You Have a Dark Power Over Your Boss

No matter how much you like your boss, it's never entirely an equal relationship — there's always going to be a power differential. That doesn't mean that all power flows in one direction. In fact, new research confirms how very much influence employees have over their managers.

It's not the kind of weight and authority that comes with collective bargaining, but the fallout can be huge. Studies just released by psychologists in the U.K., the Netherlands, and Israel examine the so-called "dark side" of followers as well as leaders. Most media attention on the matter focuses on individuals in charge who abuse their power, but even a good leader in charge of the wrong team can falter.

The findings seek to add nuance to how companies are organized. The researchers posit that the right combination of personalities, even when some are rampant with "Nightmare Traits" (dishonesty, disagreeableness, and carelessness), can balance each other out to create productive teams. We already know that different leadership styles can clash or complement. This study gives us some specifics about those combinations. For instance, it turns out that "followers" with high self-esteem can actually cause psychopathic leaders (yes, it's a thing) to act less self-servingly.

There's no magic chart that will map out precisely who to hire and where to place them for maximum effectiveness. But this research does show that influence goes both ways in the workplace. If you're struggling with your boss, don't let it get you down too much — you may have more power than you know.