Identifying the arrogant boss

Jul 24, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Arrogant bosses can drain the bottom line because they are typically poor performers who cover up their insecurities by disparaging subordinates, leading to organizational dysfunction and employee turnover.

A new measure of arrogance, developed by researchers at The University of Akron and Michigan State University, can help organizations identify arrogant managers before they have a costly and damaging impact. 

The Workplace Arrogance Scale (WARS) will be presented at the American Psychological Association convention in Orlando on Aug. 2 by industrial and organizational psychologist and professor Stanley Silverman, dean of UA’s Summit College and University College.

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What is arrogance covering up?

Arrogance is characterized by a pattern of behavior that demeans others in an attempt to prove competence and superiority. Silverman says this behavior is correlated with lower intelligence scores and lower self-esteem when compared to managers who are not arrogant. 

“Does your boss demonstrate different behaviors with subordinates and supervisors?” Silverman asks. He says a “yes” answer could mean trouble. Silverman warns that “yes” replies to these other questions raise red flags and signal arrogance.

• Does your boss put his/her personal agenda ahead of the organization’s agenda?

• Does the boss discredit others’ ideas during meetings and often make them look bad?

• Does your boss reject constructive feedback?

• Does the boss exaggerate his/her superiority and make others feel inferior?

Silverman and his colleagues Russell Johnson, assistant professor of management at the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State University, and Nicole McConnell and Alison Carr, both Ph.D. students in The University of Akron’s Industrial and Organizational Psychology program, published details of the Workplace Arrogance Scale in the July 2012 issue of The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist.

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Effect on morale

Left unchecked, arrogant leaders can be a destructive force within an organization, notes Silverman. With power over their employees’ work assignments, promotion opportunities and performance reviews, arrogant bosses put subordinates in a helpless position. They do not mentor junior colleagues nor do they motivate a team to benefit the organization as a whole, contributing to a negative social workplace atmosphere.

Silverman says that arrogance is less a personality trait than a series of behaviors, which can be addressed through coaching if the arrogant is willing to change.  He recommends that organizations incorporate an assessment of arrogance into the employee review and performance management process.

Silverman emphasizes that cultivating humility among leaders and promoting a learning-oriented work climate go far in reducing and increasing productive leadership and employee social interaction.

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More information: Silverman's journal article: "Arrogance: A Formula for Leadership Failure" in the July issue of The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

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