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Your Terrible Boss Is Also Ruining Your Personal Life

A recent study found that people with authoritarian managers take their work stress home with them, significantly impacting their loved ones

When I was working at my previous job, I was always on edge. That anxiety would often bleed into my personal life, including in my romantic relationship and the dynamic I had with my family. When I finally quit, everything felt easier. My love life was smooth sailing, and my parents remarked that I seemed a lot happier. 

While the notion that work stress can bleed into your personal life isn’t exactly new, a 2021 study published in Frontiers in Psychology found that bad bosses, specifically, can wreak havoc on romantic relationships and an employee’s home life. 

The researchers surveyed a sample of 207 employees from two IT companies and a real estate company, all based in China. The study was split into three parts: participants first answered questions about their boss’ leadership style, then they answered questions about the dynamic between their work and personal life, and lastly, the employees’ spouses answered questions about the satisfaction they felt in their family life. 

The results showed that those who had bosses with authoritarian leadership styles had a negative impact on their home and family life — a sentiment corroborated by their spouses. But those who were fortunate enough to have caring, empathetic bosses with benevolent leadership styles who respected a work-life balance reported they could apply lessons from work to their family dynamic in a positive way and that their personal relationships benefited, too. Their spouses seemed pretty happy with their relationship as well. 

Perhaps the most interesting part of the study is the finding that those who had authoritarian bosses lacked so much control at work that they sought it at home, which typically resulted in fractured relationships. 

The researchers came to the conclusion that people in positions of power who don’t respect their employees can cause a “far-reaching societal impact on family structures.” Essentially, the awful work situation they create also directly affects their employees’ families, making tons of people miserable who aren’t even on the payroll.