Saturday, January 26, 2019

First Russian Study of ‘Abusive Managers’ Appears

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 25 – The first Russian study of a phenomenon that costs American companies 24 billion US dollars a year has now appeared: abusive managers, a category, the three authors stress must not be confused with an authoritarian style of rule or treated as one kind of leadership among others. 

            Intriguingly, Yevgeniya Balabanova of the Higher School of Economics and her colleagues found on the basis of an analysis of 198 anonymous online declarations and more than 20 mini-case studies that the least widespread kind of such abuse in Russia involved ethnic or gender attacks (

                Much more common, the study found, were forcing employees to do routine or unqualified work (24 percent), requiring the performance of new tasks without preparation (23 percent), public insults (22 percent), deception (19 percent) and ignoring the opinions or initiative of employees (19 percent).

            In addition, it reported that abusive managers also violated promises, did not take note of successes, intentionally interfered in work, blocked promotions, unjustly distributed rewards, accused subordinates of incompetence and so on. 

            Just over half – 56 percent – of Russian employees had experienced such managers and believed that these managers were motivated by a desire to show how powerful they were and a failure to recognize that they did not know how to interact with subordinates in a useful and productive way.

            At the same time, however, the scholars stressed that in their view, such management practices were a social rather than a psychological phenomenon – that is, that they are the product of social arrangements and expectations in most cases rather than the psychology of the managers who engage in abuse.

            The Russian research team found that women managing women were the most likely to be abusive and older managers were more likely to engage in such practices than younger ones.

            Victims of abusive managers in Russia almost never complain directly to the individual involved; instead, they either hope that things will somehow get better, seek the support and understanding of friends or coworkers, or, in about a fifth of all cases, either change jobs or look for new ones.

            Abusive managers not only have a negative impact on workers but also on the organization/business and its production.  While American experts have calculated these costs, no one in Russia has yet done so, although the negative impact of abusive managers on production is obvious for everyone.

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