Bosses Don’t Listen, Study Finds

A new study seems to confirm what some disgruntled employees have long-suspected: bosses don’t listen.

The study, in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, claims that the more power an individual has in the workplace, the less likely they are to take advice from others. And on top of not listening, these inflated decision makers are often wrong in their decisions.

“There’s a tendency for power to make you confident, which is a good thing because we want our leaders to be confident, but there’s a dark side to that confidence,” said Elizabeth Morrison, one of the study’s authors and a professor of management and organizations at New York University.  ”You can be over-confident and less open to input from others.”

The researchers collected data from over 200 managers as well as their coworkers. In addition to the real-life bosses, experiments were conducted where students were assigned different levels of power and asked to make various decisions.

Those in higher positions of power had the tendency to make decisions on their own without seeking or taking input from others.

Morrison said that the researchers were surprised to find that people in higher positions of power felt an overall confidence that lead them to make decisions on their own both in areas where they were experts and in areas that were not part of their expertise, simply because they were powerful.

The researchers noted that the decision-maker and his or her underlings see things differently. Often times, the employees in positions of greater power had “internalized role expectations” that powerful people are supposed to be confident in their decisions and that taking advice from others is a sign of weakness.

However, employees working under these decision-makers believed that bosses who take advice and input are better leaders.

The managers who made the decisions on their own were found to be the least accurate. Their over-confidence and inflated sense of their own judgment often led them to the wrong decisions.

The experiments also found that women were more likely to take advice than men.

Morrison believes that the study has real-life implications for the workplace. “If you feel you have the answer, recognize that there may be a tendency to be off in that judgment and force yourself to listen to other people,” she said.

The study was titled “The Detrimental Effects of Power on Confidence, Advice Taking, and Accuracy” and conducted by Morrison, Kelly See, Naomi Rothman of Lehigh University and Jack Soll of Duke University. It will be published in November.