bad leaders? A meta-analysis of destructive leadership and its outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly, 24(1), 138-158.

Find the original article here!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.