Abusive leadership: identifying signs and strategies for dealing with this toxic behavior at work. Protect your health and well-being.
Leadership training is one of the topics that receives the most attention these days when it comes to corporate agendas. However, we still need to address one more fact that is more common than it should be. After all, do you know how to detect abusive leadership?
Let’s find out together how to deal with it and what to do when we detect this abuse of authority. We will also explain what the difference is between an abusive leader and a good leader.
What we will see in this article
What is abusive leadership?
If you are reading this article, you have probably heard of the term “abusive leadership” before, and it is used to describe a leader who uses his position of power to take advantage of others.
Also known as toxic leadership, it is the meeting, by the leader or boss, of aggressive or hostile characteristics with his subordinates. The abusive leader usually adopts attitudes that belittle, ridicule, or even humiliate his employees.
A common problem
Unfortunately, an abusive manager is still a frequent condition in many companies. According to research on the topic, it is a figure present in almost every corporation and almost every worker has have lived with a toxic leader.
How abusive leadership affects subordinates
In addition, abusive leadership affects the level of productivity, confidence and work motivation of subordinate employees. The feeling of helplessness, panic, stress, and fear in the work environment affects the individual’s entire condition, even his personal life.
The consequences of abusive leadership are deeply visceral to subordinates, who may develop emotional and mental health problems because of this abuse. Often, leaving the job is the only alternative to get around the problem.
What does the behavior of the abusive leader look like
Contrary to what a good people manager should do, the abusive leader assumes a posture of oppression and intolerance toward his employees. Even if the justification is the ideal functioning of labor relations.
In general, abusive leadership will hide behind a position of excessive demands and strictness. Through this, their attitudes can turn directly against their employees, even with explicit persecution.
An abusive leader usually uses tactics such as intimidation, humiliation, threats, isolation, and control to keep his subordinates under his control. These behaviors are not only harmful to the employee, but also to the organization.
What is considered abuse of power?
Recurrent intimidation and misuse of authority is considered abuse of power.
- Labor Law. Abuse of power. Moral Damage. Moral Harassment. Indemnity.
The posture of intimidation becomes recurrent, and the leader’s intention to demand a job well done turns into a constant desire to cause his subordinate to suffer. Thus, the roles of aggressor and victim become latent in the relationship.
The higher the position of the leader, the greater the configuration of abuse of authority.
In abuse of authority he will seek to exercise control through his function of authority.
Then he can further harass people who try to blow the whistle, or even discredit them in the eyes of other employees.
Which article talks about abuse of authority?
Penalties for abuse of power crimes fall into three areas.
- Management from warning to dismissal.
- Civil with indemnity.
- Criminals. You can be fined, arrested for up to six months and removed from office, and disqualified from any other public office for up to three years.
You can read the full article on the Abuse of Authority Law – LAW No. 13,869, OF SEPTEMBER 5, 2019. – BRAZIL This law defines the crimes of abuse of authority, committed by a public agent, public servant or not.
If you want to know more about abuse of authority by private individuals and non-servicemen, you can read this article by Rodrigo Foureaux.
Abusive conduct adopted by the toxic leader (abusive leaders)
There are some general behaviors that should be observed in the leader’s behavior. The occurrence of two or more of them can already indicate an abusive leadership profile in the work environment. It is important to be aware of the signs.
Judging your own opinion and assessment of work situations as superior to your subordinates is a sign of intolerance and lack of empathy. Thus, ridiculing opinions that differ from yours may be an indication.
This type of superior opinion implies that the opinions of others are always wrong, and even generates guilt in the employees for thinking differently from their leadership, and this is horrible for the development of the company, because it inhibits new and creative ideas for its permanence in the market.
Abusive and Inappropriate Supervision
It is obvious that the leadership position implies responsibilities and supervision of the subordinates’ work. However, this cannot be a green light for inappropriate conduct. The company must require the leader to follow ethical parameters when exercising leadership and management.
Many companies have serious leadership problems, precisely because they promoted their employees but did not train them for the new position, can you understand that?
People need to be trained and educated to be leaders who bring development to everyone and can serve others to do their jobs very well, and not stand as a supervisor to point out mistakes by shouting and making corrections in a format that humiliates people.
Devaluation of effort
One of the most common indications of abusive leadership is the continual devaluation of the subordinate’s effort. Excessive criticism, without rational justification, is a warning sign of inappropriate behavior.
Sometimes the limits of non-recognition of effort reach the point where the person is often humiliated, even in front of other colleagues. A good leader seeks to fix the mistakes of his employees, so that they learn from them.
The appreciation of each person’s effort is paramount to let them know if they are on the right work path and also helps in the moral motivation of everyone. Unlike machines, human beings are totally relational and have a great sense of utility, which makes them always see themselves as someone capable of doing something.
