Abusive Leadership Can Ruin the Entire Team

Do you have a supervisor who bullies one of your co-workers? Well, new research suggests that your entire team suffers as a result, which hurts productivity.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology has found that when a supervisor abuses and belittles an employee, it isn’t just that particular employee who suffers, but the entire team they supervise.

Researchers studied fifty-one teams of employees from ten companies in China. Average team size was about six workers. Researcher concerned things like verbal abuse and demeaning emails. Employees who experienced abuse said that they felt devalued and like they contributed less to the team. At the same time, their co-workers engaged in more conflict. According to Crystal Farh, one of the co-authors, “Teams characterized by relationship conflict are hostile toward other members, mistreat them, speak to them rudely and experience negative emotions toward them.”

Results were later replicated in a laboratory setting in the US with 300 participants, leading to the same finding. Results suggest that, if a leader tries to get things done via abusive tactics, the entire team decides that such tactics are fair game.

So, how do you solve a problem like bad leadership? There’s only one real solution—remove the leader. And if you’re the employee? Remove yourself. You’ll be more productive elsewhere.

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