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How do people with abusive supervisors recover after work? Researchers explore


Photo: Paolo Cordoni/iStockphoto

Buffalo, NY — What do workers do to recover when their boss or manager engages in “nonphysical aggression such as humiliating or threatening subordinates, or taking credit for their work”? A pair of researchers recently set out to answer that question.

“Abusive supervision is detrimental to employees’ well-being,” study author Min-Hsuan Tu, assistant professor of organization and human resources at the University at Buffalo, said in a press release. “Victims experience increased emotional exhaustion, job stress, negative emotions and physical symptoms like pain, weakness, fatigue and shortness of breath.”

For their study, Tu and her research partner asked 203 full-time employees in Taiwan to fill out questionnaires for 10 consecutive workdays. They also measured whether employees needed breaks from their jobs, what leisure activities increased their happiness, their levels of enthusiasm and optimism the next day, and whether being an extrovert or an introvert affected the recovery process.

Results showed that people who work with abusive supervisors are often too exhausted to recover completely during personal time. 

Introverts, however, are better at recovering than extroverts. Why? Because introverts often engage in “minimal energy” activities such as reading books or watching television, leading the researchers to conclude that those types of activities are better than social activities or others that “require additional resource investment.”

“Our study clarifies why and under what conditions abused employees engage in certain activities to recover after work,” Tu said.

The study was published online Nov. 7 in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

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