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Science

Bosses Are Jerks, USC Study Confirms

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Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 8:03 AM
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If you ever had a boss that gave you a virtual backhanding, you can take solace in new research from USC's Marshall School of Business.

Scott Wiltermuth, assistant professor of management and organization, and co-author Francis Flynn of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, discovered that people entrusted with boss-like power suddenly feel much more certain about the difference between right and wrong. And they come down on wrong harder:

In research destined for an upcoming edition of the Academy of Management Journal, the duo set up four experiments in which they gave subjects sudden power over others, including the administration of reward and punishment.

One thing they found was that these newly minted bosses were quicker to decide between what's moral and immoral, with few of them saying "it depends," a more common answer among underlings.

Another finding: Once these bosses were found their "moral clarity" they were more like to deliver punishment for the immoral than to reward the do-gooders.

Sound familiar?

Typical human behavior. Wiltermuth:

Our findings do not imply that having this moral clarity leads people to obtain power. Rather, the findings imply that once you obtain power you become more likely to see things in black-and-white.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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