10 March 2016

Horrible Bosses: More than just a Hollywood movie

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A couple of years ago a Hollywood movie named Horrible Bosses detailed the revenge plans of three down on their luck employees. It tapped a need in the cinema going market grossing over $100 million at the box office as workers the world over sat in darkened cinema's and enjoyed the screwball antics of the workers, and the downfall of the bosses.

But having a horrible boss of your own is no laughing matter. A bad manager is a key ingredient in the scourge that is workplace stress, and the related illnesses increased stress brings.

A recent report by researchers at Harvard Business School and Stanford University meta-analysed the results of more than 200 studies to better understand the effects of stress in the workplace. Their research showed more than 50% of people worried constantly about losing their job, while having an overly demanding job made people 35% more likely to develop a serious illness. 

Further, in Australia a report by Sydney-based coaching psychologist Travis Kemp showed 37.9 % of their random selection of business leaders had showed symptoms related with depression, anxiety, or paranoia. 

Having a difficult or demanding boss is not only demoralising and disengaging, it is a health hazzard. 

In his article "4 signs your boss is worse than cigarettes," Travis Bradberry, a contributor to Forbes wrote "Bad bosses are more common than you think. Recent research from the America Psychological Association reported 75% of American workers identified their boss as the worst and most stressful part of their job, and 60% of US workers would take a new boss over a pay rise."

The reason we put up with bad bosses are many. It may simply be a case of being in the comfort zone, or being lazy. It could also be the point that workers can be so beaten down by a bad boss they lose the faith in themselves an their abilities they need to find a new position.

There is a lot written about psychological abuse in the home, or the community, but some Australian workers are psychologically abused daily by their bosses and there is little that can be done. While Australia has strict anti-bullying laws, it takes the person who is feeling bullied to report it to management, and it can feel like a case of "why even bother, no one is going to listen."

So what should we do if we're faced with a bad boss?

Firstly, you need to remember if your boss is like that with everyone, don't take it personally. I know that can be easier said, than done. Observe how they treat others. If it's only you, there may be little you can do, but understand the problem is on their end. Unless you go out of your way to antagonise them, deliberately causing trouble and not doing your work there's no reason for a manager to be disrespectful.

Secondly, you need to realise that even though this is at work, it's an unhealthy relationship. If you wouldn't put up with it anywhere else, don't put up with it at work. Look for another job, update your skills if necessary. Get out there and see what else is around the corner. 


Finally, spend time each day simply acknowledging the good. It's easy to dwell on the bad, but it doesn't mean that's all you have in your life. Take up a new hobby, go to yoga, get off the bus two stops earlier and walk home for 20 minutes each day. If you've spent the day absorbing - or having directed at you - negativity and anger there is nothing better for you to get your body moving. 




Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service.

Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy. Mike’s first published work will be the short story Seeds of Eden, in the Sproutlings Anthology scheduled for release in March 2016.

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