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Abusive bosses are those who display hostile verbal and non-verbal behaviors toward their subordinates on a regular basis, excluding physical contact. “Bullying bosses” are omnipresent: an estimated 20 million Americans face abusive work situations almost every day.

Abusive bosses often humiliate their subordinates in public, ridicule, shout, or swear at them constantly, or make uncalled for and unfair remarks regarding their work performance. They often go to great lengths to prevent their subordinates’ success so as to not have to relinquish control. They even ensure that the targeted worker feels isolated from others, sometimes even encouraging other workers to become abusive toward the target.

Abusive supervisors can be found, not just in blue collar industries, but in academia and information technology as well, where workplace bullying is commonplace. Sometimes, abusive tactics by supervisors and managers are overlooked because they seem to be getting things done, but research has shown time and time again that the far-reaching effects of abusive supervision are overwhelmingly negative, both in the short term and in the long term.

The direct effects of abusive supervision on job performance on a worker include:

• increased job frustration

• increased co-worker abuse

• Decreased perception of organizational support.

Abusive supervision and other types of workplace bullying can also cause psychological harm. According to a WBI survey on the health impact of workplace bullying, 80 percent of those targeted by bullies experienced debilitating anxiety, 52 percent suffered panic attacks, 49 percent had clinical depression, and 30 percent developed post-traumatic stress disorder. And these often translate to absenteeism, work avoidance, lowered quality of work, and increased spending on health care to address psychological trauma.

An abusive boss can also have negative effects on the workplace as a whole: low employee morale, decreased productivity, and high turnover among others. A Gallup poll has found that the number one cause of employee turnover is a bad boss or an immediate supervisor.

Supervisors and managers who find themselves exhibiting some of the traits of abusive leaders should take a step back and consider whether their management styles are spurring company growth and motivating workers, or decreasing productivity and urging employees to leave.

Bertrand Management Group is an Ontario, California-based consulting firm that focuses on business development strategies. For articles on positive leadership, subscribe to this blog.