Nearly a 3rd of American workers say they go to therapy to cope with their toxic bosses, new survey finds
Workers are taking their problems with their bosses out of the office and into therapy.
Twenty-nine percent — or nearly one third — of the 1,233 American workers surveyed by The Harris Poll in a recent study reported going to therapy to cope with their toxic bosses.
Researchers defined a “toxic boss” as one who exhibits behaviors like micromanagement, credit-stealing, setting unreasonable expectations, unprofessionalism, and unapproachability.
Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said they currently have a boss who exhibits toxic behavior, while 71% said they have had at least one toxic boss throughout their career.
“It’s nothing short of astonishing how the presence of toxicity not only persists but actively flourishes within certain workplace environments,” Libby Rodney, the chief strategy officer at The Harris Poll, told Insider over email.
This toxicity can lead to to mental health problems, which is likely why so many workers seek therapy: 74% of workers who said they have a toxic boss reported feeling anxiety over the weekend when thinking about returning to work on Monday — sometimes known as the “Sunday scaries” — while 53% reported having nightmares about their bosses. Thirty-four percent of those with toxic bosses reported engaging in coping mechanisms like drinking and overeating.
Despite the toll toxic bosses can take on workers’ lives, the majority of workers with toxic bosses say they tolerate them for financial reasons, including salary, benefits, and the fear of leaving in an uncertain economic climate.
“The implications of this tolerance are nothing short of massive, particularly for those working under the oppressive reign of toxic bosses, all while navigating the stormy seas of an uncertain economy,” Rodney said.
The survey’s findings fall in line with a growing body of research on how employers can impact the mental health of their employees.
Nearly half of workers reported feeling stressed and one third said they were lonely in a Deloitte workplace study published in June. Nearly a third said that they didn’t feel as if their manager cared about their wellbeing.
Eventually, the mental health toll of toxic companies may come back to bite companies by affecting both existing talent and potential new hires.
Eighty-one percent of individuals surveyed in a 2022 American Psychological Association survey said that companies’ support of mental health is an important consideration when it comes to choosing a new job.
In response to toxic bosses, workers can be less productive, intentionally decrease their effort at work, and take out their frustrations on clients, The Harris Poll survey found. If their bosses were to nurture a positive work environment, those workers said they would put extra effort into their jobs and be willing to take on more responsibilities.
If not, workers may decide to quit their jobs.
“For those who’ve been dealing with a bad work environment, this will become a critical time to decide if they still want to stick with the company,” Rodney said.