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Bossing: the abuse of power in the workplace

Updated: Jan 7

The work environment and company policies are among the factors that most influence people in their choice of employment. Unfortunately, threatening well-being at work are various unacceptable behaviors, such as bullying, harassment, or bossing. The latter, in particular, is a type of workplace abuse that takes the form of a series of persecutory actions by a manager against a subordinate.


The purpose, in most cases, is to bring about the employee's voluntary resignation. So, the boss tends to abuse his or her power and the available tools of control to enact various forms of psychological harassment.


But what are the reasons for bossing?


Withdrawal of benefits, unprovoked letters of reprimand, demotion, and psychological pressure of various kinds are part of a strategy aimed at self-licensing the resource. The reasons can be varied: there is a need to reduce staff;


the company wants to invest in younger resources; the person is not performing as well as he or she should.


Firing staff, however, involves costs and the risk of legal action, and bossing may appear to be one of the possible solutions.


However, misbehavior toward an unwanted employee can affect the entire organization, threatening working well-being.


Contenuti dell'articolo:


Bossing: l'abuso di potere sul posto di lavoro

What is bossing? Here is the definition of bossing


Bossing is a term of English origin derived from the word boss, meaning the person who exercises control or authority over others. It is used with a negative connotation to refer to employer behavior that exploits its position to humiliate employees.


It is a form of vertical bullying, therefore, which is carried out directly by the employer (the manager, the boss, the administrator).


The purpose of the administrator exercising acts of bossing is to push the employee to hand in his resignation, through actions aimed at humiliating, marginalizing, and penalizing him.


The trauma suffered by the person subjected to bossing generally causes severe stress and psychological weakening.


For the crime of bossing to occur, the person who enacts the injurious actions must act maliciously, that is, with the intention of denigrating and debasing his or her subordinate. It is precisely malice, in fact, that is the characteristic element of bossing, with which are associated:


  • debasing situations for the employee enacted in a systematic manner;

  • repetition of the attitudes over a prolonged period of time;

  • effects on the mental and physical health of the victim.


In reality, bossing is not only implemented within the work context, where it takes the name of job bossing, but also in other settings. The other most common types of bossing are in the military (military bossing), school (school bossing) and sports (sports bossing).


Bossing: l'abuso di potere sul posto di lavoro

How to recognize bossing

But what strategies do employers use to get employees to quit voluntarily?


To realize whether or not an employee is a victim of bossing, one must first consider the feelings he or she experiences in reference to the work context:

  • Does the job cause stress?

  • Does he feel anxious while performing his duties?

  • Does he feel hypercritical behavior toward him from the boss?

  • What kind of reception do you get from colleagues?


Answering these questions already provides more clarity about the condition. However, it is essential to assess other aspects as well.


Demotion is one of the strategies commonly used in bossing. In practice, the employee is given assignments that are usually lower than his or her grade level. De-skilling the employee is intended to induce resignation of figures no longer needed by the company: this avoids costly layoffs with a better outcome for the company.


To feed the feeling of inadequacy, then, the worker is overloaded with tasks to drive him to exhaustion. Or he or she is given tasks for which he or she does not have the skills, raising stress levels.


Disciplinary sanctions are another weapon that can be misused by the boss to harass the employee being bossed.


Another unofficial tool is the blacklist of people to be sent away or who are useless to the organization. Typically, the list is passed around the work environment, creating enormous tension and nervousness among employees.


The unwanted worker may be excluded from any kind of gratification or reward, or even kept out of meetings or in the dark about communications intended for employees.


Consequences for victims of bossing


Victims of bossing are subjected to situations of attrition and frustration that are particularly difficult to tolerate. This can cause consequences psychologically that can also affect the body:


  • exhaustion;

  • burnout;

  • depression;

  • insomnia;

  • eating disorders;

  • headaches.


Often, the presence of such issues prompts the taking of psychotropic drugs. While many people tend to abuse smoking and alcohol in these situations. The malaise associated with bossing at work certainly goes on to alter the employee's private life as well.


Bossing: l'abuso di potere sul posto di lavoro

Difference between bossing and mobbing


Although bossing is a form of mobbing, the two cases differ in some specific characteristics. Specifically, bullying is exercised by a superior against his or her subordinates; bossing, on the other hand, starts from the very person who is in charge of the company (the boss or administrator).


In addition, the misconduct associated with bullying is exercised indiscriminately on all employees, whereas in bossing it is targeted at one or more individuals.

What are the strategies in case of bossing

A worker exposed to bossing may actually decide to give in to the pressure and resign from the company. This, however, entails several weighty consequences for both parties:


  • the former employee, in fact, gives up his job, and with it the salary and benefits associated with his employment;

  • the company, on the other hand, loses a resource, risks legal issues for not respecting workers' rights, and creates a climate of unease among employees.


To avoid similar critical issues, solutions can be adopted to promote organizational well-being so that people feel more welcomed.


We at Qomprendo have designed a tool to detect corporate mood that is simple and intuitive to use. On our app, each resource feels free to express his or her feelings about the work environment, negatively or positively. It is a system that allows the company to get real-time feedback and intervene quickly whenever a critical issue arises. This results in a reduction in voluntary resignations, the creation of a more inclusive climate and, as a result, conditions for greater productivity.


To make your company more robust, the main prerequisite is to have satisfied and proactive employees. Invest in the future: ask for your Qomprendo demo now!


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