The Pros and Cons of Being a Jerk at Work

At some point, we’ve all met a jerk at work. These people may have reckless abandon for the feelings of others. They may be loud, rude, obnoxious, tactless, crass, or forceful. On the other hand, we sometimes see or hear examples of jerks achieving renowned success in the business world. Successful jerks are oftentimes known for their originality and creativity, and for their entrepreneurial achievement. New research (Hunter & Cushenbery, 2015) explores whether being a jerk has certain advantages, or if the so-called benefits of being a jerk are really just a lot of hot air.

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How Mindfulness Can Cool Employees with a Hot Temper


Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2015)
Article: Mindfulness Buffers Retaliatory Responses to Injustice: A Regulatory Approach
Reviewed by: Andrew Morris

Mindfulness is a psychological state that occurs when a person is completely in-the-moment and experiences a heightened sense of focus and awareness. When people find themselves in this state, they are less likely to take things personally or react automatically without thinking. Organizations are becoming interested in mindfulness because it has been shown to help boost self-control (e.g. people might be less reactionary towards that trying co-worker) and because it leads to increased performance. In light of this, the authors of this study (Long & Christian, 2015) explored whether mindfulness helps employees thwart the desire to “get back” at others when they felt wronged. This is important because employee retaliation can be costly to an organization and detrimental to smooth functioning.

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Workplace Incivility: Why Nice Employees Finish First!


Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2015)
Article: The effects of civility on advice, leadership, and performance.
Reviewed by: Kayla Weaver

Organizations have seen a drastic increase in the amount of workplace incivility that employees experience on a weekly basis. Way back in in 1998, research revealed that 25% of employees experienced rudeness in the workplace at least once a week. A decade later, nearly 50% of employees reported experiencing incivility in the workplace at least once per week. Incivility is formally defined as “insensitive behavior that displays a lack of regard for others” (Anderson & Pearson, 1999), and is very costly for organizations as it is related to decreased performance and creativity, as well as increased employee turnover.

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The Hidden Danger of Narcissistic Leaders


Publication: Academy of Management Review (2015)
Article: Narcissistic Organizational Identification: Seeing Oneself as Central to the Organization’s Identity
Reviewed by: Ben Sher

Narcissistic leaders can bring down an organization even when they are trying to build it up. Work by Galvin, Lange, and Ashforth (2015) uses extant organizational research findings to propose a new theory that may explain why this is so. They say that something called narcissistic organizational identification is to blame, and they demonstrate several ways that it happens and discuss how we can make sure this phenomenon doesn’t end up ruining businesses.

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Unethical Employees May Have Been Socially-Ostracized at Work


Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Excluded and Behaving Unethically: Social Exclusion, Physiological Responses, and Unethical Behavior
Reviewed by: Ben Sher

Unethical employees can plague a workplace, costing companies money as well as their reputations. But organizations don’t always have fool-proof ways to combat unethical behavior. New research by Kouchaki and Wareham (2015) has identified one type of workplace activity that may lead employees to increase unethical behavior. Using state-of-the-art equipment, they were able to measure physiological changes in certain employees that may have caused them to act unethically. So what is the culprit? What makes certain employees act unethically?

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The Dark Side of Procedural Justice: When Being Fair Isn’t Enough


Publication: Journal of Organizational Behavior
Article: Episodic envy and counterproductive work behaviors: Is more justice always good?
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

A common belief in the workplace is that if managers make decisions in a fair way (procedural justice), then employees will be happier and organizational outcomes will be positive. Both the research literature and common sense indicate that managers should be fair, but a recent study by Khan, Quratulain, and Bell (2014) suggests that being fair may not be enough. It appears that fairness doesn’t always lead to good behavior by employees.

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Intelligence Testing: Is It Always the Smartest Thing to Do?


Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between General Mental Ability and Nontask Performance
Reviewed by: Ben Sher

Smart employees tend to be better at doing their jobs. This is considered one of the most important findings in the history of I-O research. Meta-analysis, which is a method of compiling results from many different researchers and studies, has shown that intelligence (or general mental ability) is associated with better job performance for basically any job. But there are other important components that make organizations successful besides narrowly-defined task performance (parts of a job that are in the job description). New research (Gonzalez-Mulé, Mount, & Oh, 2014) investigates whether intelligence can also predict other measures of workplace success.

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Sleep Deprived Employees Engage in More Unethical Workplace Behavior


Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Building a Self-Regulatory Model of Sleep Deprivation and Deception: The Role of Caffeine and Social Influence
Reviewed by: Ben Sher

When employees engage in unethical behavior, organizations suffer. For example, employee theft or dishonesty can hurt organizations both internally and in terms of public reputation. New research (Welsh, Ellis, Christian, & Mai, 2014) has identified several key links in understanding the dynamics that lead to employee deception, which is a type of unethical behavior.

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Workplace Bullying: Corrupt and Harmful to Organizations


Publication: Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal
Article: Towards Reducing the Harm: Workplace Bullying as Workplace Corruption—A Critical Review
Reviewed by: Amy Fluett

In recent years, there has been a noticeable rise in bullying, and the workplace is no exception. In fact, it has become such a pervasive issue, with such profound effects, that it is considered an extreme threat to the health and wellness of all businesses. Many argue that bullying is not only the newest form of discrimination in the workplace, but that it should also be recognized as a form of corruption.

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Abusive Supervision may have Roots in Childhood


Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology
Article: Roots Run Deep: Investigating Psychological Mechanisms Between History of Family Aggression and Abusive Supervision
Reviewed by: Amber Davidson

Supervisor anger is a common workplace problem. This can include a supervisor who is angered too easily or a situation when the supervisor’s anger is disproportional to the situation at hand. This study explores the true reasons behind this anger, hypothesizing that a history of family aggression is the root of angry reactions and abusive supervision.

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