Abusive Managers Cause Irreparable Harm

John Krautzel
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Many employees don't speak up about their abusive managers because they worry human resources won't take their complaints seriously. Unfortunately, research shows that abusive managers harm their companies by reducing morale and forcing some employees to look elsewhere for work. Even after employees leave, they have difficulty recovering from the emotional damage of working for toxic bosses. If your company has any of these problems, address them immediately to avoid losing valued employees.

One way abusive managers hurt their organizations is by creating a lot of conflict. Good managers help employees resolve conflict and work together as a team, while bad managers pit people against each other. Otherwise helpful employees might be tempted to sabotage each other or blame each other for mistakes just to escape the wrath of an abusive boss. When employees are constantly looking for ways to avoid being berated, they often resort to tactics that don't foster a sense of collaboration.

Reduced productivity is also a problem associated with working for toxic bosses. If a manager spends 30 minutes screaming at an employee for a minor mistake, the employee is unable to do any work during that time. Employees who are forced to work with abusive bosses may also spend a lot of time talking about the bad behavior instead of concentrating on their work. If your company does not deal with abusive managers immediately, you might see a real decline in productivity.

A research study led by Crystal Farh, a lead investigator, indicates that working with abusive managers also has widespread behavioral effects. Employees often model the behavior displayed by supervisors and managers. An employee with a fair, consistent manager is likely to model these traits when he moves into a leadership role. If an employee has a manager who screams at people and threatens their jobs on a daily basis, he is more likely to model these behaviors when leading his own team.

Abusive managers also create a lot of extra work for the human resources department, costing the company money and reducing employee satisfaction. Companies with abusive bosses tend to have higher turnover rates, which means the HR department has to spend more money to place job advertisements, screen applications, interview candidates and take new employees through the orientation process. Allowing an abusive manager to treat employees badly can also hurt a company's reputation. Once word gets out about the behavior, good candidates will be less likely to apply for job openings.

If your employees have been complaining about the way their manager treats them, take time to investigate their complaints. Toxic bosses create conflict, reduce productivity, model bad behavior to their direct reports and make it difficult to attract talented employees. Prevent damage to your company's reputation by stopping abusive managers in their tracks and hiring good managers to lead company teams.

Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net



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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Thomas thank you! For any of us who have worked in a toxic environment or for that evil boss, sometimes the best thing is to make a graceful exit while keeping your dignity in tact! Most companies that have bosses like that will gradually crumble or they will clean house and that toxic boss will be on the unemployment line! Bullies usually end up having to face someone that is a bigger bully!

  • Thomas Howard
    Thomas Howard

    Toxic bosses are almost inevitably created by gestapo-like HR departments. When faced this combination, the only cure is often to exit the boss as soon as possible; either to another job within the company or by leaving the company entirely. Debbie W. puts it quite clearly. In most cases, the company will collapse under its own weight very soon.

  • Carmen B.
    Carmen B.

    Treat people like the way you wanted to be treated. We all need to be respected.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Debbie that is so truly awful that you have to endure that type of environment. Hopefully you are looking for another job in a better company! There are rules out there to prevent against harassment. But rules are only good if they are enforced. The sad truth is that if you tried to do a test run of those rules, you would be let go so fast that you wouldn't know what hit you. Or, fearing a lawsuit, they might keep you on but I am afraid to say that your life might be even worse. I wish I had the answers. In my experience, sooner or later that manager will get his/her comeuppance. It just might not be fast enough to save your job.

  • Debbie W.
    Debbie W.

    I experienced a manipulative, abusive bullying manager for over 4 years. The unfortunate truth is human resources is there to protect the company's interests. Employee's have no rights and are perceived negatively if the issue is brought up to management. Ineffective managements' answer is to blame and fire the employee and as they see it the problem is then solved. I think hostile work environment and harassment rules need to be rewritten to address and prevent these issues. Sad part is you need the job and income and have to endure environments that can make you physically sick due to the work conditions of hostility and harassment.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Janine it is so sad to hear stories like yours and many others. It is a shame, in today's world with so much emphasis on bullying, that these managers still get away with it. But I am of the belief that what goes around comes around. Not that you will get a front row seat to it but that manager's day will come. And you are better off not having to work under her.


    I have experienced the abusive and bullying manager for months. My counterpart also reporting to the same manager had left the company because he could no longer handle her behavior. Both of us addressed the issue with HR as well as with higher management. They did nothing to improve the situation. He resigned, she let me go couple of months later.

  • Marie  P.
    Marie P.

    Yes so true

  • Eliana J.
    Eliana J.

    I agree! I had just go trough it and that was really horrible for me! The worse is that HR department sided with that bossy and toxic supervisor. I realized that she could not support my resourcefulness! She fired me after my first complain with her and about how she behavior with me. Now I know that the company does not give good references about me, but I hope in God that she will be charged for it!

  • Laurie N.
    Laurie N.

    When writing an article for a business blog/publication, it's important to check your spelling. There is no such word as "irrepairable." The correct word is "irreparable." Using incorrect spelling on a resume could cause irreparable damage to one's career.

  • SCOTT G.
    SCOTT G.

