It’s not uncommon for bosses and employees to have completely different opinions about their relationship. A boss who presumes she’s highly respected and well-liked, may be viewed as controlling and manipulative by her subordinates. Similarly, a worker who thinks the boss loves him, may be surprised to learn he’s not held in high regard.
We’re usually not very good at judging how others see us (for evidence see this previous article: Do Your Counterparts See You as a Pushover or a Jerk: Study Shows You May Be Oblivious). Sometimes, beneath that polite behavior lies deep rooted feelings of anger, resentment, and contempt. Even when these feelings are hidden, the negativity can take a toll on the relationship.
Surprisingly, getting those feelings out in the open can be best for the boss-employee relationship, according to a new study published in the Academy of Management Journal.
What the Research Shows
Researchers from Michigan State University examined the relationships and motivation levels of 280 employees and their bosses in a wide range of industries. They discovered that when bosses and workers have differing views about the status of their relationship, the quality of their work was affected.
Motivation decreased when employees felt one way toward the boss and the boss felt differently toward them. The study showed the results were the same regardless of whether the employee viewed the relationship to be better or worse than the boss’s evaluation.
Motivation was higher however, when the worker and the boss saw eye-to-eye about the relationship. Even if they both judged the relationship to be poor, the employee was more apt to go above and beyond basic job duties.