Are Productive Employees Allowed to Behave Badly?

New research shows that many organizations give productive employees more leeway for bad behavior.

No one likes the office jerk, but a new study shows that supervisors and managers who produce good results for their organizations are given more leeway when it comes to their bad behavior.

The study, performed by researchers at the University of Iowa, did not show how the targets of the bad behavior (supervisees) react to it; rather, it took a look at the reactions of those who see or hear the bad behavior (e.g., other colleagues or even the boss' boss).

Researchers asked participants to rate a fictitious CEO who was shown to be a high performer or a low performer and either verbally abusive or not. High marks were given to high-performing CEOs, no matter their management style, while low marks were given to the poor-performing, non-abusive CEO.

Doesn't sound good for organizations, does it? Well, the researchers say these findings could have an impact on how they evaluate their employees, suggesting that organizations change how they assess managers' behavior. For instance, commonly used peer evaluations may allow this behavior to continue. Instead, researchers suggest organizations "design performance evaluations that specifically take into account both the outcomes achieved by supervisors and the way in which employees are treated in the process of achieving those outcomes."