Different Bad Bosses Create Different Coping Mechanisms

Toxic workplaces and abusive bosses follow us home from work, sometimes long after we've left a job entirely. Each petty tyrant seems awful in their own special way when you're in the thick of it, but more often than not, bad management tends to resemble itself. Employees develop ways to resist or cope with these bosses, and those methods tell us a lot about the particular badness they're fending off.

Psychologists at Portland State University have just released a study about "organizational citizenship behavior," which are the ways in which you go above and beyond at work, and how that suffers when your boss is a bully. The researchers identified two main categories of ways that workers check out on the job in abusive situations: Reactions crop up in response to injustice and work stress.

When employees believe their supervisor is treating them unfairly, their resistance tends toward the rational. Workers will sabotage projects, sit out on volunteering, or show up late to meetings or to the job itself. Employees buckling under stress, on the other hand, react more uncontrollably. "You don't sleep well, so you come in late or take a longer break, lash out at your coworkers or disobey instructions," said co-author Liu-Qin Yang.

Some of these conditions you can mitigate on your own, but long-term exposure to this kind of treatment is not worth it. Whenever you're in a position to leave, make sure to let yourself detox from your bad job. You're less likely to carry those coping mechanisms into your new workplace — and more likely to live the working life you want.