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Your “Boss From Hell” Could Actually Be Doing You A Massive Favour, Here’s Why

“When offered their own leadership opportunities, victims of workplace abuse are more likely to treat their own subordinates better.”

Reckon your annoying boss is holding you back? Well they probably are—but not in the way you think.

A new study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology has shown that mistreatment by those at the top of an organisation does not necessarily lead to abusive behaviour by lower-level leaders—and can even improve their leadership skills.

In fact, when offered their own leadership opportunities, the study found that victims of workplace abuse are more likely to treat their own subordinates better—by learning from the bad behaviour of their bosses.

UCF College of Business professor Shannon Taylor, one of the primary researchers of the project, said: “Some employees who are abused by their bosses resolve not to repeat that pattern with their own subordinates and become exceptional leaders of their teams.”

“Some managers who experience this abuse can reframe their experience so it doesn’t reflect their behaviour and actually makes them better leaders.”

As reported by Science Daily, “Through multiple experiments over several years, the researchers examined the differences in attitude and behaviour of supervisors who had been abused by superiors and those who had not and, in turn, how each group treated their employees.”


The results hardly surprise: abused supervisors who intentionally distanced themselves from their manager expressed empathy and respect toward their own employees, despite the tyrannical treatment they received from their own boss.

“The lesson here isn’t to hire more abusive managers, of course, but to try to encourage people who have been abused, among other things, to say, ‘Look, I’m not like my boss,'” Taylor said.

“You can take a stand — not just by reporting the bad behaviour, but by actively rejecting this abusive leadership style.”

So although you should never stand for an abusive situation, if you’ve ever been in one (or if your manager has a minor meltdown every time you take a 5 minute coffee break), you can take comfort in this silver lining.

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