Bad bosses hurt workplace productivity

Productivity is a fragile concept in many businesses and can easily fall out of balance when the environment turns sour.

This can happen for a number of reasons, however, a recent study has found that an abusive boss can ruin team productivity and this can be irretrievable in some circumstances.

The study conducted by a Michigan State University business scholar in both China and the US found that non-physical abuse by a supervisor or boss is just as bad as physical bullying. According to lead investigator Crystal Farh, bosses who belittle work or ridicule employees affect the wider team, not just the individual.

"That's the most disturbing finding because it's not just about individual victims now, it's about creating a context where everybody suffers, regardless of whether you were individually abused or not," she said.

For the study, Farh teamed up with Zhijun Chen from the University of Western Australia and studied 51 teams of employees from 10 businesses in China. The workers were all involved in customer service, technical support and research and development.

They found that workers who had experienced abuse, both verbally and through email, felt they were devalued in the team and as a result contributed less. Workers were also more likely create conflict amongst themselves that further reduced productivity.

"Teams characterised by relationship conflict are hostile towards other members, mistreat them, speak to them rudely and experience negative emotions towards them," Ms Farh said.

The study was then replicated in the US, with 300 people illustrating similar results.

With relationships in the office often created in the recruitment process, it is important that connections are made early. If employees do not feel part of the team and verbally abused for their work, it can soon turn into chaos.

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