professional man forces a smile

Don’t like your boss? Just admit it

If you don’t get along with your boss, new research suggests you’ll perform better at work if you both come to grips with the poor relationship.

“Seeing eye-to-eye about the employee-supervisor relationship is equally, if not more important than the actual quality of the relationship,” says Fadel Matta, lead investigator of the study and a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University’s Broad College of Business.

Past research suggests workers and their bosses often have differing views about the quality of their relationship. Matta and his fellow researchers set out to examine whether that affects actual work engagement, or motivation.

It does. According to the new study of 280 employees and their bosses, motivation suffered when an employee believed he or she had a good relationship with the boss but the boss saw it differently.

The finding held when the flip side was true and the boss believed the relationship was good but the subordinate did not. The two were surveyed separately, meaning the boss did not necessarily know how the employee felt about him or her, and vice versa.

Interestingly, employee motivation was higher—and the employee was more apt to go above and beyond his or her basic job duties—when the worker and supervisor saw eye-to-eye about the relationship, even when it was poor.

Don’t pretend

The study examined a wide range of employees—from cashiers to senior managers—in a host of industries, including automotive, retail, and financial services.

It’s nearly impossible for a supervisor to have a good relationship with every employee—there’s only so much time and so many resources a boss can invest toward that goal—but at the same time it’s human inclination to want everyone to like you, Matta says.

Ultimately, it’s important that supervisors and workers don’t misrepresent how they feel about their relationship.

“Some people would say it’s better to fake it, but our results indicate that the opposite is true,” says Matta. “At the end of the day, it’s better for everyone to know where they stand and how they feel about each other.”

His co-researchers are Brent Scott and Donald Conlon of Michigan State and Joel Koopman of the University of Cincinnati. The findings are published in the Academy of Management Journal.

Source: Michigan State University