Bad bosses usually come in two forms – the dysfunctional ones, who are not good at their job and the dark ones, who take pleasure in abusing and harassing their employees, a new study has claimed. Researchers including Seth M Spain from State University of New York at Binghamton in the US are building a framework to better understand the behaviour of bad bosses and to reduce workplace stress. Researchers look to establish a taxonomy for identifying bad bosses and their distinct behaviours.
Spain said that there are two definitions of a bad boss: dysfunctional ones, like Michael Scott from the TV series The Office and the dark ones, like Gordon Gekko from the film Wall Street, and both can cause a great deal of stress to employees. “They do not want to hurt you, through lack of skill, or other personality defects, they are just not very good at their job. Largely, that is what we would call ‘dysfunctional,’” said Spain.
Dark bosses, on the other hand, have destructive behaviours and hurt others to elevate themselves, said Spain. These bosses are looked at through the three characteristics called the “Dark Triad,” which includes Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy. “These are people who enjoy the pain and suffering of others – they are going to be mean, abusive and harassing in daily life,” said Spain. That is not to say that there are not degrees in which these characteristics are displayed. Everybody exhibits these behaviours at some level, he said.
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According to Spain, bad bosses, whether they are dysfunctional or dark, can cause a great deal of stress to employees.
“A person’s direct supervisor is a lens through which they view their work experience. We think, in particular, that a boss can be an incredibly substantial source of stress for people who work for them,” said Spain.
Having this framework of behaviours that bad bosses exhibit can be the first step into fixing them, ultimately reducing stress in the workplace, he said. “We believe that these characteristics are extremely important for understanding employee development and career advancement,” Spain said.
“Understanding the role that these characteristics play in stress experiences at work is extremely important, especially since bad leaders can cause so much suffering for their subordinates,” he added. The study appears in the journal Research in Occupational Stress and Well-being.