Study: 2 of 5 Bosses Don't Keep Word; Nearly as Many Fail to Give Credit When Due

Who's afraid of the big bad boss? Plenty of us, a new Florida State University study shows. Nearly 2 of 5 bosses don't keep their word and more than 25% of bosses bad mouth those they supervise to co-workers, according to findings by a Florida State University's College of Business study. 

"They say that employees don't leave their job or company, they leave their boss. We wanted to see if this is, in fact, true," said Wayne Hochwarter, an associate professor of management in FSU's College of Business, who headed the survey of more than 700 people working in a variety of jobs. 

The Survey Key Findings Include:

  • 39% of workers said their supervisor failed to keep promises.
  • 37% said their supervisor failed to give credit when due.
  • 31% said their supervisor gave them the "silent treatment" in the past year.
  • 27% said their supervisor made negative comments about them to other employees or managers.
  • 24% said their supervisor invaded their privacy.
  • 23% said their supervisor blamed others to cover up mistakes or to minimize embarrassment.

Hochwarter also recommended some methods to minimize the harm caused by an abusive supervisor: 

  • Stay visible:  "The first is to stay visible at work," he said. "Hiding can be detrimental to your career, especially when it keeps others in the company from noticing your talent and contributions."
  • Keeping an optimistic outlook: "It is important to stay positive, even when you get irritated or discouraged, because few subordinate-supervisor relationships last forever," he said. "You want the next boss to know what you can do for the company."
  • Know where help can be found: "No abuse should be taken lightly, especially in situations where it becomes a criminal act (for example, physical violence, harassment or discrimination). The employee needs to know where help can be found, whether it is internal (i.e., the company's grievance committee) or external (i.e., formal representation or emergency services)."

The survey was conducted by mail. Workers surveyed included men and women of various ages and races in the service industry and manufacturing, from companies large and small.  

The results of the study have been scheduled for publication in an upcoming issue of The Leadership Quarterly, a journal read by scholars, consultants, practicing managers, executives and administrators, as well as those who teach leadership.

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