How Bosses' View of Workers Can Be Key to Success

Small business owners and managers spend lots of time and money trying to change the way their employees think about work. In fact, however, it’s the managers who may need to change their thinking.

That’s the determination of researchers at the University of California, Riverside who found that managers’ views of their employees has a direct impact on how employees perform.

“If managers view followers positively -- that they are good citizens, industrious, enthusiastic -- they will treat their employees positively. If they think of their employees negatively -- that they are conforming, insubordinate and incompetent -- they will treat them that way,” said Thomas Sy, professor of psychology at UC Riverside. “Manager beliefs about employees impact organizational outcomes.”

Sy suggests it is possible to change what leaders believe about their employees, a business strategy that could improve worker performance. This could be especially important as the workforce increasingly goes global .

“This is particularly relevant in multicultural environments,” Sy said. “For example, among other traits, Western leaders may recognize the potential of followers who show enthusiasm, and label and treat these individuals as ‘high potentials.’ However, Western leaders may overlook the same potential in equally capable followers who may not exhibit enthusiasm because their cultural values may inhibit expression of emotions (e.g. Eastern cultures such as Japan and China). This bias may also occur for gender .”

Sy’s research appeared in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.