Researchers discovered a surprising trait shared by the worst bosses

Boss critiqueSebastiaan ter Burg/FlickrUnpredictability is even worse than consistent unfairness.

What’s worse than coming into the office and knowing you’ll be berated by your manager for your recent performance?

Showing up and not knowing how your manager will treat you.

That’s according to a new study, published in The Academy of Management journal and highlighted on The Washington Post, which found that unpredictability in managers is even more deleterious to employees’ health and wellbeing than consistent unfairness.

To test this phenomenon, researchers recruited about 100 employees in different industries to fill out daily surveys over the course of three weeks. Questions centered on employees’ perceptions of their managers’ fairness and how they felt about work.

As it turns out, employees who perceived their manager as fair sometimes and unfair other times were more stressed, more emotionally exhausted, and less satisfied at work than employees who felt they were always treated unfairly.

These findings make sense in light of a recent Google analysis, which found that the most important trait of a successful leader is predictability.

As business psychologist Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic writes in The Harvard Business Review, the best managers tend to be the most reliable. Contrary to popular belief, bosses who are emotionally volatile (think Steve Jobs) generally aren’t so successful.

Sometimes, however, even if you have a track record of fairness, you have to make a decision that seems unfair. Fadel Matta, the study’s lead author, told The Washington Post that in these cases, you should at least try to tell your employees in advance what’s going to happen.

It will be less stressful for the team, and will likely make you look better as a boss, too.

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