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The Impact of Bad Bosses

“The psychological climate of the organization itself also affected participants’ happiness: The more supportive the company, the happier the employee.”

The psychological climate in which you work has a lot to do with your health and happiness. Recent research has found, perhaps not surprisingly, that bad bosses can affect how your whole family relates to one another. They can also affect your physical health, raising your risk for heart disease.

Now, new research illustrates how bad bosses can actually shoot themselves in the foot, hindering their employees’ morale, rather than helping it.

Over 1,100 employees at companies of all sizes were questioned about their work environments and their overall well being. Some questions aimed at gauging the level of involvement the participants felt and at determining their bosses’ management styles. Participants rated statements like, “my supervisor consults with me to find out what modifications I would like to make to my work” and “my supervisor tries to motivate me by making me feel guilty for not doing enough.” Some statements, such as, “the organization shows very little concern for me,” measured the support the participants felt their companies provided.

The more negative the bosses’ management style, the less happy the workers – not a surprising finding. When bosses were controlling rather than encouraging, employee well being was low. On the other hand, when employees felt that their autonomy was encouraged (for example, when bosses gave a “meaningful rationale for doing the tasks” and made employees feel they were being asked to contribute rather than commanded to do something), they also had better overall well being.

The psychological climate of the organization itself also affected participants’ happiness: The more supportive the company, the happier the employee.

Some of the findings in the study are intuitive; most people can tell you that a bad boss can seriously affect one’s work experience and overall happiness. But pinpointing the relationship in a scientific study is tricky. For example, it is not clear how and to what degree employees’ on-the-job performance affected their bosses’ behavior. Hopefully, as more studies support the connection, more companies will come to realize how much the attitudes of their supervisors can affect the well being – and, likely, productivity – of their workers.

This article was written by Alice G. Walton and published in the Doctor will see you now. The study was carried out at the Université Francois Rabelais, and published in the Journal of Business and Psychology.

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