Nightmare bosses are sadly common. There’s the type who enjoys barking orders at employees, who doesn’t seem to do much else. And the boss who can’t help micromanaging, making it difficult to get any work done. Finally, there’s also the manager who thinks a little too highly of themselves.
Almost half of UK workers have quit a job due to a poor relationship with their manager, according to Totaljobs. Nearly a fifth (18%) said they felt unable to trust their boss, and 28% said their line manager was their “work enemy.” A quarter had nightmares about their boss - and a quarter 26% had looked for support for mental health issues, citing problems with their boss as a main motivation for getting help.
Bad bosses come in lots of different forms, but arrogant managers can be some of the most toxic to a workplace.
A new paper by Berkeley Haas School of Business professor Jennifer Chatman and her colleagues shows not only the profound impact narcissistic leaders have on their organisations, but also the long-lasting damage they inflict on entire businesses.
“Having a narcissistic boss can impact the whole company in a negative way,” says Suzanne Guest, a registered occupational psychologist at Work in Mind.
“They may be unlikely to take on board the views and the needs of others, so as a result any benefits of a diverse working environment will be lost. It can also be incredibly demotivating for staff as an arrogant or narcissistic boss will take credit for other people’s work, this will lead employees to be less inclined to work harder if they do not feel appreciated.”
Typically, an arrogant or narcissistic boss will typically look after the needs of themselves without considering the needs of the other people around them. This might mean preventing staff from taking lunch breaks at reasonable times, or unfairly denying someone their annual leave if it doesn’t fit their schedule.
Their actions may stem from a desire to control others in inappropriate ways, which can lead to abusive behaviour and higher levels of stress and burnout among employees.
“Arrogant or narcissistic managers can also interfere with your home life,” Guest explains. “For example, sending work outside of office hours, sending emails to your personal email account, calling your personal number or demanding work be done at a time that would mean you are working outside of office hours.”
According to the Berkeley research, the self-serving, exploitative actions of arrogant leaders can lead to lower levels of collaboration and ethical practices across whole organisations - and negatively impact pay equity too.
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While arrogant bosses are often seen as bold business leaders, Chatman suggests this can backfire for companies. In fact, employing a narcissist in a senior position may be a risky move, as they may be more likely to become involved in lawsuits and ethical breaches as a result of their overconfidence.
A simple solution is to avoid hiring arrogant managers in the first place, but it can be difficult to detect a narcissist until it is too late. It’s also easy for recruiters to become sucked in by someone’s overconfidence in their abilities, too.
Chatman suggests using 360-degree evaluations from a wide range of employees can help companies expose arrogant bosses. It can also help to evaluate their performance based on how they develop their team, as well as making sure employees get the credit they deserve for their work.
If you’re working for a narcissistic manager, you may find yourself in a tricky spot. If you feel the behaviour is bullying or discriminatory, it is worth seeking support from someone senior in the company or taking advice from your trade union representative if you are a member of the union.
“It can be incredibly difficult working for a narcissistic or arrogant manager, and depending on how senior they are in the company can depend on how difficult it can be,” Guest says.
“It is important to look after good home working boundaries, ensuring that you have a fulfilled life away from work. It is also worth trying to put their behaviour into perspective and saying that this is a problem with them and not you. The requests and behaviour is unreasonable - and it is not that you are failing.”