Is Having a Bad Boss Bad for Your Health?

Toxic Workplace Bad Boss Belatina

According to Brigette Hyacinth, bestselling author of Purpose Driven Leadership: Building and Fostering Effective Teams, and an International Keynote Speaker on Leadership, Management, HR, Digital Transformation and Artificial Intelligence, having a bad boss can destroy a good staff and cause the best employees to flee and the rest to lose all motivation.

“The worst places an employee can be, is stuck in an organization with a micromanager who doesn’t care about their development and there are no opportunities for growth and advancement,” wrote Hyacinth in LinkedIn reflecting on the time when she worked for a bad boss who put profit before people and never stopped to celebrate the teams’ successes. “Whenever a boss acts like a dictator – shutting down, embarrassing, or firing anyone who dares to challenge the status quo – you’ve got a toxic workplace problem. And that’s not just because of the boss’ bad behavior, but because that behavior creates an environment in which everyone is scared, intimidated and often willing to throw their colleagues under the bus,” she assures.  

Hyacinth’s words reminded me of the second season of Very Cavallari, a reality television series that follows Kristin Cavallari as she launches the flagship store for her jewelry line, Uncommon James. During the show, the staff is constantly being degraded and called “a bunch of kids” by the 32-years-old entrepreneur and her very intimidating husband, Jay Cutler. Because of this toxic work environment, there exists a lack of positive workplace culture, therefore episode after episode Cavallari struggles to keep her start-up company running smoothly and her employees happy. “No matter how great a company’s products and/or services may be, if management is dysfunctional, that company will have serious problems,” said Brigette. “The typical ‘bad boss’ spends their time directing and monitoring employees rather than empowering them. Micromanaging is oppressive, fosters anxiety and creates a high-stress work environment.”

During the show, the now mother of three also revealed that her husband “lives to terrorize” her employees, a situation that seems to entertain Cavallari.  

Nadereeh Abud, Human Resources Manager at Media Monitors and Founder of Nadereeh Abud, HR Solutions, Training & Development, told us that “empathy at work should be an essential characteristic of every boss, if not, the duty is to develop these soft skills as this will allow you to ‘put yourself in the shoes of the other’ when you have to decide about your employees.” Abud assures that it is true that the internal procedures of a company must be important, and it is the boss’s responsibility to report on the positive progress that the company has; however, it should never be a justifying element of bad practice of human talent management. 

“The insensitivity in the boss to the things that may affect a collaborator can be a low tolerance to conflict situations, lack of positive leadership, weakness in influence and motivation, and little discernment. The degrading treatment provided to an employee can cause adverse effects on the employee’s performance, such as insecurity, inefficiency, nervousness, lack of belonging to the team, disinterest in collaborating with their peers or bosses, and could even provoke the desertion from the job position; all this without mentioning the deepest psychological and emotional effects that can develop,” the expert continued. “Unquestionably, in the labor area there are constant tensions and sometimes the increase in them can cause differences that, if we do not know how to manage them, could become bigger problems and even damage the climate of the organization.”

But assuming this show is just a partially manufactured drama — which I don’t doubt — the whole scenario can still trigger thousands of people who are struggling or experienced terrible situations with non-empathetic bosses like myself. My first job when I moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic was with a Handbag Designer. It sure paid the bills, but after three months I left the company because the designer was taking advantage of my talent for her own benefit — and honestly, my mom didn’t raise a pendeja.

Three weeks later I worked at a cool and exclusive wig, hair extensions, and eyelash company. I met so many celebs and their stylists in person, over the phone, via email, text messages, it was crazy — but so was the owner of the company. After just two days working there, the boss approached me and told me to stop wearing perfume because it was “disgusting.” 

Looking back, I now realize that I should have known better and paid attention to the messages the universe was sending me because I’m not lying or exaggerating when I say that after two months I was emotionally drained with bald spots all over my head. 

anxiety mental health

In fact, according to a Norwegian scientific study, a bad boss can take a negative toll on employees mental and physical health. In 2009, Psychologist and Researcher Anna Nyberg, from the Stockholm University and the Stress Research Institute, presented a study involving approximately 3,100 men from different companies, revealing that 74 of these men had suffered a serious heart condition, such as a heart attack, sometimes ending in death. Nyberg concluded that when managers lack certain skills, the risk of suffering a heart attack increases by an alarming 40 percent, plus high blood pressure, chronic stress, sleep problems, anxiety, and substance abuse issues are more common.

If you are working in a toxic environment and experiencing unfair labor practices, keep in mind that absolutely no one has the right to mistreat you. You definitely may be free from discrimination, harassment of all types and according to the Department of Labor Employee Rights, you also have the right to be free from retaliation for filing a claim or complaint against an employer — and sometimes your information can stay in the shadows. Be brave and always be willing to take care of yourself.