Bad bosses get promoted, not punished?

NEW YORK Fri Aug 3, 2007 10:57am EDT

An office worker in a file photo. How do people get ahead in the workplace? One way seems to be by making their subordinates miserable, according to a study released on Friday. REUTERS/Catherine Benson

An office worker in a file photo. How do people get ahead in the workplace? One way seems to be by making their subordinates miserable, according to a study released on Friday.

Credit: Reuters/Catherine Benson

NEW YORK (Reuters) - How do people get ahead in the workplace? One way seems to be by making their subordinates miserable, according to a study released Friday.

In the study to be presented at a conference on management this weekend, almost two-thirds of the 240 participants in an online survey said the local workplace tyrant was either never censured or was promoted for domineering ways.

"The fact that 64.2 percent of the respondents indicated that either nothing at all or something positive happened to the bad leader is rather remarkable -- remarkably disturbing," wrote the study's authors, Anthony Don Erickson, Ben Shaw and Zha Agabe of Bond University in Australia.

Despite their success in the office, spiteful supervisors can cause serious malaise for their subordinates, the study suggested, citing nightmares, insomnia, depression and exhaustion as symptoms of serving a brutal boss.

The authors advocated immediate intervention by industry chiefs to stop fledgling office authoritarians from rising up the ranks.

"As with any sort of cancer, the best alternative to prevention is early detection," they wrote.

They faulted senior managers for not recognizing the signs of workplace strife wrought by bad bosses. "The leaders above them who did nothing, who rewarded and promoted bad leaders ... represent an additional problem."

The study will be presented at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, a research and teaching organization with nearly 17,000 members, from Sunday to Wednesday in Philadelphia.

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