A good boss can overcome the effects of a bad one, leaving employees feeling autonomous and confident when they work on multiple teams with different supervisors, new research shows. The study, co-authored by management professor Gilad Chen at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, examined the ripple effects of empowering leadership.
Bosses inspire high performance when they delegate authority, provide positive coaching, share information and ask for input. But many employees work on multiple projects and report to more than one supervisor. What happens when they face different management styles, and one boss is more controlling than another?
“We imagined that there might be a ‘cancelling out’ effect, where having a more controlling leader in one team would negate the positive effects of having a more empowering leader in the other team,” Chen and his co-authors write. “The good news is that this was not the case.”
The paper, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology and summarized in Harvard Business Review, draws its conclusions from four related studies.
The first experiment invited working adults from the United States and China to imagine realistic scenarios involving two leaders. Follow-up studies tested the findings in actual organizations across different cultures.
“We found that a leader’s empowering behaviors in one team did spill over across team boundaries to increase empowerment and proactivity in the other team,” the authors write. “In fact, this happened even when the leader of the other team did not display any empowering leadership behaviors towards that employee.”
Journal of Applied Psychology: Multiple team membership and empowerment spillover effects: Can empowerment processes cross team boundaries?
Harvard Business Review: When Employees Work on Multiple Teams, Good Bosses Can Have Ripple Effects
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