What’s a boss worth?

By Michael Blanding via hbswk.hbs.edu   Article

“We all have our boss horror stories. The underminer. The bad communicator. The credit hog. The snake. Then again, if we’re lucky, we’ve all had those amazing bosses as well—the supervisor who encourages all employees to take their work up to the next level; the manager who makes everyone around them look better.

But how much of an effect does a good or bad boss have on workers, really? Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Christopher Stanton sets out to ask that question in The Value of Bosses, a paper recently published in the Journal of Labor Economics—and finds out the answer is, quite a lot. …

‘Bosses may get lucky and have subordinates who can do their job well—or, in other settings, they can get really unlucky and have one person who poisons the whole bunch,’ says Stanton, who co-wrote the study with Edward Lazear and Kathryn Shaw of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he began the research as part of his dissertation in 2011. …

When they examined all of this data, they concluded that replacing a boss who was in the bottom 10 percent of the distribution with a boss who was in the top 10 percent had the same effect as adding another whole worker to a nine-person team—a huge effect for such a small variation in quality. …

One thing that Stanton’s study can’t say is what exactly makes a boss good or bad—whether its education, experience, temperament or other systemic factors. Given the enormous impact a boss can have, however, it’s an area ripe for future exploration.”

 

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