Everyone has had at least one terrible boss in their employment lifetime – a supervisor or manager whose bad moods and unrealistic expectations were a thing of legend. The character of the awful boss is a popular one in film and television because of how many people can relate to this everyday villain, from the ruthless Miranda Priestly of The Devil Wears Prada to the blustering and foul-mouthed Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s Kitchen and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Despite their overwhelming meanness, however, not everything about these hardened, heartless authority figures comes across as negative; to the contrary, they are often portrayed as being really, really good at what they do.
One of the greatest myths that clings to the archetypal figure of the terrible boss — and, unfortunately, to their real-life counterparts — is that treating employees poorly actually yields better results as a management strategy. Those jerks may be unsympathetic and cruel, but they are also portrayed as being as incredibly competent, in no small part precisely because they treat anyone who works for them terribly.
While it’s frequently portrayed to the point of becoming cliche, research suggests that being a jerk to your employees is not the best management strategy after all. In addition to making you a pretty terrible person, employing a management style that rules through fear has a whole host of negative consequences, including:
- reduced creativity and risk-taking from employees
- lessened productivity
- limited engagement and trust
- additional stress and reduced emotional well-being
- resistance to following instructions and reluctance to collaborate.
As much as it can be tempting to see mean bosses as single-minded crusaders who just want to push their employees to get the best results possible, the research shows that most jerk bosses are just, well, jerks, and are not to be emulated.
Have you had a mean boss? Did they push you to do better, or over the edge? Tell us about it in the comments!