How Bad Bosses Can Improve Teamwork

Ever been part of a team that succeeded despite an empty suit in the manager’s chair? Well, inept leadership may have helped after all.

A study published in Applied Psychology has found that bad leadership can sometimes result in positive outcomes for teamwork. Researchers recruited students to form teams and solve research puzzles for cash prizes, but this was misdirection for the real experiment. Students were left waiting for an assigned supervisor. For half the groups, the tardy supervisor would show up and offer a sincere apology. For the other half, he gave a shrug and told them “My time is more important than yours.”

After the experiment, students rated their supervisor and teammates. As expected, students who got the cold shoulder had a low opinion of their supervisor—but these students also felt closer to their teammates.

Misery loves company? It appears so.


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