The two types of bad boss

We’ve all experienced a bad boss, and indeed, various studies suggest that a bad boss is the main reason why we leave our job.  A recent study suggests however that rather than a panoply of badness, most bosses suck on one of two axis.

The researchers developed a taxonomy to help us better identify a bad boss, and they found that there are usually two types of rubbish manager: a dark one, or a dysfunctional one, with both capable of causing a great deal of stress.

The dysfunctional bosses are perhaps the most common.  They don’t set out to upset you or make your life difficult, they just lack the skills or personality to manage effectively.  In other words, they’re just not very good at their job.

Dark bosses however, are more Machiavellian, and set out to hurt others in order to boost their own status.  These bosses are characterized by the so called ‘dark triad’ of personality traits: Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy.

“[These are] people who enjoy the pain and suffering of others—they’re going to be mean, abusive and harassing in daily life,” the authors say.

Shades of badness

Suffice to say, there aren’t absolute levels with these characteristics, and most people display degrees of them in some way or other, but the impact of a bad boss cannot be underestimated.

“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,” the researchers continue.

The authors hope that a better understanding of this framework can provide a crucial first step in fixing these negative behaviors, and therefore making the workplace a slightly happier place.

“We believe that these characteristics are extremely important for understanding employee development and career advancement,” the authors conclude. “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.”



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