You’d think that a boss who is only unfair sometimes, is preferable to someone who is always unfair; however, you’d be wrong.
A new study has found that employees have more job satisfaction and are less stressed when their boss is consistently, predictably unfair.
According to a researcher at Michigan State University, Fadel Matta, it is better to have supervisors who are consistent jerks, than if they are not fair some of the time and fair other times. This is because people want to know what to expect when they come to work.
The study was divided into two parts.
In one experiment, college students were to estimate the hypothetical stock price of a company using information about its performance, and they were told that their classmates would sit in a different room to act as their supervisors.
During the experiment, the students had their heart rates monitored to test stress levels, while they were divided into three groups. One group consistently received positive feedback, the second received a constant stream of negative statements, and the last group received a mix of both.
The results showed that those who were praised fared the best according to their heart rate variation—no surprise there—while those who were constantly given negative feedback did better than the group who got mixed messages.
The second part involved asking employees in a variety of jobs and industries to complete daily questionnaires for three weeks about how they perceive fairness. The hire-ups were also given surveys at the beginning of the study to gauge their self-control. Once again the results corroborated the findings from the other experiment. Employees who’s bosses behaved unpredictably were more likely to be dissatisfied, stressed and emotionally drained, as compared to employees who were always treated unfairly.
So, as a supervisor, what should you do?
The key, according to Matta, is to prepare your staff for potentially unfair circumstances. He says that being unfair is sometimes a necessity because there is a limited amount of time and resources available in most workplaces.
However, if you prepare your employees beforehand so that the uncertainty is diminished, they will be more understanding and at ease. Don’t keep them guessing because the stress from not knowing what’s to come is ten times worse.
For example, you might say, “Next week XYZ will be happening and ABC decision will be announced.”