It’s often said that when we leave jobs, we’re not often leaving because of the job itself, but because of the boss we have to work under. I wrote recently about some research revealing that nearly 85% of young employees believe they can actually do a better job than their boss, so it’s pretty clear that the environment in our workplaces is not altogether harmonious.
A recent paper suggests that it may benefit both your career and your performance if you tackle that bad relationship head on rather than letting it simmer.
The study, by researchers at Michigan State University, finds that employees are generally much more motivated if they can manage to smooth out relations with their boss than if the bad blood continues to bubble along under the surface.
"Seeing eye-to-eye about the employee-supervisor relationship is equally, if not more important than the actual quality of the relationship," the researchers say.
Given the frequency of disagreements between bosses and their teams, this is an important finding, but the research team wanted to delve deeper and understand just how big an impact the relationship may have on the work of employees, and indeed their motivation.
How bad is a bad boss?
Well, it would appear to be pretty bad indeed. The study, which saw just under 300 employees and their bosses participate, revealed that motivation took a big hit when the employee thought their relationship with their boss was significantly different to how their boss thought about it.
Each party was surveyed independently of the other, so there was no risk of either persons opinion being led by the other, and it emerged that it didn’t matter how the difference of opinion was between the two parties, just that the difference existed.
When the employee and their boss saw eye to eye on things however, the motivation of the employee went up considerably, and they were more likely to put in extra effort in their work. Interestingly, this was even the case when both parties agreed that the relationship was a bad one.
From the top to the bottom
These findings were found to be consistent throughout a wide cross section of employees, from the shop floor to more senior managers, and indeed across a wide range of industries. It suggests a robustness to the findings that mean they should be taken seriously.
The researchers conclude that whilst it’s practically impossible to get on with everyone all of the time, it is nevertheless hugely important that managers invest time and energy into creating a harmonious relationship with their team. If they don’t, it will ultimately damage both the performance and the morale of the team they’re leading.
"Some people would say it’s better to fake it, but our results indicate that the opposite is true," the researchers conclude. "At the end of the day, it’s better for everyone to know where they stand and how they feel about each other."
How good are the relations between you and your boss? Do you feel there is candidness about your relationship and you each know how the other feels? Let me know in the comments below.