Study: Mean Bosses Can Make Workers Work Better

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Compassionate Eye Foundation/Jonathan Ross

Psst! Don’t show this story to our TIME overlords!

Labor Day is a holiday reserved for celebrating the America worker, but there’s some science news that might make employee’s lives a little more unbearable if management ever gets wind of it. According to a study of workers in the Netherlands, angry feedback from supervisors can actually increase employee productivity and innovation. (This flies in the face of NewsFeed’s hypothesis, which supposed that such feedback increases employee despair and tear duct activity.)

However, the research found that, though some workers were motivated by bosses’ fury, many were not — and the difference broke down along observable psychological lines. Those with high amounts of epistemic motivation, the desire to know and understand the world around them, saw the ire as a sign that they had underperformed and began looking for ways to meet their bosses’ expectations. Those with less, though, shut down.

According to lead researcher Gerben van Kleef, not all verbal abuse is created equal:

“[Anger] is unlikely to work when there is a lot of┬ástress, pressing deadlines, or when there is a lot of noise in the background. […] But anger can work when people are in a relaxed environment, because then the anger will tell them they basically need to work harder.”

NewsFeed understands this theory, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. (But our not liking it doesn’t make us lazy, bosses! Please don’t fire us!) (via LiveScience)