Horrible Bosses? They're Around

We've all had them.  Horrible bosses.  Some, more than once.

But a new study says that one thing researchers find again and again is that 50 to 70 percent of workers identify the worst part of their job as their immediate supervisor, according to newswise.com.

“There are so many ways to be bad,” says Dr. Peter Harms, who studies this. “I’m exploring why people are bad—do they think they’re doing the right thing because they don’t know the right thing or are they really trying to hurt people? I’m studying not only what they do, but why they do it.”

The problem, inevitably, starts by being the leader—at the helm or in a higher position to influence and intimidate those below. “Leaders have huge amounts of autonomy at a business,” says Harms, hitting on one problem area. “For instance, they can call you a name and you can’t retaliate. They can give you bad schedules, a bad sales district, take away privileges or even fire you. You rarely have the opportunity to do the same thing in return.

“Autonomy really reveals who you are as a boss,” he adds. “If you’re fundamentally a good person, you'll tend to use your power in a benevolent way, but if you possess these dark traits, you end up leading in a malevolent manner. These dark impulses—jealousy or paranoia or even the need to micro-manage—are magnified when people get into positions of power.”

Another source of concern may stem from unrealistic expectations on the part of society in general.

 “We tell leaders they have to be excellent, they have to be MLK or FDR,” explains Harms. “We set the bar too high and make it hopeless because 99 percent of people are not going to perform. Too often we make leaders feel like failures and they give up trying to improve. But the vast majority of us are extraordinarily average, so it makes more sense to aspire to be ‘good enough.’ If you can just not hurt the people around you you’re way ahead of the game in managing.”

Without ‘the good enough’ philosophy in the workplace, we continue to suffer the bullies, the tyrants, the manipulators, the credit-takers, and the secret-keepers. They’re the narcissists, the Machiavellians, the psychopaths among us, practicing their art at our frequent expense, notes the web site.

“Some of these traits can be used effectively. The danger comes when leaders use these traits too much,” Harms says. “We talk about the happy medium and knowing when the dark side characteristics can or should be used—a little is not always a bad thing.”


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