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These types of interactions are more than just theoretical; they happen in offices every day. In fact, Maner’s research initially grew out of complaints from a friend about her boss’s bad behavior.
So how do organizations, which want teams to function as cohesively as possible, prevent this sort of sabotage from above?
One key is making sure that leaders’ job security is contingent upon the success of their group and ensuring those leaders know that they will be held accountable for their actions, Maner says.
“If leaders knew that their decisions were public and could have ramifications for the support they receive, I think that might undercut some of this corrupt behavior,” Maner says.
Organizations could also institutionalize lines of communication and collaboration among teams, which would make it harder for a bad boss to interfere with them, Maner suggests.
The question of how to ensure that bosses feel their power is stable is trickier, since organizations need to balance creating an environment where bosses feel secure with the ability to change leaders when the situation calls for it.
Maner suggests having periods of stability, perhaps two or three years, where bosses know their jobs are secure, interspersed with times when leadership can change if warranted, kind of like the system of having presidential elections every four years.
“What might help leaders perform at their best is knowing that they’re not going to lose their job today or tomorrow, that they can really follow through on whatever vision it is they have and if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out,” he says. “But at least they’ve really had a chance to put their vision into action.