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Toxic Bosses Can Be Bad for Mental Health, Work Ethic

People who work for bosses who display psychopathic and narcissistic traits not only feel more depressed, but are also more likely to engage in undesirable behaviors at work, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Manchester’s Business School conducted three studies, with a total of 1,200 participants who completed questionnaires related to their own psychological wellbeing, prevalence of workplace bullying, and their manager’s personality. Participants were workers from a variety of industries across a number of different countries, according to the researchers.

An analysis of the data showed that those who work for toxic bosses had lower job satisfaction and scored higher on a clinical measure of depression.

The researchers also found that not only did employees’ wellbeing suffer, but incidents of counterproductive work behavior and workplace bullying were higher.

“Overall the picture is clear leaders high in dark traits can be bad news for organizations,” said lead researcher Abigail Phillips, “Those high in psychopathy and narcissism have a strong desire for power and often lack empathy. 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.”

“Workplace bullying is obviously unpleasant for the target, but also creates a toxic working environment for all involved,” she continued. “In short, bad bosses, those high in psychopathy and narcissism, have unhappy and dissatisfied employees who seek to ‘get their own back’ on the company.”

The study was presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference of the Division of Occupational Psychology.

Source: British Psychological Society

Toxic Bosses Can Be Bad for Mental Health, Work Ethic

Janice Wood

Janice Wood is a long-time writer and editor who began working at a daily newspaper before graduating from college. She has worked at a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites, covering everything from aviation to finance to healthcare.

APA Reference
Wood, J. (2018). Toxic Bosses Can Be Bad for Mental Health, Work Ethic. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 7 Jan 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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