Researchers Develop Method for Identifying Arrogant Bosses

Posted on July 25, 2012

A new measure of arrogance, developed by researchers at The University of Akron and Michigan State University, can help organizations identify arrogant managers before they have a costly and damaging impact. Arrogant bosses can drain the bottom line because they are typically poor performers who cover up their insecurities by disparaging subordinates. This can lead to organizational dysfunction and employee turnover.

The Workplace Arrogance Scale (WARS) will be presented at the American Psychological Association convention in Orlando on August 2 by industrial and organizational psychologist and professor Stanley Silverman, dean of UA's Summit College and University College.

Arrogance is characterized by a pattern of behavior that demeans others in an attempt to prove competence and superiority. Silverman says this behavior is correlated with lower intelligence scores and lower self-esteem when compared to managers who are not arrogant.

"Does your boss demonstrate different behaviors with subordinates and supervisors?" Silverman asks. He says a "yes" answer to his questoin could mean trouble. Silverman warns that "yes" replies to the following questions also raise red flags and signal arrogance.

An article, published here in the July 2012 issue of The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist by Silverman and his colleagues, says high scores on the WARS scale are "associated with high social dominance and trait anger, as well as with several narcissistic tendencies (e.g., entitlement, superiority)." The researchers also found that "high levels of arrogance are associated with low self-esteem, low general intelligence, poor job performance, and low organizational citizenship behaviors."

Silverman explains how you measure arrogance in this clip. Silverman and his team worked with focus groups to come up with 22 traits (used in the WARS scale) that make up an arrogant person, such as an arrogant person will not accept criticism. He says arrogant bosses are "always trying to make their candle burn brighter by making everyone else's look smaller." Take a look:

Silverman says that arrogance is less a personality trait than a series of behaviors, which can be addressed through coaching if the arrogant boss is willing to change. He recommends that organizations incorporate an assessment of arrogance into the employee review and performance management process. Silverman says many people have encountered an arrogant boss, but not all bosses are arrogant. Take a look:

Silverman also has some advice for people who work with arrogant bosses. He says you need to protect yourself by understanding your role and documenting that you are doing your job. He also says that arrogance is always bad. Take a look:

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