Do You Have an Arrogant Boss?

The psychology of horrible bosses

Posted Jul 30, 2012

New research demonstrates the ways in which arrogant bosses are damaging to their subordinates and their companies.

Stanley Silverman at The University of Akron and his colleagues developed a scale to measure manager arrogance. In doing so, they identified the behaviors most common to arrogant managers, the realities these behaviors are meant to conceal, and the damage arrogant bosses do to their subordinates and their organizations.

The 5 Signs of an Arrogant Boss

1. They behave very differently toward their subordinates than they do toward their supervisors.

2. They make themselves look good at the expense of the needs of the organization.

3. They make subordinates look bad in meetings and take credit for their ideas and work.

4. They are intolerant of constructive feedback.

5. They try to prove their own ‘superiority’ by being hostile and demeaning to subordinates.

The 5 Psychological Markers of an Arrogant Boss

1. They are often incompetent and perform their jobs poorly.

2. They have low self-esteem.

3. They are less intelligent than non-arrogant bosses.

4. They blame others for their mistakes.

5. They refuse to recognize their deficits, weaknesses and shortcomings.

How 5 Ways Arrogant Bosses Harm Their Organizations

1. They make subordinates feel helpless and unappreciated.

2. They do not mentor junior colleagues and they lack ‘good citizen’ behaviors.

3. They do not motivate their teams.

4. They create a poisonous workplace environment.

5. They impede the effective functioning of the organization.

What You Should Do When You Have an Arrogant Boss

1. Recognize that your performance is probably being evaluated unfairly.

2. Always consider the corporate culture of your organization and whether they are supportive of complaints from employees.

3. If you believe upper management is unaware of your arrogant boss’ behavior and if you can get two more employees to support your assertions, you should consider filing a complaint with your human resources department. Three people voicing the same complaint are likely to be taken much more seriously than only one or two.

4. If the behavior of your arrogant boss is causing you significant emotional distress, document their behavior as best you can and consider filing a complaint with your human resources department, even if other colleagues do not participate. Always consider the risks involved.

5. If you’ve tried to complain about your boss and have not received support from human resources or your union representative, consider transferring to a different department or even looking for a different job. Long term stress and distress in the work-place can have a significant and negative impact on your self-esteem, emotional well-being and your physical health.

View my short and quite personal TED talk about Psychological Health here:

To find out how to heal the emotional 'wounds' your boss left you, check out my new book Emotional First Aid (Hudson Street Press, 2014).

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Copyright 2012 Guy Winch

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Reference: Stanley B. Silverman, Russell E. Johnson, Nichole McConnell, and Alison Carr. “Arrogance: A formula for leadership failure,” The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, July 20012.