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How to Deal with a Boss Who Stresses You Out

Source |   |  BY:Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

Discussions of leadership tend to focus on its positive outcomes, such as innovationemployee engagement or organizational performance. However, for the majority of employees, the leaders in their organizations are a source of stress rather than inspiration. Indeed, for every transformational leader and emotionally intelligent manager out there, there are dozens of toxic bosses, and they come in many different forms. Barbara Kellerman at Harvard University has devoted a great deal of her career to studying problematic leaders. She identified seven major types: (1) incompetent, (2) rigid, (3) intemperate, (4) callous, (5) corrupt, (6) insular, and (7) evil. What all these types have in common is their ability to induce stress in others, particularly their subordinates. Unsurprisingly, research shows that the experience of having a bad boss can be akin to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Since bad bosses are ubiquitous, it is hard to avoid them. The best way to deal with one would of course be to leave them, but the next one may be equally bad, or even worse. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know. And while self-employment is tempting — it is much harder to complain about the boss when the boss is you — people who work for themselves tend to work longer hours only to earn less, and make a smaller contribution to the wider economy than when they’re employed by an organization.


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