Ego-Driven Employees Have More Abusive Bosses (Or, So They Think!)

Ego-Driven Employees Have More Abusive Bosses (Or, So They Think!)

A recent university study shows employees who have inflated egos and believe they deserved more were also more likely to claim they had abusive bosses and were being mistreated. The researchers also found when they compared the responses of employees supervised by the same manager, entitled employees were more likely to report higher levels of abuse from their managers, even when their less-entitled co-workers did not. The research was conducted by Paul Harvey, associate professor of organizational behavior at UNH, and his research colleagues Kenneth Harris from Indiana University Southeast, William Gillis from the University of South Alabama, and Mark Martinko from the University of Queensland. It is presented in The Leadership Quarterly journal in the forthcoming article “Abusive Supervision and the Entitled Employee.”

“Psychological Entitlement” Creates The Problem

Harvey says, “People who exhibit “psychological entitlement” have unjustified positive self-perceptions and are reluctant to accept criticism that would undermine their rosy views of themselves, Harvey said. They can be selfish, narcissistic and believe that they deserve many more rewards and much more praise for their work than are warranted by their performance.”

Management Beware: These Employees Could Retaliate If You Take Action

Even more concerning are the conclusions drawn by Harvey, “Inaccurate perceptions of supervisory abuse fueled by a sense of entitlement by employees can be a significant problem for managers. These managers might find that any critical feedback or unpopular decisions are met with heightened abuse perceptions, impairing their ability to conduct these difficult, but occasionally necessary, aspects of their jobs.” And the potential for entitlement-minded employees to take retaliatory action against a supervisor “might pose a threat to the careers and livelihoods of managers if it provokes abusive behaviors or causes employees to view legitimate managerial behaviors, such as giving constructive negative feedback, as abusive,” Harvey said. Here’s the scary part, Harvey says: “The adage ‘perception is reality’ may apply in that entitled employees who believe they are abused by supervisors, accurately or inaccurately, will likely respond in negative psychological and behavioral ways. For this reason, eliminating abusive behaviors by supervisors might not completely eliminate the perception of abuse or the associated emotions and stress that can motivate retaliation by employees.”

What Does This All Mean?

As a career coach, I expect to see more companies terminating employees at the first sign of them claiming abusive behavior. This kind of study will encourage them to eliminate anyone who appears “at-risk” of becoming disgruntled regarding their treatment to the point they might take action.

Tips For Employees Feeling Abused

I strongly encourage anyone who feels they have an abusive boss or are being treated unfairly to consider finding alternative employment on their own. In most cases, you are an “at-will” employee, meaning you are free to leave at any time and your employer is free to let you go at any time. Feeling abused will impact your work performance, not to mention your physical and mental health. It is better to take charge and get out of a bad situation than to be held hostage by it.

Get An Objective Opinion On Your Performance

Finally, this article is a good reminder that all of us should have unbiased, objective advisors in our life who can tell us if we are acting entitled with respect to our situation. We aren’t perfect. There will be times when we won’t see our situation clearly and may think we are right, but we’re not. Better to find that out and change your perception before your employer changes your reality by firing you.
And, here are some resources that can help you to better assess if you have an abusive boss or if you are acting entitled on-the-job: