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The Dark Side of Leadership: The Existence and Antecedents of Destructive Leadership in Working Life in Sweden

Research project To be able to reduce ill-health in working life it is important to understand how destructive leadership behaviors occur in organisations. This research project aim to increase knowledge of destructive leadership in working life in Sweden. We will study the occurrence of destructive leadership in working life in Sweden to be able understand which factors that leads to destructive leadership.

Destructive leadership is defined as a process in which over a longer period of time the activities, experience and/or relationships of an individual or the member of a group repeatedly influenced by their supervisor in a way that is perceived as hostile and/or obstructive. Studies have showed that destructive leadership is especially linked to employees' ill health, but also to increased staff turnover and counterproductive employee behavior. We will during this project study how widespread destructive leadership is in working life in Sweden, what factors leads to destructive leadership and how these factors interact with each other. Another aim of the project is to validate an instrument for measuring destructive leadership in working life in Sweden, something that is lacking today.

Head of project

Susanne Tafvelin
Associate professor

Project overview

Project period:

2019-01-01 2022-12-31


AFA Insurance

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Psychology

Research area


Project description

Research shows that managers’ leadership has a major impact on employees' experience of stress and ill health. Manager’s responsibility for the organisational and social work environment makes leadership an important factor in their work to prevent the emergence of ill health in organisations.

The assumption have been that destructive leadership is not that widespread in organisations, just rare occurrence due to bad managers. The incentives to investigate the area of destructive leadership has because of that been low. But recent studies from Norway, for example, shows that destructive leadership is relatively common, with a prevalence of 30-60%. These high numbers indicate that destructive leadership is a more widespread problem than previously thought, which makes it important to investigate. Because knowledge about how common destructive leadership is in working life in Sweden is currently lacking.

There are only few studies conducted in Sweden on destructive leadership. These studies shows that destructive leadership in working life in Sweden is related to burnout, increased staff turnover, lack of trust for management and poor organisational and social work environment. It is important to understand which factors leading to destructive leadership and how these factors interact with each other in order to prevent and avoid these serious consequences. The research project is expected to present new knowledge about how destructive leadership can occur and suggestions on possible actions to be able to prevent it. The project extends over a period of three years, enabling us to collect data on several occasions in order to see development over time. We will investigate what leads to destructive leadership by studying factors at different levels and how the factors interact with each other. The factors that will be studied are linked to managers, subordinates and organisational conditions.

Data for the project is collected with a questionnaire that is sent out on two measurement occasions at six-month intervals. Data is collected with the help of Statistics Sweden (Statistikmyndigheten SCB).

Key words: destructive leadership, abusive supervision, manager, stress, health, work environment, subordinates health

Please contact head of project Susanne Tafvelin if you have questions about the project.


Latest update: 2019-11-08