How bad can a bad manager be?

The negative impacts a bad manager can have on the workplace are well known – diminished productivity and morale, higher levels of absenteeism and employee disengagement, to name just a few.

A new survey has added further fuel to the fire by suggesting that these pervasive effects can go much deeper: by prompting other employees to behave in a similar way.

According to the Michigan State University study, which was conducted in both the United States and China, bosses who are abusive to employees can “throw the entire work team into conflict”. The study's lead investigator, Crystal Farh, said that managers who belittle or ridicule their workers can cause other team members to “act in a similar hostile manner toward one another”.

“That's the most disturbing finding because it's not just about individual victims now, it's about creating a context where everybody suffers, regardless of whether you were individually abused or not,” she explained

“Teams characterised by relationship conflict are hostile toward other members, mistreat them, speak to them rudely and experience negative emotions toward them.”

Citing findings from social learning theory research, she added that employees have a natural tendency to emulate their supervisor's behaviour – both bad and good.

Given the wide-reaching impacts such bosses can have, it is essential to ensure your organisation's managers are only imparting a positive influence on the team. Investing in leadership development courses, such as those designed to build self- and other-awareness, and lead engaged teams, may help to minimise the presence of bad managers.

According to research from Hogan Assessments, three-quarters (75 per cent) of people said the most stressful part of their job is their boss. Make sure your organisation's leaders are the solvers, rather than the cause, of such stress.