Thursday, April 05, 2007

"Being a [jerk] is a contagious disease"

The New York magazine has a bunch of stories on Office Life: The Many Meanings of the Workplace. Here's an excerpt from the lead story (titled "Boss Science: The Psychopathology of the Modern American Corporate Leader"):

... [T]he one who reaches the top fastest doesn’t necessarily make the best boss. A foundational bit of research on this issue was done by Fred Luthans at the University of Nebraska. “What do successful managers—those who have been promoted relatively quickly—have in common with effective managers—those who have satisfied, committed subordinates and high-performing units?” asked Luthans. “Surprisingly, the answer seems to be that they have little in common.”

And the problem isn’t easily controlled. Dysfunction at the top tends to infect an organization. When the boss is disagreeable, disagreeableness spreads. Sutton and others see assholicness as a disease vector. “There’s powerful evidence from longitudinal studies that if you’re around jerky people you’ll become like them if you don’t leave,” Sutton tells me. “Specifically, studies show that if you work for a bully boss, you will become a bully.

“Being an asshole,” he says flatly, “is a contagious disease.”

Thanks to PTDR for the pointer.