Bosses should pick favourites for better team performance
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Bosses should pick favourites if they want top performing teams, researchers say.
"Conventional wisdom tells us that we should treat everyone the same to create a collegial and productive work atmosphere," Karl Aquino, co-author of the study from the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business, said.
"But our research shows this can be a disincentive for workers who would otherwise go above and beyond on behalf of the team with a little bit of extra attention," Aquino said.
In a series of experiments, the researchers found that people are more likely to experience heightened self-esteem, follow workplace norms, and perform tasks that benefit a group if a leader treats them relatively better than other people in their group.
"Bosses are in a tricky position," Aquino said.
"There's a risk that treating some employees better than the rest can turn others off. The key is to find the right balance – treat everyone reasonably well, but treat those whose work counts most or who have been most productive just a little bit better," Aquino said.
According to Aquino, in general, working culture in the United States leans toward showing preferential treatment to star employees, while Canadian, Northern European and most Asian cultures take a more egalitarian approach.
Aquino suggests managers should consider a middle path to avoid creating envy while sustaining high levels of productivity among their star players.
In one of their experiments, the researchers looked at how preferential treatment from bosses affects a person's self-worth in their job and willingness to conform to workplace norms.
A 357-person sample was surveyed online to assess their level of preferential treatment in the workplace. The workers were also asked to nominate a colleague to participate in a second online survey to report on whether the employee violated norms of efficient production and considerate conduct.