Spatial Distance With Managers Impacts Work Quality

Spatial Distance With Managers Impacts Work QualitySpatial Distance With Managers Impacts Work Quality

Sitting next to your boss may have a negative impact on the quality of your work, a study suggests.

Researchers in the Netherlands have found that physical distance is a key factor in determining the extent to which good or bad behavior of managers spreads to employees, reported.

The research, published in the Journal of Management, sought to find out “how spatial distance between higher and lower management” affects the spread of behavior and fair procedures in the workplace.

A series of experiments were carried out to determine whether middle managers copy or deviate from their boss’s unfair treatment when they work further apart from one another.

In five studies, researchers asked people how their managers treated them, how psychologically close they felt to their manager, and how they treated their own employees.

They also assessed the physical distance between study participants and their boss.

In one experiment, 150 undergraduate business students were asked to play the role of a middle manager with two subordinate employees and a boss.

Participants were told their boss was located in the same room or across campus.

They were also told that their boss would assign them either a fun and creative task with a cash bonus at the end, or a tedious task with no bonus. The participants could say which task they preferred, but their boss made the final decision.

After analyzing the results of this experiment and four others, researchers found that when participants were physically near their boss, they were more likely to imitate their conduct.

They also found the same effect when someone felt psychologically close—when participants identified with their boss they were more likely to imitate his behavior as well.

In their final study, Gijs van Houwelingen, a researcher at the Rotterdam School of Management in the Netherlands and his team looked at the psychological impact on employees of physical closeness with their boss.

The study demonstrated that when someone works near their manager, they also feel psychologically closer to them, and the opposite was true at larger distances.

“We saw that the more distant someone is they’re less likely to identify with their boss.”

Distance is a very useful tool that can be used to stop negative behaviors from spreading through an organization,” he said. “It creates the freedom to make up your own mind.”