Not only are bad bosses difficult to deal with, but their behavior also rubs off on those around them.
That was the message a University of Manchester research team presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference of the Division of Occupational Psychology in Liverpool. According to a statement from the society, people working under a boss showing psychopathic or narcissistic personality traits are more likely to behave poorly at work themselves, in addition to feeling more depressed because of the “bullying behavior.”
Read: Am I a Psychopath?
A total of 1,200 workers from various industries and countries filled in questionnaires about their psychological wellbeing, their bosses’ personalities, and their workplace environment. The British Psychological Society said the researchers analyzed those answers, and found that people who worked for managers with the psychopathic or narcissistic traits were less satisfied with their jobs and were more depressed than the others. In addition, their workplace had more incidents of “counterproductive work behaviour and workplace bullying.”
Lead researcher Abigail Phillips said in the statement that “workplace bullying is obviously unpleasant for the target but also creates a toxic working environment for all involved.”
Psychopathic traits in the workplace are not rare. People who are psychopaths have an extreme version of antisocial personality disorder, which is characterized by a lack of regard for the feelings of others or what is right and wrong. They tend to be manipulative or liars — so they may even seem charming — but they do not feel remorse for their behavior, and they tend to be arrogant and aggressive.
While the worst psychopaths in society are volatile murderers, it is possible for someone to have psychopathic traits and not be violent. Criminal psychologist Robert Hare, who invented the clinical test for psychopathy, previously studied corporate professionals and found some “scored sufficiently highly ... to be evaluated for psychopathy,” the Telegraph reported. “It’s easy to see how a lack of moral scruples and indifference to other people’s suffering could be beneficial if you want to get ahead in business.”
Narcissistic traits, on the other hand, could include extreme vanity and selfishness. People with clinical narcissism seem charming or charismatic but are manipulative and volatile, like psychopaths, but their main driver is that they feel superior to others — showing entitlement and self-importance — and crave admiration.
“Those high in psychopathy and narcissism have a strong desire for power and often lack empathy,” Phillips noted. “This toxic combination can result in these individuals taking advantage of others, taking credit for their work, being overly critical, and generally behaving aggressively. In other words, leaders high in psychopathy and narcissism are more likely to be bullies.”