Valuing effort, even if one has not accomplished the entire task, is a good way to motivate and engage so that the next tasks are achieved successfully.
This is another very common indication of abusive leadership. It is sad to note that for many decades, aggressive and excessively hostile communication by leaders was tolerable in corporate environments.
Exercising your authority through insults and rudeness does not make anyone a more respected leader. On the contrary. This denotes an intolerant attitude, which should not be encouraged. All criticism, without exception, must be carried out without disrespect.
Still in the realm of inappropriate communication, the making of derogatory, unflattering comments or comments against the subordinate’s honor and morals can also be included. Especially when the employee has already shown discomfort with the lines.
Imposition of behavior that goes against company norms
Abusive leadership may also seek to exert control over its employee by imposing aspects of appearance. If this is not prescribed in the company’s conduct, the leader should not have a say in his subordinate’s image.
Criticizing in a destructive way
The true leader always seeks to be a positive reference to his subordinates. Therefore, the choice for criticism in a destructive tone does not usually add to the improvement of the performance and productivity of employees. Usually, the opposite effect occurs.
Trying to exert control of the employee outside the work environment
The abusive leader may seek to exercise a position of dominance and control over his subordinate, even outside of working hours. Thus, monitoring break times or even personal life is totally inappropriate.
Persecution of specific individuals
The targeting of certain employees for insults and humiliation is also a common conduct of the abusive leader. The reasons can have a very bad personal connotation for everyone.
How to report my abusive leader
If you have identified abusive behavior on the part of your leadership, it is important to deal with the problem. If you are uncomfortable conducting a conversation with him on the subject, you should seek out the responsible sectors or other superiors.
Often, you may feel intimidated by repeated bullying. However, the abusive leader rightly uses fear to hide from punishment for his actions.
It is important that all companies have a zero tolerance policy for bullying and harassment in the workplace, creating channels to listen to all employees in a fair and welcoming way.
Don’t be afraid to say no
A leader who abuses his power will not only damage the morale of his team, but will also lose respect among his subordinates. If you are afraid to say “no” to people, you may end up doing things you don’t want to do.
You may even end up making mistakes because you didn’t think about the consequences of your actions. As hard as it may be, you also become responsible for your words, and we don’t want that, do we?
Difference between a good leader and an abusive boss
The word leader has been used to describe many different types of people throughout history. In today’s world, however, the term “boss” is often associated with those who abuse power and authority.
Leaders are generally seen as charismatic individuals who possess certain qualities, such as confidence, charisma, and leadership skills. However, there are some bosses who use their position to manipulate others into doing what they want them to do. These bosses who set themselves up as leaders are known as abusive leaders. Abusive leaders tend to be very controlling and manipulative. They often try to get other people to follow them without giving them credit for their own ideas.
Don’t let anyone take advantage of you
An abusive leader will often try to control others using threats, intimidation, or emotional blackmail. He will make promises that he knows he will not keep. He will use guilt trips to manipulate others into doing what he wants them to do.
Know also when you are being abusive
If you think you might be an abusive leader, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I treat my employees with respect?
- Am I honest with them?
- Do I listen to your ideas?
- Do I give them opportunities to succeed?
- Do I reward them when they do well?
- Do I praise them when they do something right?
- Do I let them know how much I appreciate them?
- Do I help them solve problems?
- Do I encourage them to take risks?
- Do I trust them?
- Do I tell them the truth?
- Do I show them that I care?
- Do I set clear expectations?
- Do I hold people accountable for meeting these expectations?
- Do I give them feedback?
- Do I give them credit when they deserve it?
- Do I give them recognition when they deserve it?
There is nothing worse than being abused at work. If you have ever been bullied or harassed at work, you know what we mean. And if you have not experienced abuse in the workplace, you may be wondering why anyone would want to be abusive to others.
The answer is simple: power. Power corrupts, and abusers use their position to take advantage of people weaker than themselves.
So, do a deep reflection on your leadership and see if you are not being an abusive leader.
Much of what is said about how to become a good leader can be seen in other areas of life, not only in politics. For example, the good leader must have a clear vision of who he wants for himself and for others. He needs to know how to handle difficult situations and how to find solutions to complex problems.
The good part of the leaders I know are very good leaders. They know how to relate to their subordinates, how to tell them what needs to be done to improve their tasks, how to motivate and encourage them. Moreover, they also know how to deal with problems of a personal nature.
The big lesson for those starting out in the job market is that you need to have a good education and know how to deal with different people. You can’t just talk about your business, but try to understand what they want and how we can unite on something better.
Having the understanding of what it is to be a good leader and an abusive leader (or abusive boss), is fundamental to your good reflection and career development, believe it.
We have reached the end, but we really want to hear about your experience and what you have to tell us. It will be a great joy for everyone if you can share your experience here.