For whatever reason, bullies don’t grow out of whatever it is that compels them to wreak havoc and misery. They graduate from the playground and move on to the office. And sometimes, things get a little complicated when you’re dealing with someone who is also a part of the upper echelon - the self-proclaimed war bore, a bullying boss.
Researchers have studied the phenomenon of a bullying boss and found that it has been linked to counter-productive behaviors at the workplace. For example, it could be employees arriving late, not following the boss’s instructions, aggressive-hostile behavior, or intentionally messing up the work. In some cases, bullying can also encourage employees to become bullies themselves. For example, it could be a boss ridiculing employees, accusing them of incompetence, not giving them credit for their work, lying to them or constantly putting down in front of others.
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Even so, bullying increases company turnover.
So, why does a boss bully employees? It could be because they are under pressure from their own bosses, experiencing conflict with coworkers. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with work – it could simply be a long history of family abuse, or the inability to mask their emotions.
In a recent Harvard study, it came to light that aggressive-hostile employees try to bring out the worst in their superiors. Regardless, poor performers are more likely to be at the receiving end of all the buying from an abusive supervisor. This is mainly because it is often challenging to deal with someone who brings out the frustration. But that doesn’t mean a top performer is immune to bullying.
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While bullying at workplace is not in the least bit justified. It is invariably linked to Social Dominance Theory. Individuals with high-SDO with a better understanding of a dog-eat-dog world are more likely to discriminate against those from lower-status groups. They are more likely to reinforce inequality between different groups in order to sustain their access to power, status, and wealth. Unsurprisingly, individuals with low SDO are more likely to cooperate and attach to the concept of egalitarianism and humanitarianism.
This shows that even high performers are susceptible to a bullying boss. This is especially true when their bosses are high in the social dominance orientation. Here’s the reason why bosses bully such employees: they represent a threat to their bosses who place a high regard on their dominant position. A start performer could easily topple them by gaining more opportunities, garnering enough resources or the attention from the upper echelon.
Employees are more likely from keeping themselves immune to abusive supervisors by appealing to their boss’s sense of respect. The best way to do this is by sharing the spotlight with the boss, once in a while, or thanking them for the role they played in their accomplishments. This way, they can reduce the probability of posing as a potential threat to their supervisors and reduce their chances of getting bullied.