A Florida State University study shows nearly 2 out of every 5 bosses are dishonest and more than a quarter bad mouth their employees to co-workers.
And those all-too-common poor managers create plenty of problems for companies as well, leading to poor morale, less production and higher turnover.
Coping with abusive supervision: The neutralizing effects of ingratiation and positive affect on negative employee outcomes
We conducted a study to test the interactive effects of abusive supervision, ingratiation, and positive affect (PA) on strain (i.e., job tension and emotional exhaustion) and turnover intentions. We hypothesized that employees' use of ingratiation, when coupled with high levels of PA, would neutralize the adverse effects of abusive supervision on each outcome. Conversely, ingratiation tactics were hypothesized to have a detrimental influence on work outcomes in conditions of increased abusive supervision when employees' PA was low. Partial support was found for each hypothesis, with results indicating that low PA individuals who refrained from ingratiation experienced more strain and turnover intentions than other individuals. Implications of these results as well as strengths, limitations, and avenues for future research are discussed.
Keywords: Abusive supervision; Coping; Positive affect; Ingratiation
"No abuse should be taken lightly, especially in situations where it becomes a criminal act,'' said Hochwarter.
Employees stuck in an abusive relationship experienced more exhaustion, job tension, nervousness, depressed moods and mistrust, the researchers found. They found that a good working environment is often more important than pay, and that it's no coincidence that poor morale leads to lower production.
"They (employees) were less likely to take on additional tasks, such as working longer or on weekends, and were generally less satisfied with their job,'' the study found. "Also, employees were more likely to leave if involved in an abusive relationship than if dissatisfied with pay.''
Over 700 people were surveyed about the way they're treated at work.
Here's what they found;
• 39% said their supervisor failed to keep promises.
• 37% said their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
• 31% said their supervisor gave them the "silent treatment" in the past year.
• 27% said their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers.
• 24% said their supervisor invaded their privacy.
• 23% said their supervisor blamed others to cover up mistakes or to minimize embarrassment.
And workers should know where to turn if they feel threatened, harassed or discriminated against, whether it is the company's grievance committee or finding formal representation outside the employer.
"Others know who the bullies are at work,'' Hochwarter said. "They likely have a history of mistreating others.''
Hochwarter also recommended some methods to minimize the harm caused by an abusive supervisor.
"The first is to stay visible at work,'' he said. "Hiding can be detrimental to your career, especially when it keeps others in the company from noticing your talent and contributions.''
The study was conducted by mail. Workers surveyed included men and women of various ages and races in the service industry and manufacturing, from companies large and small. The results of the study were released in the Fall 2007 issue of The Leadership Quarterly, a journal read by consultants, managers and executives.