Why it can pay to get your team hating you

Nov 30 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

The key to getting a team to fire on all cylinders is to ensure they are all agreed about how they feel about their leadership team - even if that consensus is completely negative.

A study by management professor Michael S Cole, of Neeley School of Business in Texas, and Dr Arthur G Bedeian of Louisiana State University, has concluded that teams where all the members agree with each other about their managers' leadership behaviours may be more committed to their jobs and experience less emotional exhaustion.

This holds true whether they see their leaders as effective or ineffective or even downright terrible, they argued.

The study of 828 U.S air force personnel, published in the journal The Leadership Quarterly, looked at the relationship between work commitment and emotional exhaustion under four differing styles of leadership.

The first two were transformational leaders (or those that were inspirational motivation and intellectually stimulating) and those who adopted a directionless, laissez-faire approach.

These were followed by managers who defined themselves by punishment and negative feedback and "management by exception", those who clearly outlined expectations and subsequent rewards or punishments.

The study found that consensus regarding transformational and laissez-faire leadership boosted work commitment and mitigated emotional exhaustion, while a lack of consensus had the opposite effect.

Contingent-reward reinforcement (punishment and negative feedback) and management by exception, however, did not exhibit these results and so could merit further investigation.

"Certain leadership behaviours influence teams as a whole, which in turn influence each team member's personal commitment to the organisation," said Cole.

"In these cases, perceptual agreement among members regarding their leaders increases individual work commitment, whereas disagreement creates stress and conflict among team members," he added.

Addressing this conflict and related hostility required time and energy, which further eroded commitment and led to exhaustion, he warned.

"Even if an ineffective leader exhibits demotivating behaviour, consensus among the work group helps buffer the leader's negative impact.

"They can bond over it and laugh about it. They form a support network and vent their frustrations to each other," Cole explained. "Without this outlet, a bad situation would be even worse."

What this meant in practice was that managers needed to understand the value of behaving the same toward all team members so that everyone perceived things equally.

Since consensus is so important, adding or removing members from well-functioning groups was particularly disruptive, he warned.

"Teams need stability and a certain tenure in their membership. If members are always being added and taken away, a lot of time and energy is expended on resolving conflict. Leaders need to help smooth the transition," he said.

Older Comments

This was the worst email text I have ever read, it was very misleading and doesn't have to do with personality, but with communication and leadership style. Quoting from the article '...managers needed to understand the value of behaving the same toward all team members so that everyone perceived things equally.' Yes, I couldn't agree with this more. They also need to communicate their expecations to the team. Yes, some managers, typically newer ones, try to be friend(ly) towards their sub-ordinates and do not practice these basic tenets of management. But lets face it, there are managers who are well liked by their teams, with high performfing teams, and not all of them think the same way about the boss. Great results, poor hypothesis.

Jack Eurl