Does a Tough Boss Get Better Results? When do They Become a Bully?

Are you a tough boss? Do you are you unpredictable or sometimes demeaning of the  people who work for you? Of course you can hold your staff to high standards but if your style demeans or humiliates you staff, you might go beyond a tough boss and be a bully.

Workplace bullying is a serious problem that can deeply affect the mental, physical and financial health of the bully’s target. The Canada Safety Council reports that in the workplace, one person in six has been bullied and one in five has witnessed a co-worker being bullied. (But does not say how many of those bullies were bosses.)

Some presume that tough bosses get results — and fast — compared with gentler leaders as there are famous leaders who are known to be tough such as Bobby Knight, the Indiana University basketball coach and author of “The Power of Negative Thinking,” was notoriously harsh, and enormously successful. So was Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple.

But researchers who study organizations, productivity and leadership styles attribute the achievements of such figures to exceptional ability. The research thus far has found no evidence to support the axiom that tougher bosses get better results.

Bullying bosses tend to undermine their own teams. Morale and company loyalty plunge, tardiness increases and sick days are more frequent.

“Productivity may rise in the short term,” Rebecca Greenbaum, a professor in Rutgers University’s school of management and labor relations, who formerly worked in the insurance industry said. “But over time the performance of the staff or team deteriorates, and people quit.”

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