Leaders can come in all shapes and sizes, and whilst there are certainly merits in the various forms of leadership, a recent study suggests that employees want their leaders to be consistent, if nothing else.
The study, from the University of Exeter, found that managers who exhibit mood swings tend to cause more tension in the office, even than managers who are nasty all of the time. What’s more, the difficulty employees have in predicting how their manager will behave has a significant impact upon productivity.
The findings counter the perception that bad bosses cause the biggest damage in the workplace, suggesting that the boss that veers from friendly to nasty is a lot more damaging. What’s more, this impact was even more severe when the relationship with co-workers was not a supportive one.
The study aimed to gauge whether staff had an ambivalent relationship with their boss, or in other words whether they had a combination of good and negative feelings towards them.
The researchers quizzed employees from three companies spread across the UK and India. They were asked about their relationship with their boss, and how they performed various tasks. In total, some 60 different teams were examined.
“The focus is usually on trying to work out if relationships between staff and bosses are good or bad, but they can sometimes be both, and it is important to measure that. Bosses reward and punish their workers, and this has an impact on self-esteem. If their staff have to adopt different roles at different times because they have a manager who can be both nasty and nice they view him or her in an ambivalent way,” the authors say.
“It is very negative for an employee to be ambivalent about their boss. Having a clear attitude towards them is much better for their performance. If your boss is both pleasant and unpleasant to be around it is hard to know what they think about you, and if you can’t predict how they will act. This makes it hard to trust them. This creates negative emotions and makes staff feel anxious, causing poor performance at work.”