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Belligerent Bosses: National Study finds Employee Trust Sacrificed in the Financial Crisis
September 29th, 2009 by Andrew Sauter  Posted in Job News
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A national study finds bosses use threats and intimidation during the financial crisis. Employees complain of a “culture of fear” and eroding trust.

San Antonio, TX (PRWEB) September 28, 2009 — Employees report their bosses use threats and intimidation during the financial crisis, according to a national study of leadership funded by the University of Phoenix. “Questions get you written up and/or fired,” one worker said. The study’s results also showed employees increasing distrust what their bosses say.



Increased belligerent behavior and eroding employee trust are disturbing leadership trends in the financial crisis, according to the study’s researchers, Dr. Ruby Rouse and Dr. Richard Schuttler. Employees repeatedly described threatening communication: “Be thankful you have a job,” “You can be replaced,” “There are lots of qualified people on the street who would love your job.” Such statements remind workers their jobs are on the “chopping block.” According to Rouse, some supervisors seem to purposefully foster a “culture of fear” to maintain control during the financial crisis. “Several people believe employers are using the crisis as an excuse to ‘throw people under the bus,’” she said.

Despite significant economic changes, leaders reportedly have not changed the way they communicate with employees. Approximately 64% of working adults in the study reported supervisors use a ‘business as usual’ mentality during the crisis; 82% of working adults expressed frustration with supervisors’ lack of adaptation during the crisis. Senior leaders expressed significantly less concern about employee issues, such as layoffs and downsizing, than front line workers. Instead, senior management focused on market-related issues, such as declining sales.

“But it’s not all doom and gloom,” Schuttler said, 41% of participants described their leaders as effective. Working adults expressed a strong preference for leaders who are transparent, honest, and visible. The majority (55%) of participants who shared open-ended comments recommended increased supervisor openness; 33% wanted more honesty.

The study, which analyzed the perceptions of 1,150 working adults in the United States, compared the leadership and communication skills of supervisors in various industries. Rouse is an internationally published author whose research focuses on leadership, communication, marketing, and healthcare. Schuttler, owner of Organizational Troubleshooter, LLC, is an international public speaker, consultant, educator, and author with 20 years of management/leadership improvement expertise. Both researchers are faculty members at the University of Phoenix’s School of Advanced Studies. The study was funded by a research grant from the University of Phoenix.

The full report of the study’s findings can be downloaded at Leadership during the Financial Crisis Results
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  • Kavita Kushalani

    Organizational trust is very crucial for the smooth working of an employee in the organization and problems arise when such a trust is on the verge of extinction by managers or immediate supervisors. However, Vineet Nayar, the HCLT CEO, in his book, “Employees First, Customers Second”, has antagonized the idea of threatening the employees and creating a culture of fear, especially in the crisis times, as a method of retention. He believes that a culture of trust but fear will help an organization rise to its apex and it can happen when the employees will consider themselves to be a part of the organization.

  • Tom Collins

    Interesting to note that the University of Phoenix itself functions under a culture or fear and intimidation. Students are intimidated into signng up of extra classes which are not related to their specialization whereas staff if intmidated into trying to sign up prospective students by hook or by crook. The faculty is not spared either and professional teachers who try to give the student's their money's worth in education are often sidelined and insted preference is given to those who indulge in brown nosing the administration, even if these teachers may not be good teachers and get poor reviews from the students.

    This is not the opinion of one but many teachers who give up valuable time from their high paying professions, to help adult students in their quest for higher education, even at low monetary teaching compensations.

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