Unhappy homes can turn managers abusive at work

New York: Frustration arising out of family stress can make managers verbally abusive towards subordinates at workplaces, says a study.

“We found that supervisers who experienced more family-work conflict were more likely to verbally abuse their employees,” said one of the researchers, Stephen Courtright, professor of management at Texas A&M University in the US.

“This happened because supervisers who experienced high levels of family-work conflict also experienced higher levels of ‘ego depletion’, which then led to more frequent displays of verbal abuse,” Courtright said.

Ego depletion is the inability to control one’s impulses due to mental exhaustion, Courtright said.

“And family-work conflict occurs when family demands or problems affect one’s ability to work,” he said.

To examine the connection between problems at home and abusive supervision, the researchers first sent surveys over a four-month period to more than 150 mid-level managers and all of the employees who report directly to them at a Fortune 500 company located in the US and Canada.

They then expanded the study to nearly 100 mid and senior-level managers in organisations spanning 20 different industries across the US.

The researchers found that supervisers take out their frustration with home problems on their employees.

The investigation also revealed that female supervisers were more likely to verbally abuse employees.

“Women have traditionally been expected by society to divert more attention away from work and towards home when family demands and stress arise,” Courtright said.

“As a result, women end up experiencing higher levels of ego depletion, which in turn, means displaying more abusive supervision,” Courtright said.

The study was published in the Academy of Management Journal.