When the Boss Feels Inadequate

ABSTRACT

When and why do power holders seek to harm other people? The present research examined the idea that aggression among the powerful is often the result of a threatened ego. Four studies demonstrated that individuals with power become aggressive when they feel incompetent in the domain of power. Regardless of whether power was measured in the workplace (Studies 1 and 4), manipulated via role recall (Study 2), or assigned in the laboratory (Study 3), it was associated with heightened aggression when paired with a lack of self-perceived competence. As hypothesized, this aggression appeared to be driven by ego threat: Aggressiveness was eliminated among participants whose sense of self-worth was boosted (Studies 3 and 4). Taken together, these findings suggest that (a) power paired with self-perceived incompetence leads to aggression, and (b) this aggressive response is driven by feelings of ego defensiveness. Implications for research on power, competence, and aggression are discussed...

CONCLUSION

The present findings highlight the importance of perceiving personal competence when holding a position of power. Power holders who do not feel personally competent are more likely than those who feel competent to lash out against other people. Additionally, the finding that self-worth boosts assuage the aggressive tendencies of such power holders implies the effectiveness of a strategy commonly employed by underlings: excessive flattery. It is both interesting and ironic to note that such flattery, although perhaps affirming to the ego, may contribute to the incompetent power holder’s ultimate demise—by causing the power holder to lose touch with reality.

Full paper at: http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~nathanaf/power_incompetence_and_aggresssion.pdf

It's official: Your bullying boss really is an idiot

Got a bullying boss? Take solace in new research showing that leaders who feel incompetent really do lash out at others to temper their own inferiority.

"Power holders feel they need to be superior and competent. When they don't feel they can show that legitimately, they'll show it by taking people down a notch or two," says Nathanael Fast, a social psychologist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who led a series of experiments to explore this effect.

In one, Fast and his colleague Serena Chen, who is at the University of California, Berkeley, asked 90 men and women who had jobs to complete online questionnaires about their aggressive tendencies and perceived competence. The most aggressive of the lot tended to have both high-power jobs and a chip on their shoulder, Fast and Chen found.

To see if a bruised ego can actually cause aggression, the researchers manipulated people's sense of power and self-worth by asking them to write about occasions when they felt either empowered or impotent and then either competent or incompetent. Previous research has suggested that such essays cause a short-term bump or drop in feelings of power and capability, Fast says.

Feel-bad factor

Next, Fast and Chen asked their volunteers to select a punishment to be given to university students for wrong answers in a hypothetical test of learning. Volunteers chose between horn sounds that ranged from 10 decibels to a deafening 130 decibels.

The volunteers who felt the most incompetent and empowered picked the loudest punishments – 71 decibels on average. Workers who felt up to their jobs, selected far quieter punishments, between 55 and 62 decibels, as did those primed to feel incompetent yet powerless.

Flattery seems to temper the aggressive urges of insecure leaders. When Fast and Chen coaxed the egos of these volunteers by praising their leadership skills, their aggressive tendencies all but disappeared. This is proof that leaders are aggressive because of a hurt ego, not simply a threat to their power, Fast says.

This might also explain why leaders of organisations both big and small surround themselves with yes-men and women, he says.

Blind flattery may not be the best solution for the 54 million US citizens estimated to have experienced workplace bullying. But easing leaders into new positions of power, or telling them that it's natural to feel daunted, could prevent future outbursts, says Adam Galinsky, a social psychologist at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management in Evanston, Illinois.

From: http://www.newscientist.com/

Bye, bye, baby bye, bye...


Sir Peter Scott is stepping down as vice-chancellor of Kingston University to take up a post at another institution, it was announced... More info at: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk

Check also: http://www.sirpeterscott.com/

Legal costs of university in St Andrews v Quigley

Dear Mr Quigley,

I refer to your request dated 3 May, 2010 under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 for "How much money did the University of St Andrews spend on legal representation in the case of Dr D Quigley v The University of St Andrews during 2002/3/4/5? I can confirm that the total cost inclusive of VAT was £204,192.36.

Yours sincerely,

June Weir
Freedom of Information Officer
University of St Andrews

------------------

For legal costs involving different universities, check: http://www.academicfoi.com/untoldstories/

One hopes that the new government will try to put an end to this waste of public money.

Does this constitute a breach of freedom of expression?

Having had to issue a formal complaint against several members of staff at the University of Ulster for bullying and harassment I had accusations of bullying leveled against me for highlight the clear inefficiencies and inadequacies in the delivery of a final year module on my blog.

I have been instructed by the University that if I do not remove the comments then I will be suspended.

Does this constitute a breach of freedom of expression? I think so!

Check out my blog:
http://jay-bsccomputerscience.blogspot.com/

Stressed staff can't get no satisfaction

People working in higher education are "dissatisfied with their jobs and careers" and are "stressed at work", according to new research.

Academics from The Open University, the University of Portsmouth and the University of Bedfordshire quizzed more than 2,500 people from four universities for the paper, "The work-related quality of life scale for higher education employees", published by the journal Quality in Higher Education.

Staff were asked questions about job satisfaction, well-being, work-life balance, stress at work, control at work and working conditions using a Work-related Quality of Life (WrQoL) scale devised by Darren Van Laar, a Portsmouth psychologist.

"Overall, higher education employees in the sample are dissatisfied with their jobs and careers, are generally dissatisfied with working conditions and control at work, and report that they are stressed at work," the authors write.

The paper says the WrQoL scale has "psychometric properties" that would be useful to institutions "throughout the UK to evaluate employees' quality of working life".

The authors argue that issues such as career satisfaction, stress and work-life balance must be looked at as a whole.

Increasing well-being would "enhance the delivery of education to students and improve working relationships among work colleagues", they write.

Simon Easton, senior lecturer in psychology at Portsmouth and one of the authors, said: "Studies around the world show work-related stress is widespread in higher education.

"University staff in the UK tend to report that demands are increasing, while support and a sense of having control at work have fallen. Many complain about the rushed pace of work, the lack of respect and esteem, having too much administrative work to do, inadequate support and lack of opportunity for promotion. The psychological stress among university employees appears to be much higher than in other professional groups and the general population."

From: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk