Fight, Flight or Freeze: Common Responses for Follower Coping with Toxic Leadership

Author: Webster, V.; Brough, P.; Daly, K.

Description: Sustained destructive leadership behaviours are associated with negative outcomes that produce serious workplace problems, yet there is scant research into how followers effectively cope with toxic leader behaviours. Despite numerous attempts to develop typologies of coping behaviours, there remains much to learn, especially in relation to this specific workplace stressor. This mixed method research investigates the coping strategies reported by 76 followers to cope with the psychological, emotional and physical consequences of their leader’s adverse behaviour. Coping instances were categorized using two existing theoretical coping frameworks, and the ability of these frameworks to explain responses to real-world experiences with toxic leadership are discussed. Common coping strategies reported included assertively challenging the leader, seeking social support, ruminating, taking leave and leaving the organization. Organizational interventions to increase effectiveness of follower coping with the impact of toxic leadership are also discussed. Copyright (c) 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Subject Headings: Adaptation, Psychological; Adult; Bullying; Female; Humans; Interpersonal Relations; Leadership; Male; Middle Aged; Stress, Psychological/psychology; Workplace/psychology; abusive supervision; coping; destructive leadership; stress management; toxic leadership

Subject headings:

Publication year: 2016

Journal or book title: Stress and Health : Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress

Volume: 32

Issue: 4

Pages: 346-354

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 2310