Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Illustration: Kagan McLeod

Managers with turbulent personal lives are more likely to blow a fuse at work, according to new research from Texas A&M University. Feuding with a spouse or child (or both) depletes their self-control and impairs their judgment, causing them to lash out at their underlings.

The researchers sent surveys over a four-month period to more than 150 middle managers and their direct reports at a Fortune 500 company that operates in the U.S. and Canada. They asked supervisors about their family dynamic and “the degree to which they saw their unit as having explicit policies against abusive supervision.” Direct reports were asked to rate how frequently their boss was verbally abusive to them. The study also examined nearly 100 middle and senior managers working in various sectors across the U.S. For two weeks, the researchers sent daily surveys to the managers to asking them to assess the quality of their private relationships and their level of exhaustion before and after work.

“We found that supervisors who experienced high levels of family-work conflict also experienced higher levels of ego depletion, which then led to more frequent displays of verbal abuse,” the study found.

With companies increasingly stressing work-life balance for employees, the researchers suggest firms need to make sure managers are also getting the message. And that goes for business owners, too.

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