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Managers copy bad habits from bosses if they sit close

It's an accepted part of the employee engagement equation that leaders should lead by example and be visible. That's all very well if leaders are good - but what about the bad ones?

A study from Erasmus University and Cambridge University has discovered that bad bosses can 'infect' middle managers with their bad behaviour - if they are physically and socially close to each other in the workplace.

It found that middle managers, whatever their personality, are more likely to copy bad behaviour from their bosses if they sit close to them.

Worse still, middle managers who pick up bad habits go on to treat their subordinates unfairly, leading to employee disengagement and increased staff turnover.

Isolate bad role models

But the research found that if there is plenty of distance between bosses and middle managers, the effect is reversed.

Increased social and physical distance seems to allow poorly treated middle managers the space to disassociate themselves from bad behaviour and treat their subordinates more fairly.

It suggested that bosses and middle managers should be on different floors or even buildings. And if that's not possible, these managers should build 'social distance' from bad role models into their working lives, for example, by fraternising with better, more positive colleagues.

Analysts say that there is pressure on middle managers to fall in line with bosses in order to impress them, even if their behaviour leaves much to be desired.

Acas publications and services

Acas can help you with Employee engagement and has published a guide aimed at boosting it in your workplace: pdf icon Advisory booklet - The People Factor [937kb].

Acas experts can visit your organisation and work with you on all aspects of employment relations to create a happier, more satisfied, more productive and more engaged workforce. See Workshops, projects and business solutions or call the customer services team on 0300 123 1150.

Practical training is also available on essential Skills for supervisors and Staff retention, including courses on 'The route to successful employee engagement' and 'Toxic workplace cultures - how to avoid them'.

For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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