Big Bucks Make for Big Mean Bosses
Ever work for a company where the boss is, well, a jerk?
If the answer is yes, the reason for his or her jerkiness may be simply a matter
of compensation — too much, not too little.
A new study, When Executives
Rake in Millions: Meaness in Organization,
written by researchers at Harvard Law School, the University of Utah and Rice
University, and presented at the recent International Association of Conflict
Management, suggests there is direct a correlation between how well executives
are paid and how poorly they treat those below them.
One of the study’s author,
Sreedhari Desai, told the Harvard Business Review (HBR),
she wanted to "look at income disparity, power and moral disengagement.
Does this income gap help the leaders to feel comfortable setting up policies
that hurt the people at the bottom?"
Ms. Desai and her colleagues scored
various firms based on employee relations data from Kinder, Lydenberg, Domini & Co.
(KLD). As an example, firms that had paid fines for mistreatment of workers
were docked points while those that offered profit sharing were granted points.
After tallying various pluses and minuses, companies were given a "meaness
The researchers then checked executive compensation at the companies
based on Compustat data and discovered that higher executive compensation numbers
tracked with higher meaness numbers.
Ms. Desai said the findings of the research
were "disheartening," but
not surprising. According to HBR, the power holding theory sees humans
as "world class rationalizers who find ways to insulate themselves from
the mean, sometimes unethical or inhumane things they do. Money may be one
of those insulators."
Discussion Questions: Do you believe there is a correlation between top executive
pay and how well or poorly workers down the ladder are treated in the workplace?
Are "mean" corporate cultures any more or less effective than "nice" ones?