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Even ethical middle managers can mirror bad behaviour of bosses

The research was conducted with Cambridge University and revealed that organisations with immoral leadership at the top of the business will see it filter down and passed on to middle management.

As a result, general workers are likely to receive unfair treatment, especially if the social and spatial distance between middle and top management is minimal, the report said. The knock-on effect will mean dissatisfied employees, less commitment and a higher turnover of staff.

By comparison when the social and spatial distance between middle management and top bosses is high, such as based in different locations, middle management are more likely to treat employees fairly even if they’re receiving poor treatment from the senior team.

In Real Businesses’ round-up of the five best and worst places to work, DreamWorks Animation came out on top. Even CEO Jeffery Katzenberg is aware of the power of security and creativity, and said a solid company culture is important because you cannot have an environment where people feel if they make a mistake they’re going to lose their jobs.

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“We demonstrate that higher level management unfairness can have detrimental effects throughout the organisation and it is passed down from high management to middle management, but only if the spatial and social distance is low,” said Dr. Gijs van Houwelingen, project leader, Rotterdam School of Management at Erasmus University.

It is crucial that organisations understand the threats of overly close and highly interdependent relationships between lower and higher management in the organisation.

Managers at all levels in any organisation need to strike a balance between a certain sense of closeness to ensure efficiency, and some sense of distance to ensure that negative top-level behaviour does not spread unhindered through all layers of the organisation.”

The study comes on the back of research from the Chartered Management Institute, which discovered 30 per cent of all managers considered as under-performing were still given a bonus in 2014. This spiked among directors, as almost half who didn’t meet expectations secured financial rewards.


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