Having distance from your manager makes you a better worker
It’s time to move over. A new study has found that sitting next to your boss may have a negative effect on the quality of your work.
Researchers in the Netherlands found that physical distance is a key factor in whether or not the bad behaviour of bosses spreads to their employees.
In a series of studies the researchers found that participants were more likely to treat others unfairly and act unethically when in the close proximity to their bosses.
Scientists at the Rotterdam School of Management led by Gijs van Houwelingen created five experimental simulations to test the relationship between physical distance and office conduct.
If someone kicks a dog right in front of you it’ll make you very mad’ van Houwelingen told Co.Design.
’But if you hear about someone somewhere in the world kicking a dog you probably won’t feel as mad about it.’
Distance can cause a person to become emotionally detached from a particular situation.
The team created a simulation in which 150 undergrad business students played the role of middle manager with two subordinate employees and a boss according to Co.Design.
In this simulation the participants were told different locations for their bosses’ whereabouts either in the same room or across campus.
The researchers then gave assignments to the participants and sent them ’fair’ and ’unfair’ messages to either explain the decision reasonably or make it appear as though the boss was just passing down unwanted work.
The participants were then asked their opinions on the boss’ behaviour and told to decide how they would treat their own employees.
Participants who were physically near or personally identified with the boss were more likely to exhibit the same bad behaviour.
We saw that the more distant someone is they’re less likely to identify with their boss or describe themselves in relation to their boss’ van Houwelingen says.
Spatial distance proved to be a major factor but the research suggests there are other contributors that determine ethical behaviour.
People who feel the need to belong to a social group will be more likely to copy the conduct of others.Van Houwelingen suggests that offices find a balance that allows for physical distance along with collaboration and strong relationships between employees.
With distance you get detached from what happens around you’ van Houwelingen says. ’You might be more likely to evaluate behaviour on its own merits.’