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Bully bosses lose creative edge

13 March 2014

The consequences of workplace bullying could be impacting your business's innovation and creativity, according to a new study from the Australian School of Business at the University of New South Wales.

In particular, those employees working under an oppressive and frightening boss are the most at risk of a decrease in creativity, study author Benjamin Walker explained;

"Many organisations put pressure on their employees with fear of negative consequences such as reprimands or losing their job. While these fear tactics may get employees to work harder, in situations of fear the employees may be less able to generate higher quality work that involves creativity."

The research found that in order to encourage creativity and innovation, employers and office managers need to help employees feel relaxed and positive. This includes managers having a coaching mindset to performance management. An organisation can find it highly beneficial to ensure that this positive coaching is offered at all levels of the organisation, meaning those with supervisory responsibilities remain supportive and reasonable and avoid using fear tactics. Not only does this support creativity but also helps to mitigate the risk of claims of inappropriate behaviour.

Employee Relations 101 I ER101 training iHR Australia v2 18.2.14

"Office managers could certainly harness the creativity of people who are inclined toward creativity by working with them to set goals which have achievable rewards, and offer them new experiences," Mr Walker stated.

This report is important when considering the economic and emotional impacts of workplace bullying and employee harassment. Organisations that fail to acknowledge the detrimental effects of bullying risk losing the competitive edge within their industry due to a lack of innovation and creativity among their staff.

"For example, imagine an office slave who is stuck at their desk every day, in fear that their boss will explode with rage if they get anything wrong: they will just do what they have to do and make sure it is done correctly," Mr Walker explained.

"By contrast a creative worker who gets on well with their boss will suggest innovative new ways of working, because they avoid the 'fear of failure'; they know that by being creative they will be rewarded, and have the chance to try something new," he concluded.

As recent news regarding mental health in the workplace has shown, there are further risks to individual employees and to businesses when inappropriate or unreasonable treatment of workers affects their mental health. It is also important to note that this behaviour and its negative effects is not simply limited to reporting relationships but can be the behaviour of other workers within a team.

iHR Australia offers anti-bullying and performance management training and also provides coaching for executives and HR professionals.

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