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Abusive Bosses



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I think, well growing up I played a lot of sports. And I've been a team member, I've

tried to lead in those contexts. But since then more professionally I'm a teacher, I'm

a researcher, I run a research lab. Majority of my time, what I've been doing since I started

in the field of psychology is managing a team of some sort, or being part of a team. People

are more accepting sometimes of an abusive boss because especially when it's done to

motivate you, we brush it under the rug because we think it's just part of paying our dues

to get to where we need to go. These people have done this before, they know what it takes

to be great. That's what led to this study of looking at how we explain peoples behaviors

towards us, does that change how we react to them? And so I think it's helpful for supervisors

just to know what the hidden potential consequences of these things are. Because a lot of times

you see there's an up-kick in performance that your workers are working harder and there's

potentially some downsides that you don't see, and these are usually these deviant things

that are done behind the scenes without people being aware of it. A bigger consequence of

that is that it might start to develop a culture in your workplace that's very abusive. What

we found was that when abuse was described as being motivational or with that intent,

workers started to engage in more of these deviant behaviors than their counterparts

that saw less of this intent. That was surprising to us. We thought this motivational intent

would make you feel less sensitive or violated but it could be that you still feel like you're

being used or mistreated and it's a violation of this contract, whether it's formal or informal,

that we have with our organization. I think if we asked a lot of supervisors I think many

of them would indicate that they have used these types of strategies before. Any form of intent

behind these behaviors is wrong. Trying to change the behaviors and try to motivate them

in different ways is probably the best step forward.