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Friday, 27 July 2012

Arrogant bosses


The University of Akron has this piece called Identifying the arrogant boss about the work of Professor Stanley Silverman.

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.

I suppose there are arrogant people, just as there are confident people prepared to take risks and point the way because they know they are right. It's a fine line, but real enough all the same. How you measure these behaviours though? How do you decide whether or not you should lean on psychologists for advice? That's a different matter - it complicates a familiar situation.

It seems to me that arrogance and confidence are closely related, but we mostly know the difference and are able to tell if a person is harmfully arrogant or usefully confident.

But there is something else going on here isn't there? A whiff of touchy-feely political correctness perhaps? Bawling out an incompetent subordinate could easily be presented as arrogance - especially if an organisation is already attuned to these nuances. Which in the public sector they certainly will be. 

Maybe the views of psychologists are helpful, but maybe not. Somehow I feel a subtle arrogance behind claims like these. Not that it would ever be admitted, but the opinion is there, on the table, backed up by research, scientifically secure...

Maybe common sense is a better guide.    

6 comments:

Roger said...

Like the puff for 'Working Scared'.

The market for 'successful' bosses seems a bit strange. Certainly confidence is needed and determination and possibly a degree of arrogance. Successful people often have these qualities, so do the better class of criminal and psychopath, telling the difference may be important in some industries, possibly not in others.

I once worked for a palpably crackers boss, thankfully I was paid off, it took the boss's bosses a further four years to pay him (and everyone else) off. In this case a corporate psychologist had declared the crackers boss a thoroughly good egg. Beware of psychologists.

A K Haart said...

Roger - "I once worked for a palpably crackers boss"

I never did, but I wonder how common it is? Presumably the psychologist was crackers too?

Electro-Kevin said...

There's nothing wrong with arrogance so long as it's backed up.

A K Haart said...

Kev - that's the key isn't it? I don't think we need psychologists to tell us that.

James Higham said...

My problem with these things is, as you mention - defining the word. Words are thrown around with abandon these days.

A K Haart said...

James - they are and it doesn't help any but the manipulative.