Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Rolling Downhill

This is one of those studies that reaches a conclusion that seems so obvious, it is hard to know why the study was even done:
Study: Workplace abuse can trickle down

A Georgia State University study suggests supervisors who believe they've been unjustly treated might vent their resentment by abusing their duties.

Researchers found that supervisors engage in more abusive behavior when they perceive their employer is using unfair decision-making to allocate valued resources.

For example, if a company doesn't seem neutral or respectful when distributing benefits and other attractive incentives, the boss may become rude, assign blame, or publicly ridicule those that report to him or her.
In practice, though, it often is a good idea to actually do a study, even if the conclusion seems perfectly obvious.  Every once in a while, the results are different than what one would expect.  

Reading more closely, it turns out that the results of the study are not really the same as what is implied in the title: "Study: Workplace abuse can trickle down."  What the study actually says, it that supervisors who perceive themselves as being treated unjustly are more likely to be abusive to subordinates.  That appears to be the case, regardless of whether the perception is accurate.  That suggests that top-level managers might be able to reduce the incidence of the propagation of abusive practices by making sure that supervisors understand the rationale for decisions pertaining to the allocation of resources.  

Of course, that is what is really interesting: once we figure out how this kind of thing happens, we then have to figure out how to stop it.