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Mean People Make Better Bosses, Say Psychologists

Update Date: Mar 25, 2014 04:17 PM EDT
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Mean people make better bosses, a new study suggests.

Psychologists said that companies should opt for harsh managers over their fair counterparts because tough leaders are less likely to get stressed and burn out

New research reveals that upholding fairness and equality among workers puts so much pressure on managers it burns them out and can lead to them stealing and cheating.

The latest study involved 82 company executives twice a day over a period of several weeks and tracked their emotional state and their workplace efficiency. All of the executives reported having to deal with cases of procedural justice or fairness at work. For example, lack of promotion may lead to workers accusing their bosses of discrimination.

The findings revealed that some managers found procedural justice more mentally draining than others because they had to repress their own personal bias and be consistent and fair even if it went against their personal feelings.

Researchers at Michigan State University also found that bosses who reported the most mental fatigue were more likely to make mistakes at work the following day. Stress at work also increased the risk of deviant or deceitful behavior, according to researchers.

The act of carefully monitoring the fairness of workplace decisions wears down supervisors mentally and emotionally.

"Managers who are mentally fatigued are more prone to making mistakes and it is more difficult for them to control deviant or counterproductive impulses," study author Professor Russell Johnson said in a news release.

"Several studies have even found that mentally fatigued employees are more likely to steal and cheat," he added.

While rules promoting fairness is generally helpful to workers and organizations, Johnson notes that the findings suggest that workplace fairness may actually be harmful for nice bosses who are too eager to make sure everyone is happy.

"Managers who are fair cannot realistically avoid some burnout," Johnson explained.

Researchers recommend that bosses get good rest, eat healthily and detach themselves from work when they get home. These tips, he said, will help minimize stress experienced by managers.

The findings are published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

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