It’s commonly known that middle managers are prone to mirroring their rapport with senior bosses when they interact with their subordinates.
But did you know they are more likely to copy their senior bosses if they sit near them?
Research from Erasmus University and Cambridge University found that middle managers will mirror top management’s bad behaviours, regardless of how ethical they are outside of the office.
But this is only the case if they sit near a mean boss.
On the other hand, sitting further away from bad bosses makes managers behave more fairly with junior members of staff.
Researchers undertook five extensive studies (both field and laboratory), gathering their data from a total of 400 business students and professionals.
They found middle managers who are unfairly treated by their bosses will treat their employees fairer if, for example, they are based in different offices or buildings from their managers, and the social distance is high.
“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, the co-author of the study.
The researchers added it is vital organisations understand the threats of overly close and highly interdependent relationships between lower and higher management.
This is especially because bad behaviour among senior members was found, unsurprisingly, to increase employee dissatisfaction and turnover.
It was also found to contribute towards lower organisational commitment among staff.
“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,” Dr. Houwelingen added.