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Research Says Your Bad Boss May Be Even More Damaging Than You Think

We all know that a difficult boss can make life miserable, but new research shows that it can directly impact our career path – in fact, nearly half of us choose to leave our jobs because of our bosses. With all the toxicity a terrible manager yields, it's almost surprising that the number isn't even higher. Here are a few ways a difficult boss's effects extend beyond plain old unhappiness.

We all know that a difficult boss can make life miserable, but new research shows that it can directly impact our career path – in fact, nearly half of us choose to leave our jobs because of our bosses. With all the toxicity a terrible manager yields, it’s almost surprising that the number isn’t even higher. Here are a few ways a difficult boss’s effects extend beyond plain old unhappiness.

bad boss

(Photo Credit: kennymatic/Flickr)

1. It can start to rub off on you.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Incivility is contagious. Work with a bad boss long enough, and before you know it, you’re the one causing negativity for others with your own attitude and behaviors. Christine Porath of The New York Times found that more than 40 percent of stressed workers said they didn’t have time to be nice to others at work. Unless you want to contribute to our rushed and rude culture, try to refrain from mimicking your boss’s poor behavior, no matter how busy you are.

2. Your health could suffer.

Researchers have found that a negative work situation (particularly when a difficult boss is involved) could have an impact on your health. Stress and lack of sleep could make you sick more often, and extend your recovery time. One study found that women with a high stress job were 38 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event than women with a lower stress position. Also, difficulties with a boss could lead to changes in appetite and to general weight gain, which isn’t good for your overall health and wellness.

3. The negative effects carry over into your personal life.

It can be awfully difficult to shake off a bad day. You roll worries around in your mind long after you drive out of the parking lot, and this level of distraction has an impact on your home and personal life. Lack of patience, or an inability to properly engage with loved ones, is common after a tough day. It’s no wonder so many folks start to wonder if their jobs are really worth it.

4. Having a bad boss could hurt your career.

Your boss can impede your professional success, not just today, but far into the future.  A survey found that two-thirds of people said their boss had impacted their career in some way, and about 20 percent said that their boss had hurt their careers.

When thinking about the impact your bad boss is having on your life, health, and career, it’s also important to consider the long-term effects of staying in this situation. As we learn more, we realize that a bad boss’s reach extends far beyond the obvious.

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What is the impact of a bad boss? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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29 Comments on "Research Says Your Bad Boss May Be Even More Damaging Than You Think"

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S K Mukherjee
I fully agree with the views of my friends. I have worked with a number of bosses, but my last one was awesome !! He was a liar, egoistic, harmful and possessed similar qualities… He took pride in speaking to the employees at the top of his voice and inflated issues which needed immediate solution, thus delaying the activities, and we used to get the share for the cause of delay. Having these strengths, my career became ever challenging when I informed him that I am pursuing Executive Management Program from IIM Calcutta…. a 1 year weekend course. I need… Read more »
Good comments, guys! Let me tell you about a bad boss: his ego is larger than him. He has a big mouth and useless ears, because he needs to tell you how good he is/was doing anything, but he will not hear a word of what you may say. He will hide information and create obstacles as soon as he notices that you are better than him at pretty much every task (except self-praising and telling lies like him). At that point, it will be an open war to keep you from standing out and from doing what is best… Read more »
Having worked Internationally for over 30 Years, I found that 60% (In my thinking) is a so called BAD Boss. And 100% of this class is an Insecured one who got the coveted job as his/her star was on the rise at that point of time and mine was passing a troubled phase , otherwise I would not have met Him/Her. But I did raise my genuine concern with my open Mail to Board Member afet which things were understood and the ‘Dirty trick’ failed to get onto my nerves. I battled on and I finally won with the erring… Read more »
I escaped my toxic boss a few months ago. Ended up on stress leave, and extended sick leave, then I quit. Even though I had no job to go to, I felt much happier, there’s more to life than money, and my health and wellbeing is important, more important than a fat income. I still keep in touch with some of my co-workers, and when toxic boss quit a few weeks ago, I was inundated with txts from them telling me “Ding dong, the witch has gone, why don’t you come back?” No, sadly the rot at that company started… Read more »
I work for a non profit as an Admin Asst for almost 20 years. I have not had a raise in 6 years. I asked for one last year and got turned down (no money in the budget). Then I found out another Admin Asst in a different dept makes the same as me, does half of what I do and has only been there 7 years. I have been given numerous responsibilities since that raise. My boss keeps taking on more than he can chew and I am stuck doing all the extra work. He just keeps piling and… Read more »
I’ve worked for fabulous bosses; they managed to make you feel so important whether you were at the bottom of the ladder or mid corp management; These bosses got the most productivity and they also were TRAINED right and made sure you understood that TRAINING AND TRAINED YOU to treat people decently to get productivity. A job is not just compensation; it’s so many other social things as well. However as noted above these days when it comes time to cut people these type of “bosses” despite their productivity rate; are the first to be cut and while never included… Read more »
Bad bosses are toxic.And if your Boss is a fool,or you know better than your Boss,then be sure that now your bad days has started.Just to overcome his sortcomings &lack of knowledge,he will try to bully you.And if your boss is a pet of Superior,who has been imposed without competency.To prove himself right,he will always pass negative comments about you &you will busy defending your actions and he will make your life hell.Some symptoms of Bad bosses are. 1.SMS at odd hours.2.Writing mails to you &CC to his Boss.3.Many idiotic KRA selected for you.4.Difficult,not but nearly impossible KRA selection for… Read more »
I work at the University of Texas and the staff are generally treated very bad. Workers at Facilities maintenance have not received any raises in 8 years! Faculty and researchers control everything and the staff get shit. There is a huge lack of leadership in one of the richest public universities and they can’t even give out any decent raises. In the past 10 years there are twice as many science and research buidings and the maintenance support has remained at the level. Greg Fenves, I hope you can help. Tacos orange juice and water were really nice your first… Read more »

