Research

Bosses’ bad habits breed employee ‘deviance’

25 Oct 2018 By Lauren Brown

Poor leadership can negatively affect the behaviour of all staff

Whether it’s persistently turning up late or microwaving fish in the office kitchen, everyone has the occasional bad workplace habit. But researchers from the University of Exeter have revealed that bosses’ misdemeanours rub off on their teams. 

Published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, the study by an international team of researchers found that managers who procrastinate when making decisions and carrying out tasks leave employees feeling less committed to the business and more likely to display abnormal and unpleasant behaviour.

Dr Allan Lee, senior lecturer in organisation studies and management at the University of Exeter’s Business School and one of the experts who led the study said: “We have found procrastination from managers can be detrimental to their staff and companies need to take action to ensure there are better relationships between bosses and employees.”

The report, From self-defeating to other defeating: examining the effects of leader procrastination on follower work outcomes, evaluated two sets of employees. Of the 290 employees in the first group, some were so affected by their employer’s procrastination that their own actions reportedly escalated from taking unnecessary sick days to becoming abusive to colleagues and stealing office supplies. 

In the second study of 250 employees at a Chinese manufacturer, manager procrastination was linked to “deviant [employee] behaviour”.

Dr Lee added that when bosses fail to do their work, knowing it will cause problems for others, it makes staff less committed to their employer. 

The researchers suggested staff should uncover the reasons their manager is prone to time-wasting and also take part in any decision-making to help combat the issue.

Lee and his team previously found bosses who had mood swings had the worst impact on workers’ anxiety. Even a poor but consistent relationship with a manager was preferable to one influenced by mood swings.

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