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Abusive Bosses Can Cause Marital Problems



Is your boss a bully? If so, the true victim may be your marriage, according to new research published in the journal Personnel Psychology.

The results of this study by Dawn Carlson and Merideth Ferguson found that stress and tension caused by abusive bosses at work had a negative effect on one's marriage and family life.

"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 Ferguson, study co-author and assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at Baylor University.

The research polled 280 full-time employees and their partners to see the true effect abusive actions by bosses had on employees. The offensive actions identified in this study included tantrums, public criticism and general rudeness on the part of bosses toward employees. The researchers found a connection between the answers of employees who identified when bosses were insulting and when spouses reported problems at home.  The results of the study spanned many different organizations as respondents from public, private and nonprofit organizations were represented in the research.

"These findings have important implications for organizations and their managers," said Carlson, a professor at Baylor University's Hankamer School of Business who co-authored the study. "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."

However, the research also found that employees who were in longer relationships and who had more children were less affected by the actions of abusive bosses. To combat offensive actions at work, the authors also recommend employees seek support either through their company or through other forms of counseling and stress management to avoid bringing problems of the workplace home.

"Employers must take steps to prevent or stop the abuse and also to provide opportunities for subordinates to effectively manage the fallout of abuse and keep it from affecting their families," said Carlson. "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."