Most of us strive to climb the corporate ladder and gain power in the workplace, but there may be a downside, according to a new post on the LSE Business Review blog from The London School of Economics and Political Science.
People who feel powerful tend to be self-focused, less empathetic, pushier and just generally more difficult to deal with. Power harms the way we interact with others—not only causing us to treat others poorly but also making us feel that others are treating us poorly, said author Trevor Foulk, an assistant professor of management and organization at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
Foulk and his team conducted a field experiment that included manipulating 108 managers and leaders from a variety of industries and organizations into feeling more powerful while at work. They studied the way participants interacted with co-workers—how they treated others as well as how they felt others were treating them.
Participants reported engaging in more abusive behaviors toward co-workers when they felt more powerful. They also felt that others had treated them with more incivility during the workday. Foulk said this is likely because of the social distance that feeling powerful creates, changing employees’ expectations for how others should treat them.
The team also explored participants’ well-being at the end of the day, finding that the power-induced negative interactions they had with co-workers caused a “hangover” effect, taking a toll on their need satisfaction and relaxation.