The blurred line between motivation and abuse

One academic warns that the prevailing views about high-performance workplaces are "dangerously simplistic."

The blurred line between motivation and abuse
One leading academic says abusive leadership behaviour is often perceived as an effective management technique.
Where’s the line between motivation and abuse? Today, most leaders and HR executives would agree that it’s desirable to create a high-performance workplace — but some dissenting voices warn that if you’re not careful, you could end up abusing the very employees upon whom you depend.
Writing in Understanding the High Performance Workplace, Ohio State University’s Bennett J. Tepper warns of the “sometimes blurry line between leader pressure to perform and leader abuse and I would argue that one of the reasons the line is sometimes difficult to see is that we as a society view abusive leader behavior as an effective management technique.”
According to Tepper, there is a “widely embraced lay belief” that abusive leadership itself can be a “high performance work practice.” Pepper cites as an example a Harvard Business Review Blog article that defends the practice of leaders yelling at subordinates.
“The author’s conviction notwithstanding, his notion belies the evidence from 15 years of empirical research suggesting that abusive leadership undermines individual and unit effectiveness,” Tepper writes.
Tepper insists that there is “no support for the idea that outcomes get better” as leaders become more abusive. While he admits that the debate is nuanced and not every highly motivated manager is abusive, Tepper warns that the prevailing views about high-performance workplaces are “dangerously simplistic.”
Recent stories:

Canada Post reaches tentative union deal 

Strike action looms for B.C. employer

Could food be sabotaging your H&S?

Free newsletter

Our daily newsletter is FREE and keeps you up-to-date with the world of HR. Please complete the form below and click on subscribe for daily newsletters from HRD Canada.

Recent articles & video

How to create a great company culture

YouTube star pretends to be Walmart CEO – makes staff cry

What does an award in HR mean to you?

How to put the ‘H’ back in ‘HR’

Most Read Articles

How to fight loneliness in the workplace

How does harassment impact workplace culture?

Should HR encourage exercise at work?