We all know that bosses can be jerks. Now economists think they understand why — although the reason may surprise you.
As it turns out, most companies end up promoting their best-performing employees, giving them responsibility for supervising others workers. The problem, new research shows, is that the skills that made employees succeed at their initial jobs don’t help when it comes to supervising others — and may actually hurt.
“You might have been successful because of your independence and autonomy,” says the study’s co-author, Alan Benson, from the University of Minnesota. But supervising others requires a totally different set of skills — like the ability to collaborate and share credit. “You can’t do everything yourself when you are a manager,” he adds.
Benson, along with colleagues from Yale and MIT, used data collected by sales management software to examine track records for salespeople and managers at 214 different U.S. and international companies. They found that that top performers were regularly rewarded for their good work: Successful salespeople increased their chances of winning a promotion by about 14% each time they doubled their sales.
Once they were in their new higher-ranking jobs, however, these stars frequently struggled. Subordinate salespeople working under newly promoted managers saw their own performance decline 7.5% for every doubling in the manager’s pre-promotion performance.