June 01, 2010

It's official: Your bullying boss really is an idiot

Got a bullying boss? Take solace in new research showing that leaders who feel incompetent really do lash out at others to temper their own inferiority.

"Power holders feel they need to be superior and competent. When they don't feel they can show that legitimately, they'll show it by taking people down a notch or two," says Nathanael Fast, a social psychologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who led a series of experiments to explore this effect.

In one, Fast and his colleague Serena Chen, who is at the University of California, Berkeley, asked 90 men and women who had jobs to complete online questionnaires about their aggressive tendencies and perceived competence. The most aggressive of the lot tended to have both high-power jobs and a chip on their shoulder, Fast and Chen found.

To see if a bruised ego can actually cause aggression, the researchers manipulated people's sense of power and self-worth by asking them to write about occasions when they felt either empowered or impotent and then either competent or incompetent. Previous research has suggested that such essays cause a short-term bump or drop in feelings of power and capability, Fast says.

Feel-bad factor

Next, Fast and Chen asked their volunteers to select a punishment to be given to university students for wrong answers in a hypothetical test of learning. Volunteers chose between horn sounds that ranged from 10 decibels to a deafening 130 decibels.

The volunteers who felt the most incompetent and empowered picked the loudest punishments – 71 decibels on average. Workers who felt up to their jobs, selected far quieter punishments, between 55 and 62 decibels, as did those primed to feel incompetent yet powerless.

Flattery seems to temper the aggressive urges of insecure leaders. When Fast and Chen coaxed the egos of these volunteers by praising their leadership skills, their aggressive tendencies all but disappeared. This is proof that leaders are aggressive because of a hurt ego, not simply a threat to their power, Fast says.

This might also explain why leaders of organisations both big and small surround themselves with yes-men and women, he says.

Blind flattery may not be the best solution for the 54 million US citizens estimated to have experienced workplace bullying. But easing leaders into new positions of power, or telling them that it's natural to feel daunted, could prevent future outbursts, says Adam Galinsky, a social psychologist at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois.

From: http://www.newscientist.com/


Beauty and Health Editor said...

LOL, actually m ex-Manager at LSBU told another girl at work that she didn't know how to do her job....LMAO

If she hadn't been such a horrible person to deal with you could feel sorry for her.

When we had crashes with the system on particularly busy days, she would be running around making the situation worse by panicking and swearing instead of leaving those of us who were cool, calm and collected to get on with it.

Huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf, giving evryone a hard time and the whole time she was the one who didn't know what she was doing.

Beauty and Health Editor said...

Oh, and by the way, I graduated from London South Bank University, therefore I am an alumni of the place, but people must know that LSBU have a massive bullying problem that needs to be looked at.

Besides, I am not the only person who has experienced bullying at this organisation.

I've also worked in more than one department and they have a repetitive pattern of bullying and talking down to people.

Furthermore, I have worked at a number of other organisations where people were treated with respect and dignity and not harassed, humiliated, shouted at or talked down to. I have so many good things to say about those places, however, not LSBU!

The bullies know who they are anyway and I am bringing this to the public domain because I am very unhappy with that organisation!