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Toxic leadership: emotional distress and coping strategy

Asha Bhandarker (International Management Institute, New Delhi, India)
Snigdha Rai (Mettl, Gurugram, India)

International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior

ISSN: 1093-4537

Article publication date: 11 March 2019

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Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to elucidate the distressing impact of toxic leadership on the mental state of the subordinates and examine the unique coping mechanisms used by them to deal with such leaders. The paper also examined the relationship between psychological distress and coping strategy used by subordinates to deal with the toxic leader.

Design/methodology/approach

This study presents a validity testing of two scales. The first scale was designed to measure experienced psychological distress emanating from exposure to toxic leaders, and the second scale aims to assess the coping strategies utilized by subordinates to deal with the toxic leaders. Data were collected from 570 employees working in public as well as private organizations in India.

Findings

The results of this paper supported the theorized two three-dimensional tools to measure: psychological distress (loss of self-worth, withdrawal and agitated) and coping strategies to deal with toxic leaders (assertive coping, avoidance coping and adaptive coping). Reliability estimates and construct validity of both the tools were established. The results also suggest that the loss of self-worth was negatively related with assertive coping, avoidance coping and adaptive coping. However, withdrawal was positively related with assertive coping and avoidance coping. Finally, agitation was positively related with avoidance and adaptive coping.

Originality/value

To the authors’ knowledge, this is one of the rare studies to examine together the phenomenon of both psychological distress experienced by subordinates and the coping strategies utilized by them to deal with toxic leaders.

Keywords

Citation

Bhandarker, A. and Rai, S. (2019), "Toxic leadership: emotional distress and coping strategy", International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 65-78. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOTB-03-2018-0027

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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