How a Bad Boss Can Make You Sick

Having a bad boss can make you miserable, but now we know it can also make you sick.

Recent research shows that as many as 77% of employees experience physical symptoms of stress from bad bosses. And it’s not just a lack of energy or a low-level headache—the things we commonly associate with stress.

One study finds that workers who have poor relationships with their bosses are 30 percent more likely to suffer coronary heart disease. So a bad boss really can give you sick, even give you a heart attack.

If you’ve ever had a truly bad boss, you know how miserable the experience can be. If not, count yourself lucky. Here are some of the hallmarks of the worst bosses:

They lack self-awareness. A boss’s task is to influence and engage people, so it is essential that they understand how their behaviors affect other people. if your boss lacks self-awareness, they can’t understand themselves, let alone anybody else.

They lead with fear, not fairness. When a boss leads by fear, people stop offering their opinions. The boss ends up stuck in a vacuum where they hear very little dissent or feedback, and in time they become even more isolated.

They fail to communicate effectively. When your boss fails to communicate clear expectations, or if they selectively communicate with only a few people and leave others feeling left out or ill-informed, they are creating an environment where people feel devalued and marginalized—and extremely frustrated.

They take credit for other people’s work. When a boss takes credit for other people’s work, they obliterate trust and lose respect.

They’re a poor listener. When a boss tunes out or interrupts when others are speaking, there’s little chance for the kind of meaningful communication that’s required in the workplace.

They don’t follow through on their commitments. If your boss blames everyone else but themselves, or fail to hold themselves accountable, or they say one thing and do another? They’re demonstrating that they can’t be trusted.

They fail to express appreciation. A boss who withholds praise and rarely appreciates people does a disservice to everyone on their team. Failing to show basic professional respect is a sign of deep issues.

They micromanage. When a bad boss micromanages, they leave no room for people to develop and grow. And when good people feel they have no room to grow, they become disengaged.

They attack. A boss who lashes out and doesn’t manage their emotions is not only infuriating but also demeaning.

They’re narcissistic. When a boss acts paranoid, vindictive and narcissistic, they’re likely an insecure person who takes their self-doubt out on others. Whatever the reason, it’s incredibly stressful.

Having a boss who can make you sick may be real, but what you do about it is up to you. Practice self-care, model good behavior, and connect with coworkers who are experiencing the same thing. If the situation is bad enough, consider talking to HR or someone in senior leadership. And if all else fails, look for another job. Your health and well-being are worth it.

Lead from within: You can’t change a boss who makes you sick, but you can control your own actions and responses.

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The Leadership Gap
What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

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