New Study: Why Arrogant Bosses Are So Damaging

Perspectives
Jul 26, 2012
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6 Min Read

Do you have a boss who discredits the ideas of others while claiming to have superior ideas? Does your boss blame other people and refuse to take personal responsibility for anything? Does your boss reject feedback?

If so, you have all the makings of an arrogant boss, someone who can drag down an organization with his or her sense of superiority in all things.

Researchers at the University of Akron and Michigan State University have developed what they call the “Workplace Arrogance Scale,” which they claim can identify an arrogant boss. The 22-point scale will be introduced next week at the American Psychological Association convention by industrial and organizational psychologist and professor Stanley Silverman, dean of UA’s Summit College and University College.

The scale seeks to establish a way to measure managers so arrogance can be spotted early and stopped before it has bottom-line consequences, researchers say.

Such an assessment may be necessary for many companies, as the arrogance of many corporate leaders in the last several years has led to billion-dollar losses and in some cases sent the executives to jail for illegal activities.

In a recent issue of the Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, Silverman, along with researchers Russell E. Johnson, Nicole McConnell and Alison Carr, write that arrogance “has run amock lately.”

They write that their research shows that arrogant employees have poorer performances, create greater stress for others and their behavior is likely to create a “poisonous” atmosphere.

Such problems, they write, can lead to poorer customer satisfaction and loyalty, adversely affect a team’s ability to work together and eventually hurt the bottom line.

The problem becomes even worse when the arrogant employee is a supervisor or manager. For example, an arrogant manager is less likely to welcome or solicit feedback. Or, an arrogant manager is more likely to keep subordinates in a helpless position as he or she has authority over their promotions or opportunities. Such bosses are also much less likely to offering mentoring or coaching, leading to a less-developed team.

“Arrogant managers are therefore more likely to pursue failing courses of action that could otherwise have been prevented. Arrogant behavior can be an especially challenging problem to deal with due to the fact that arrogant individuals consider their own behavior acceptable and thus do not monitor their own actions when interacting with others,” they write.

While some may believe that arrogance is a personality trait, the researchers characterize it as a series of behaviors “intended to exaggerate a person’s sense of superiority by disparaging others.”

“Despite the apparent confidence of those engaging in arrogant behavior, research suggests that it is actually a defensive display occurring partially in response to low self-confidence. Thus, performance claims by confident individuals are based in reality, but those of arrogant individuals are not,” they write.

The researchers say that arrogant bosses can be reformed, if they’re open to coaching and feedback to change their behavior. Their awareness of their behavior is key, which is why the researchers say the new scale is so important. Once the arrogance is determined, then an action plan can be developed to help arrogant managers hone their leadership skills. That can help boost their self confidence and snuff out self doubt so they can rely on confidence that’s authentic, they write.

“Although it is true that some arrogant leaders have experienced considerable success, we argue that these individuals may have been even more effective sans the arrogant behavior. Interactions with others in the organization may have been more successful, more effective communication could have taken place, and performance could have been even more impressive if arrogance had been curtailed early on,” they conclude.

Is there any way to deal with an arrogant boss?

Silverman says one way to protect yourself is to always make sure you understand your role clearly in an organization and have the parameters of your duties in writing. The other bit advice probably will come as no surprise to those who work for an arrogant boss.

“The last thing they (arrogant bosses) want to hear from you is criticism,” he advises.

Do you have an arrogant boss? How do you deal with it?

 

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