Leader/Member Relationship Has a Major Impact

The previous post noted the important role of community for people who showed dramatic improvements in burnout from one year to the next.

It ended with a question: But if they got along so well with their colleagues, why were they having such a hard time with everything else? Perhaps they did not get along with everyone.

This post provides the answer: their boss.

People in that study completed an incivility scale that basically asks how often they received rude behavior from their bosses and from their colleagues. We also asked how often they were rude to other people at work.

Sup incivility Figure

This graph tells the story. While the dramatic improvers reported a pretty close to average level of incivility from coworkers and acknowledged that they sent pretty close to average level of incivility (the midline on the graph) at Time 1 (the blue bars), they received vastly more incivility from their boss. By Time 2, they showed only the slightest change in coworker and instigated incivility but their level of supervisor incivility had dropped to the average level. (That tiny line of red above the word, supervisor, represents their relative score at Time 2.)

It would be even better to know that these supervisors had seen the light and had shown more respectful behavior towards their employees. But the record indicates that for the most part, the boss left and respondents received a new supervisor. It was clearly a change for the better.

Bosses make a difference for better or worse. It is the small stuff of day-to-day social encounters that have an enduring impact on employees’ experience of work.

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