UK

Workers Take Caring Bosses For Granted, Business Study

14/08/2013 09:14 BST
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Your boss thinks you don't appreciate how nice and supportive she/he is, research has suggested.

Managers who support employers with their personal and work problems shouldn't expect special gratitude, loyalty, or commitment in return, as they view it as part of their superior's duties, according to a study by IMD Business School in collaboration with University College London.

Research co-author Professor Ginka Toegel said: “Managers tend to regard emotional support as above and beyond their responsibilities and therefore worthy of reciprocation in the form of greater commitment.”

“For example, they might think an employee they have helped should have no qualms about working a little bit harder or staying a little bit later to meet a deadline.”

“Unfortunately, employees just don’t see it like that. They view emotional support as part and parcel of what their superiors do and are paid good money for.”

“Consequently, the shows of gratitude may never arrive – and the negativity can end up perpetuated not by the employee but by the manager, who feels terribly let down.”

The findings from the study came after dozens of workers were interviewed about whom they relied on for emotional help and how they felt about it.

About three-quarters of workers and middle-managers said they were supported by their bosses, but felt no feeling of personal debt.

One manager complained how he helped an employee deal with stress in their personal life, only to have them resign soon after.

He said: “When she was turning the corner she said: ‘I’m leaving.’ I said: ‘I’m happy for you, but I feel a bit let down She said: ‘Oh, I didn’t think about that.’”

Another complained: “If I buy you a drink it’s sort of expected that the next time around you’ll buy me one. It’s in every element of our culture – except the workplace.”

Other academics are in agreement about the danger of unrealistic expectations in the work place. Professor Andre Spicer, from Cass Business School, told the Huffington Post UK: "Our research on leadership dynamics in knowledge intensive firms shows that there are frequently mismatches between what bosses are willing to give and what employees want."

"Sometimes this involves employes wanting more care from a commanding boss. But in other situations they find that a caring boss smothers them with positive attention and they just want to get on and do the job. When these mismatches occur, relationships between leaders and followers can break down. What is really crucial is that leaders understand what their employees want and expect from them - and not just the other way around."