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Why Are Boss Egos Expanding? Study Explains

Why Are Boss Egos Expanding? Study Explains

Whether the boss news of 2009 has been sexual harassment, workplace bullying or "boss-napping" in France, bad boss behavior seems to be pandemic or at least a weekly topic of discussion of late. And now, a new survey reveals that self-oriented bosses are more prevalent than ever.

The five-year, national comparative study compared bad, childish boss traits, including Stubborn, Self-oriented, Overly demanding, Impulsive, Interruptive and Tantrum-throwing behaviors between 2004 to 2009, and found that "Self-oriented" spiked by 50 percent to the top spot over that period. In the same overall study conducted by a global research firm, seven in 10 Americans said "bosses and toddlers with too much power act alike."

The trait analysis portion, which compared toddler and boss behaviors, found that "Self-oriented" behavior swapped places with "Stubborn" from 2004. "Overly demanding" and "Interruptive" traits also jumped from 2004 to 2009. As a matter of fact, the survey revealed increases of up to 50 percent for every childish trait tracked over the five-year period.

A Closer Look

In stressful times, such as a recession or a frenzied work pace, childish, bad boss behaviors are exacerbated. And because of the fear of reprisal, employees are unsure of how to handle the situation to alter bad boss behavior. Two studies support this:

• In a survey we commissioned among 1002 adults, 86% of Americans felt that too often, bad boss behaviors go under the radar until it's too late, affecting too many people, similar to bailed out firms.

• In an earlier study, 70% of workers said they believe that employees must be careful when managing up with bosses, or they could lose their jobs.

Clearly, there is a heap of work to be done in corporate America. And everyone can play a part to mitigate the problem - both employers and employees.

The good news is that employees can take proactive, empowering steps to manage bosses who, unwittingly or not, slip into egotistical modes.

But first, a caveat. If you're experiencing egregious behaviors such as workplace bullying or sexual harassment, you must take serious action. Most ethical firms will not tolerate it once they're made aware of it.

Our research indicates, however, that many "bad boss behaviors," and those among co-workers as well, fall into the grey area - specifically, childish behavior. They happen in such forms of barbs and juvenile office politics that are self serving. They're based in core human behavior found outside the workplace: fear, anger, control, need for acceptance, praise, and so on. In the office, selfish actions are wasteful to employee productivity and the bottom line.

Some bosses even act like this unknowingly, which actually leaves open fertile territory for you - to show them the way. So assuming that your boss is of the "tameable" variety, try some of these suggestions:

Ego Taming Tips

• Praise unselfish behavior demonstrated by your boss - Positive reinforcement of good behavior works. Encourage selflessness at every chance. If your boss takes even the slightest step in refocusing toward you, toward others on your team or in your office, praise it lavishly.

• Model good teamwork - Show that no one person can carry the entire office. Demonstrate through your words and actions how to cooperate by giving others credit when it's due. Praise others for their teamwork.

• Find ways to make your needs known - Give your boss plenty of advance warning that you have other tasks that need your attention - diplomatically. Don't provoke your boss, think "educate" your manager, without being patronizing.

Help your boss understand the effects of selfish actions - When your manager takes self centered actions that have negative consequences for you, the team or your working relationship, point it out in a non-threatening, non-emotional way.

If, after giving it your best shot, you find that your boss (or Terrible Office Tyrant, a.k.a TOT), can't refrain from self-absorption, and you've tried every possible option, then look elsewhere. Your peace of mind and health always comes first. But if your boss is self-centered within tolerable bounds, take steps for You'll gain invaluable, transferable skills that will help you thrive in your job ...and career.

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