    I delt wirh this as we all have at some point . in my case they fired her but it was after i resigned.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Terra so sorry you had to go through all of this. Nepotism is really hard to fight! Sometimes you just have to let it go and move on. There is no way that this is going to be a win-win situation for you. Best of luck.

  • Terra P.
    Terra P.

    I have had many abusive managers in major corporations for decades. The worst one had married a senior executive manager and felt like she could bully her staff and get by with it. Been going for 30 years. I was laid off, down sized re-orged and discriminated agianst but to no avail.

  • Brean H.
    Brean H.

    This is soooo true! I was a victim of management abuse not too long ago, and it completely took me by suprise and made my life horribly miserable. I would go home every night and cry and wonder if I had made the right career choice. This is what happened to me.

  • Edward K.
    Edward K.

    I agree 100%. Unfortunately with companies like Berkshire Hathaway where ownership of multiple companies run by employees as a number versus a person, then the HR manager is afraid of lawsuits for sexual harassment and losing her own job, Warren Buffetts' reputation for one of his companies may lose their accreditation and loss of a highly profitable venue.

  • Anita L.
    Anita L.

    Basically, HR is there to prevent the company from getting sued. They say that they're there for the employees, but that is a lie. I was told this by an HR person.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Patricia - so very true. Personally I don't know how some companies survive and stay in business with attitudes like this. Granted there are bullies in the workforce - always have been. But, in the past, they were dealt with rather harshly - usually by being fired. For some reason, in today's work world, they are able to get away with this behavior. I don't know if it's fear from HR that they will be sued if they fire the bully or if HR is afraid of the bully.

  • Patricia M.
    Patricia M.

    Perhaps my experience tainted me, but I feel strongly that HR only protects those in power. Much like Emma's experience, copies of emails provided to HR, bullying behavior, multiple grievances filed and customer complaints of outrageous behavior for years with no action.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Emma it is truly unfortunate when you have someone like this in the company. Even though it took longer than hoped, at least the company finally got rid of their bad apple. I do feel for those people who lost their jobs or quit because of this manager. Hopefully the company will not allow that bad behavior to occur in any of their other employees.

  • Emma C.
    Emma C.

    This article of bad manager is true. I have experienced it myself working for one government agency. The dept. turn over was so bad. Example within 3 years the manager lost about 13 people. Its like an open door. The manager behavior are threatening, verbal accusation or negative innuendos, unfriendly or unapproachable, manipulative, retaliation, unfair that seems to be on-going day to day office atmosphere. The director and the HR took so long years to get rid of this type of manager, despite of many grievances and complaints, even complaints from other agency managers. Good employees have left because of this one manager.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Lily so sorry you had to go through that but happy to hear that you came out of it relatively unscathed and found an awesome position. I wouldn't worry about reaching back out to anyone from your former company. And never bad-mouth the manager or the company to anyone. It is unfortunate that what you went through happens in companies all of the time and no one ever seems to want to or will do anything about it. Be happy that you got out of there and landed on your feet! @Shawn sorry you have experienced such an unprofessional HR department. HR is where the buck should stop. They should be able to sort out fact from fiction and make a determination - even if it's to let you go. At least you would have a reason why instead of like Lily - the woman just took an instant dislike to her. Best of luck to both of you.

  • Shawn Rainbolt
    Shawn Rainbolt

    HR too often sends the matter to field supervisors - dodging their responsibility of keeping every department accountable by checks and balances.

  • Patricia M.
    Patricia M.

    It truly does amaze me that this not only takes place in the real world, but in my case after reporting the abusive behavior to HR and senior mgmt no one was going to do anything. Much like Diane recount, with the launching of the F bombs, but it was not limited to that it also included calling folks D-Bags and getting drunk at work functions with clients. It again leaves me dumbfounded that no one took any corrective action. To this day I still shake my head at the insanity and the gross dysfunction of a global organization.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Diane thanks for your comment. I am sure that most of us have been in your shoes at one time or another. I know I have. I always believe that a bully will get his/her comeuppance at some point. But I am with you, I would never stay at a company where I had to work for a tyrant like that. Good for you for getting away from it!


    I was just recently separated from such a boss. I was there for six months and heard the worst language in a workplace I could ever imagine. Weekly manager meetings where the boss threw the "F" word for over an hour. He would ask a question, but when a manager responded, he would shoot back at them and berate them because the response was not what he wanted. Having worked in the corporate world, I've worked for some egos, big egos, but this personality was by far the worst. It was dehumanizing to where you felt worthless. I overheard him telling an employee to keep is F-ing mouth shut several times. If I had had a quarter for every F word I heard, I wouldn't have had to work. I feel for everyone still there, all feeling the same way, terrified that they will lose their job. He had his flying monkeys that surrounded him, one of which told one young lady after a meeting to just "spssst", making a shutting motion with his hand, telling her to just be quiet and not to argue (there was no argument, she simply made a correction, or what she thought was a correction before he lambasted her. The boss thinks that behavior creates loyalty and respect, but he is totally mistaken. For him, it works. He gets what he wants and tosses people out on a whim if he feels the slightest bit threatened. He makes money anyway and that's the ultimate goal. It is unfortunate that some people can treat others with such disrespect and get away with it. For the great bosses I've had over the years, who treated me with respect and valued his employees, I always worked hardest for.

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