Most bad bosses know that they are bad bosses, which makes them even more difficult to work with/for. Recently I overheard my bad boss attempt a joke with subordinates “please don’t poison me” ? weird, very odd. We were all aghast at the thought, and yet it shows where the mind of a bad boss may lead them.
Try to stay away from a bad boss as much as is possible.

I have learned, after having numerous ineffective, toxic and/or micro-managing bosses over my career history, that my REACTION to these bosses can make working with them much more difficult. Your REACTION is what a bad boss feeds on. Complaining to other coworkers about the problematic boss can eventually come back to bite you as well. Better to mentally go to your “happy place” and ignore the actions of an ineffective boss until you can find a job with a less stressful environment. I encourage you to try this simple action when encountering a less-than-stellar boss—using effective body language can be… Read more »
The companies put people who are willing to step on toes into management on purpose. Corporations are not altruistic. They want managers who will push employees at their expense and make more money for the company. Of course they are going to promote bad people. I figured this out working part time at a cab company. The dispatchers who talked down to people were all married. The single dispatchers did not. I realized the married dispatchers learned to talk down to people by talking down to their kids. The single dispatchers had never learned that skill and had to be… Read more »
Well after reading all the posts here I can relate to most of them, seems one thing is very common in about 80% of work places incompetent bosses with little to zero people handling skills, their have much better skills at lying and destroying others while ignoring their own bad traits, I have worked for many places over the past thirty years and had only two bosses that were descent, with all the publications and books I have seen in books stores everywhere about how to be a better leader, be a better boss that everyone would love to work… Read more »
My question is how to deal with more than one bad boss at the same time… as I have 4 bosses and 2 are not so good 1 is real bad, and no new prospective job opportunities. That is to say when a person has a limited career path due to economic changes and environmental restrictions, based on the job type and the boss knows it! yet the bullying, the harassing behavior, the career squelching continues. In my opinion I have suffered many emotional/physical and psychological afflictions as a result of the job that I have been in for the… Read more »
Most ” Bosses” don’t know how to treat people. “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln. I would say you could now update that quote to persons character. It amazes me that many in leadership roles don’t realize results are only 50% of the equation. The other 50% involves how you work with and treat people. A leadership role is so much more than results on metrics. Leaders have the power to change so many lives, and many don’t even realize it. I know so many that… Read more »
I was forewarned by a colleague when I took a new position in my company under someone whom he referred to as ‘demanding’. This was an understatement. The problem I had was it was insidious and I ignored the red flags. It was like being in a codependent relationship. At first all seemed to be okay…..slowly I found myself dealing with someone who is narcissistic and unstable. I never received a bad review but I began to doubt myself and looked forward to the days when they would be away. Any praise I received always felt insincere and forced. I… Read more »
I have a boss that keeps bullying everyone even me, she has even gone to the point of putting her finger in my face and swearing at me, so because of that she gave me a needs improvement on my yearly review and I am at work every day I never called in and I’m never late for work and she put on my review i do my job well and because I got a needs improvement on my review I don’t get my bonus, i feel it’s wrong and that they are penalizing me for doing well


more than a comment, I have a question. Most people would agree that we leave/quit bosses not jobs for the most part. How can you express that in a new job interview without the stigma that still has to complain about your boss and pointing at him/her as the real reason for looking for a new job.

