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Study: Employees abused by their superiors make good bosses
By Silas Nyamweya | Updated Dec 18, 2018 at 11:28 EAT

Is your boss at work giving you stress?

Well as they say, you can always make lemonade out of lemon. This is also true to workplace contexts with abusive bosses

Is your boss at work giving you stress? Well as they say, you can always make lemonade out of lemon. This is also true to workplace contexts with abusive bosses.

A new study has established that mistreatment and abuse by those at management positions does not necessarily lead to abusive behavior by junior level employees.

When given leadership positions, former victims of workplace mistreatment or abuse have a more likelihood of treating their own subordinates in a better way through learning from their bosses’ bad behavior. 

Researchers at the University of Texas at El Paso in collaboration with others from Singapore Management University, Suffolk University, and The UCF College of Business jointly undertook multiple experiments carried out over several years.

In these experiments, the researchers assessed the variations in behavior and attitude of supervisors who had undergone mistreatment and abuse by their superiors and those who had not gone through such an experience. They in turn examined how these two groups treated their own subordinates.

They went on to establish that supervisors who were abused, expressed kindness and respect towards junior employees. This is despite the bad treatment they had been accorded by their bosses. They noted that these workers had resolved that they will not repeat that trend of abusive treatment on their own subordinates but employ a different style of leadership.

According to the lead researcher, Professor Shannon Taylor of UCF College of Business “the study has presented important revelations on the silver lining of its kind for individuals who have gone through mistreatment at their workplace.

Managers who at one time went through this abuse understand this experience and hence; they would not want to subject the same experience to their juniors. They therefore resolve to utilise a better form of leadership. This is why most of them turn out to be better leaders”

Taylor observes that although there are no expectations of workplace abuse disappearing, many companies are increasingly learning and endeavoring to resolve this issue of workplace abuse through training of managers and creating a positive workplace environment.

Tailor further argues that “the lesson can never be to hire abuse managers, but to encourage people who had been in abusive workplace contexts to reflect on their experiences and treat their colleagues better”.

He continues to say “that employees and managers should not only take a stand by reporting the bad behavior but by also rejecting the abuse style of leadership”.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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