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How we've all probably had a 'Judas goat' boss at work

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Graphic: Yahoo Finance/Katy Bowman

If you’ve had a bad boss at work, it’s likely they resemble a goat. Goats are inquisitive, reactive, and aggressive and when they feel threatened they attack. But perhaps the “Judas goat” is one of the most toxic bosses you will ever encounter.

A Judas goat is a trained to lead either sheep or other goats to slaughter, while its own life is spared. Essentially, in the world of work, it’s someone who repeatedly lead their own teams into trouble and escape with no consequence to themselves.

But the effects of working in an environment where managers cultivate that toxic atmosphere doesn’t just lead to job losses; it can also have a long-term effect on individuals’ mental health.

In the latest episode of our 10-part series Yahoo Finance Presents It’s a Jungle Out There podcast, we discussed bad bosses, how it affects mental health in the workplace, and what are the ways in which individuals and companies can tackle toxic management techniques.

The “carrot and stick” approach, a combination of reward and punishment to induce good behaviour – which seems more prevalent in male bosses – is one of the techniques these types of boss use.

Matilda Long, journalist, editor and co-host of Yahoo News’ podcast Britain is a Nation Of…  points out that if someone has experienced this as an employee, it’s likely they’ll use it themselves.

“I think some people can respond well to that — to pressure, to aggression — and maybe those people who have experienced that as employees then go and do that when they’re bosses as that’s what they’ve found to be a good technique,” said Long.

Stuart Henderson, head of news at Yahoo UK and co-host of Britain is a Nation Of… added bosses are likely to act that way as a “defence mechanism where they are the manager, they feel the need to contribute, they feel the need to assert their authority in whatever form that may be and sometimes they’ll get [the technique] wrong.”

Making sure the workplace has a healthy culture isn’t just down to value for the social good, it’s also a necessity from a business point of view. A recent major report by the Institute of Directors showed how mental health affects the economy and businesses.

The IoD said 15.9% of the UK working population in 2015 had mental health problems and this has collectively led to 15.8 million work hours being lost.

In September, Prince William launched a website dedicated to improving mental wellbeing in the workplace.

The website, an online gateway to resources, training and information, allows companies and managers to better understand and support staff that may be struggling at work. It aims to remove the stigma when it comes to mental health issues, including stress, depression, anxiety as well as manic depression and schizophrenia.

To find out what strategies workers can employ to survive a toxic boss and what individuals and companies can do to foster a healthier work environment, listen to the full episode above, or download it on Apple Podcasts, ACast, or Google podcasts to listen while on the go.