Retired surgeon Greg Baer, M.D. once managed one of the busiest eye-surgery practices in the country. Yet despite all his accomplishments and wealth, he felt empty and unhappy which led to his near suicide.

In his search for lasting happiness, he learned the life-changing principles that have led to the noble mission of The Real Love Company which he founded: "We teach the real meaning of love, replacing anger and confusion with peace and confidence in individual lives and relationships."

Now a successful author, speaker and entrepreneur for nearly two decades, the book that really caught my attention is Real Love in the Workplace: Eight Principles for Consistently Effective Leadership in Business.

In his second principle of "People Behave Badly Because They Don't Feel Loved," Dr. Baer says that a lack of genuine love in people, especially those in management roles, leads to an unhealthy pursuit of power and control over others.

"When we can control the behavior of other people, we experience a sensation of power that briefly gives us a moment of relief from our intolerable sense of hopelessness." He adds, "Most of us abuse power every day, but we don't recognize it because this behavior is so common in our culture.

Toxic work behaviors to be aware.

In order to identify the abusive behaviors of power that disrupt loyal workers and turn the workplace into a stifling, fear-based pressure-cooker, Dr. Baer lists several toxic behaviors that we may already be aware of, but don't typically associate with the power he speaks of. It's time to pay a closer attention -- do any of these look familiar?

1. Gossip.

When people talk about others behind their backs, says Dr. Baer, they're in a position to hurt them and exert control over their reputations. While your gossiping peers or coworkers won't admit it, they enjoy that feeling of power and should be dealt with swiftly.

2. Withholding information.

Dr. Baer warns of such an individual who controls or hoards information: "You've had the experience of needing information from someone who enjoyed keeping it from you, or who parceled it out one morsel at a time. Your frustration gave the other person a feeling of power."

3. Leaking secrets.

Dr. Baer writes, "Many of us love to share secrets, because in those moments we control the conversation." As soon as you hear the words "Want to hear a secret?" come out of a coworker's mouth, that's a clear warning sign you're working with a toxic person.

4. Abuse of authority.

Pay attention to your manager. Many abuse their positional authority to intimidate people into doing what they want, or to agree with them even when the team knows there's a better course of action. Some managers fail to delegate on purpose to control all the decisions, even the smallest ones. Dr. Baer says, "That approach is inefficient and a waste of leadership, but it gives the manager a feeling of control (power).

5. Suppressing creativity.

When managers crush the great ideas coming from their employees that will improve a product or the business in some regard, it gives them a real sense of power, at the cost of disengaging and demotivating their employees.

6. Criticism.

Dr. Baer writes, "Finding fault with others is such an easy pastime, and for those with a need for power, each wound inflicted is a source of great satisfaction."

7. Bullying.

According to Dr. Baer, one in six people suffer from bullying in the workplace which is costly for businesses due to absenteeism, diminished productivity, and healthcare. In the Information Age, says Dr. Baer, bullying is often done with knowledge. "The more we know, the more we can win arguments, put people in their place, and feel powerful."

8. Obstruction of work processes.

Dr. Baer says people known for being a "bottleneck" in a process involving many of their peers or departments "enjoy the power of controlling the flow of things, of being able to slow everything down as they fail to finish their part of the job."

9. Saying no.

Dr. Baer says, "Many people get a sense of power from exercising their veto power over decisions in their fiefdoms, whatever the size."

The negative effects of using power.

For your coworkers or managers who exert power through these toxic behaviors, Dr. Baer warns that, while it may be exhilarating for them, there are certain negative consequences including:

  • People who achieve moments of power are never satisfied for long. When it wears off, they immediately lust for more -- it becomes an addiction.
  • People in power have a constant air of desperation, not peace and contentment. Therefore, power never brings them lasting joy.
  • People who are power-hungry are selfish by nature. They only think for themselves and rarely for others or the wellbeing of the team or company.
  • People in power eventually become disillusioned and lose their motivation for working.
  • People who force others to do things their way produce resentment because others don't like to be controlled.
  • When people are controlled by those in power, they lose their ability to independently make their own decisions and exercise their creativity.