Are there benefits to poor management?

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Written by Alice Withers on 4 February 2015

Recent research has suggested that there might be a silver lining to bad management. Stoverink and colleagues (2014) found evidence to suggest that a bad manager can bring a team together and lead to an increased sense of comradery.

Groups of students were invited to take part in an exercise to solve puzzles in order to win prizes. However, the students were forced to wait for the group supervisor as he was running late. When the supervisor arrived, he sincerely apologised to half of the groups, but rudely announced "clearly my time is more important than yours" to the other half of the groups. Interestingly, the groups with the rude supervisor felt closer to their team mates than the groups with the polite supervisor. This finding is something many of us can relate to, a bad shared experience can make you feel closer to your colleagues as you all rely on each other for support.

Although there may be some benefits to having a bad manager, the same study also found that the groups with the rude supervisor wasted more time before continuing with the task, in comparison to the other groups. This finding makes sense, as I think many of us could understand the time you may spend doubting your ability, trying to make sense of the perceived injustice done to you, and trying to understand your manager’s motivation, following a bad management experience.

Overall, the negative effects of bad management seem to outweigh any positives. It is well known that bad management can lead to high levels of absenteeism, sickness and poor retention. Often when one person leaves the team this can have a knock on effect; with the sense of comradery disrupted team members may swiftly look to follow their departing colleagues into new roles.

Most importantly how can you find out if this is an issue in your organisation and do something about it? There are a number of options here, you could do a wide scale employee engagement survey to get an overview of your employees satisfaction across the business and then break down the findings to see if there are issues in any particular departments. Alternatively, you could conduct 360 degree reviews for all your managers, and get anonymised feedback to see how their direct reports and peers really feel about their management style.

Importantly none of these tools should be used as a ‘witch hunt’ or as evidence to fire someone. The findings of these reports can be used to support and develop your managers to ensure they know how to manage and support their teams effectively. This will not only help engagement and satisfaction of all your staff, but can also assist with your succession planning.

Stoverink, A., Umphress, E., Gardner, R., & Miner, K. (2014). Misery loves company: Team dissonance and the influence of supervisor-focused interpersonal justice climate on team cohesiveness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99 (6), 1059-1073


About the author
Alice Withers is a researcher at People 1st. She can be contacted at

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