To me is like the big elephant in the room, but nobody seems to be acknowledging it.




I worked in the same place for 12 years, and have had 7 bosses – 4 good ones and 3 bad ones. Of the 3 bad ones, one was toxic. She created health problems for multiple colleagues, including myself, and created an atmosphere of negativity in every department she led. For some reason, she was consistently given new teams to lead, and the rest of us (who had breathed a sigh of relief when she was moved) felt terrible for her new teams, and we would watch the best of them dropping like flies, while she trained the worst to… Read more »
The bad boss story can affect your career and other ways also the bad boss can push you out of the job that I love so dearly then when an opportunity presents itself to move on with your career that same bad boss may not legally but still can destroy your chances for a better job based upon a poor recommendation this poor recommendation can simply be yes so and so worked here for whatever dates but if it stops there without a positive comment of any sort your chances are crushed for that new job. I am now looking… Read more »

Ive been cursed at told to get out of the store.He have stood up with the intent to fight me .Ive been in the automobile business for thirty one years .Im the top sales person in the business I don’t think anyone should have to go through this.Ive took it to upper mangers I finaly hade my attorney to write a letter to the company.Ive gave one to the Gm. as well as the owner.Im afraid that I will get pushed to the max.Im still trying to deal with it but i’m on pens and needles.

A primary problem is that many bad bosses do not understand behavioral reinforcement. If reinforcements are arbitrary and unconsidered praise and blame, nobody knows how to succeed. The book learned optimism describes when you put a dog in a box and he hits a button to get food, dog is happy. When the button leads to shock, dog avoids and is happy. When the same button randomly doles out either, the dog gets sick and loses it’s hair and becomes defeatist. This is a common lack of understanding, how to be consistent with feedback to drive the right behaviors so… Read more »
I currently have a supervisor who verbally attacks me in front of co workers, hs students and the children we care for. I’m afraid to ask questions or talk to her face to face because of how she attacks verbally and snydly. She puts employees against each other and is insulting and demeaning. My only recourse is to obtain a degree to get a better job in this career. I don’t want to quit my job because of the pay and benefits. I do everything that is asked of me and more and she claims that I’m not a team… Read more »
I have been in my job for 12 years and I love it. My first boss was ‘asked to leave’ due to gross misconduct and his replacement, my current boss, is driving me mad. He has been here about 7 years now but still insists on telling me how to do my job, listens in to my phone calls and then wants to know the ins and outs then proceeds to tell me how to deal with the problem if there is one. He takes control of all aspects of my job and I feel it makes me look as… Read more »

I too had a new bad boss that micromanaged me after I had been in my position for over 10yrs with superior ratings every year and needed little to no supervision. Had to quit due to poor mental and physical health directly related to stress and the number of overtime hours required to stay on top of projects. 3 people should have been assigned to my position but management did not understand what I did and my position was vastly under rated.


Please take a moment to let your HR KNOW before you quit or after. Please do this for the benefit of those left behind 🙂


I quit my job (which I also really loved) because the boss above my boss did not have an understanding of what I did, and consequently was not able to value what I did. I did not realize until after I was gone how much this overflowed into my private life and how unhappy I really was. I told my immediate boss that being undervalued was marginalizing.


I have had some pretty horrible bosses, one thing I have learned is hang in there do a great job and sooner or latter they leave or get fired.

I’ve worked at a hospital for 37 years and don’t wan to leave the hospital. I worked in Finance for 20 plus years then moving to a Development office and loved the change. I’ve had some great bosses that I was able to learn from. But now my new boss has been here just a year and in that time she has fired one employee and changed everyones hours, adding an unpaid half hour lunch. Has shown favoritism and treats me differently than others and I believe it’s because of longevity. I’ve acquired health issues and recently been diagnosed with… Read more »

I quit my job (which I really loved) when I met my new boss. I knew that I could not work with this person, so I quit. I am fortunate that I was able to quit, my other co-workers, not so lucky. Most of my ex co-workers have since developed stress related health and mental issues. I appreciate being able to share.

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