What Your Mean Boss Really Cares About

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There's nothing quite so enervating as a toxic workplace. All your good intentions just wither when they come in contact with nasty coworkers or an abusive boss. In theory, it's in the company's best interests to remedy the situation. In practice, either the problem changes or you hightail it out.


Researchers from the University of Wyoming have just published a study on how damaging supervisors tend to sidestep the consequences of their corrosive behavior. It's a tactic you may recognize from the playground: They make a show of apologizing, but only in service to their social image. Real reparative work, such changing how they act or actually making amends, is never on the table.

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This "faking nice" is just manipulation, at its core, and it simply entrenches a destructive company culture. "[A] boss's behavior can never be fully regulated by organizational policy; in the end, whether a boss fails to exhibit common decency and civil behavior to his employees is ultimately up to them," the researchers write. In fact, forgiveness (on the part of the aggrieved) is less likely to create lasting change than sanctions from overhead.


Ultimately, there's no place for a Machiavelli in most work environments, and being a jerk is not actually any way to get ahead in one's career. Of course, sometimes your nasty manager is just trying to cope, not that nastiness is ever excusable. But if you can't clean up a toxic workplace, you have every right to simply leave it behind.