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Bosses who bully increase worker stress, study shows

Photo: castillodominici/iStockphoto

Portland, OR — Employees who are bullied by their bosses are more likely to report work-related stress and feel less committed to their jobs, the results of a recent study show.

Researchers from Portland State University reviewed 427 studies on abusive supervisors to find out how and why bullying impacts workers. They found that being bullied by a boss may cause a worker to engage in negative behaviors, such as arriving late, sabotaging work, taking breaks that are longer than allowed, withholding effort and performing tasks incorrectly – all of which may, in turn, negatively affect co-workers and contribute to a stressful work environment.

“Stress is sometimes uncontrollable,” study co-author Liu-Qin Yang, an associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology at PSU, said in a March 6 press release. “You don’t sleep well, so you come in late or take a longer break, lash out at your co-workers or disobey instructions.”


Yang added that abusive supervision, along with its consequences, is becoming more common in workplaces. To help reduce and limit bullying behavior from bosses, researchers advise employers to:

  • Conduct regular training programs that help supervisors learn and adopt better interpersonal and management skills.
  • Implement policies and procedures to reduce employee perceptions of injustice.
  • Ensure employees have necessary resources, such as stress management training, to do their jobs.

The study was published online Jan. 18 in the Journal of Management.

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