Controlling bosses cause poor work

A boss gets things done through others.  An ability to influence others to meet a goal is critical to get things accomplished.  Some call management influence, others call management coercion.  Influence or coercion, controlling bosses cause employees to strive towards goals that are opposite to the boss.

Bosses are managers, bosses manage resources:  time, money, and employee each are finite resources.  Employees value freedom and autonomy and will react to a boss with poor work.  A Duke University study looked at significant others and the impact a significant other, to include boss, has on goals.  As little as a subliminal flash of the name of the controlling ‘other’ was enough to produce poorer work.

There is a psychological mechanism that connects the love of freedom and the behavioral response, this mechanism is called reactance.  Unconscious and unintentional rejection of goals [that status report that you asked for] are associate with overbearing people.  A rejection of a goal [that presentation you need to review] reveals itself by goal in opposition.

I came across the above study through Andrew O’Connell’s Harvard Business Review blog Why Controlling Bosses Have Unproductive Employees.  O’Connell sums it nicely;

“It’s all too easy, once people become managers, for them to forget how deeply their employees value freedom and autonomy, and the extent to which some of them [the employees] … react to any infringement of it, even unconsciously.”

Not getting quality work from your people?

Need to watch your people like a hawk for them to get anything done?

Need to spell out every detail to make sure it is done right?

That bristle of hair on the back of your neck when you think of your overbearing mom or dad may be the reaction employees have at work around overbearing bosses.

Memo to controlling bosses:  the more you control the less quality work your employees provide.

There is a clear difference between getting it done and getting it accomplished.  Similar to the difference between being consistent and reliable.  Better quality may require your goals to synch with their goals.

A .pdf copy of the Duke University study:  Nonconscious relationship reactance: When significant others prime opposing goals

Subscribe to Email Posts
I believe in your privacy and will never sell or spam your email.

Share this Post

Add your thoughts