Horrible bosses inspire employees to behave badly themselves

The lady was to blame from her boss after work fail
Toxic bosses pass on their bad habits to the people around them (Getty)

If you’ve ever felt like a toxic, abusive boss has ‘infected’ the rest of the office with their bad behaviour, it’s actually backed by science.

A new study has shown that bosses who use inappropriate language, verbal outbursts, and humiliation in the office lead to co-workers adopting similar behaviour.

Misuse of power and sexually inappropriate language are similarly ‘infectious’, the study showed.

Over time, this leads to a toxic atmosphere of insecurity and exhaustion in the workplace.

Co-author Dr. Nadeem Khalid, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Strategy at ARU, says that "it's clear from our study that hostile behaviour at the top of a workplace is not only likely to be damaging to individuals in terms of their emotional exhaustion and job security. #

“It is also likely to encourage other employees to act in unethical ways, creating a toxic environment across the entire organisation."

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Dr Khailid continued, "This mirroring of negative behaviour may have its roots in the reciprocal relationship between leaders and employees.

"An employee who is mistreated may feel the only way to get ahead in their job is to treat others as they have been treated themselves—this may not always be intentional but it results in a race to the bottom among employees and damages job security and leads to stress and exhaustion."

"Previous studies have shown that abusive behaviour from leaders is associated with a lack of commitment from employees, and has a negative effect on emotional well-being. Our study suggests that the situation could be exacerbated by the negative behaviour of general workers as well as the leader."

The study, carried out by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the UK as well as researchers in Pakistan, China and the United States, surveyed 323 employees about their experiences of abusive behaviour from bosses.

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Researchers uncovered a clear link between abusive leader behaviour and abusive behaviour from co-workers.

Of the 323 people involved in the study, 68% who had experienced hostile behaviour from a leader had also witnessed interpersonal aggression from the general workforce.

The research also found that employees who experienced abusive behaviour from leaders suffered from emotional exhaustion and job insecurity.

Among those who had experienced hostile behaviour from a leader, 35% had faced abusive peer behaviour themselves, 52% had suffered emotional exhaustion and 77% had concerns about job security.

Watch: How to survive a toxic workplace