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Problems with Your Boss Can Strain Marriage

Problems with Your Boss Can Strain MarriageA new study suggests difficulty with your boss can lead to troubles at home.

Baylor University researchers discovered stress and tension caused by an abusive boss can impact an employee’s partner. This distress can affect the marital relationship and influence the employee’s entire family relationship.

Researchers did discover a minor caveat as the size of family and the length of time an individual has been in a relationship appear to buffer the impact of an abusive boss.

The study is found online in the journal Personnel Psychology.

“These findings have important implications for organizations and their managers. The evidence highlights the need for organizations to send an unequivocal message to those in supervisory positions that these hostile and harmful behaviors will not be tolerated,” said Dawn Carlson, Ph.D.

A supervisor’s abuse may include tantrums, rudeness, public criticism and inconsiderate action.

“It may be that as supervisor abuse heightens tension in the relationship, the employee is less motivated or able to engage in positive interactions with the partner and other family members,” said Merideth Ferguson, Ph.D., study co-author.

Experts call for organizations to encourage employees to seek support through their organization’s employee assistance program or other resources (e.g., counseling, stress management). Such programs can help an employee identify tactics or mechanisms for mitigating the effect of abuse on the family, according to the study.

In the study, 280 full-time employees and their partners were followed. Of the group of employees, 57 percent of the employees were male with an average of five years in their current job and 75 percent had children living with them.

The average age for the employee and the partner was 36 years. The average length of their relationship was 10 years.

Of the partner group, 43 percent were male with 78 percent of these individuals employed.

Workers filled out an online survey. When their portion of the survey was complete, their partner completed a separate survey that was linked back to the workers’.

Questions in the employee survey included; “How often does your supervisor use the following behaviors with you?” with example items being “Tells me my thoughts or feelings are stupid,” “Expresses anger at me when he/she is mad for another reason,” “Puts me down in front of others,” and “Tells me I’m incompetent.”

Questions in the partner survey included; “During the past month, how often did you . . .” feel irritated or resentful about things your (husband/wife/partner) did or didn’t do” and “feel tense from fighting, arguing or disagreeing with your (husband/wife/partner).”

“Abusive supervision is a workplace reality and this research expands our understanding of how this stressor plays out in the employee’s life beyond the workplace,” Carlson said.

Source: Baylor University

Couple fighting photo by shutterstock.

Problems with Your Boss Can Strain Marriage

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Problems with Your Boss Can Strain Marriage. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 29 Nov 2011)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.