UW professor receives funding to find out why your boss is such a grump

A UW professor is studying the same thing that Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, and Colin Farrell have portrayed so well — horrible bosses.

Prof. Douglas Brown is one of 30 researchers at the University of Waterloo that received $4.8 million from the Government of Canada.

These researchers are studying everything from tax rates and business investments to emotional regulation in adolescence. For some, like Brown, this is the second grant received for their area of study. These grants, called Insight and Insight Development Grants, are given to top researchers to better understand human behaviour in the hope that it will improve how we deal with the issues that we face as a country and as individuals.

According to a study by Accenture, one-third of those experiencing workplace unhappiness is a direct result of dealing with a bad boss. For the past six years, Brown has been studying the impacts this unhappiness has on an employee’s daily life, and why managers feel the need to act the way they do. He plans on using the money he received, totalling over $246,000, to hire students, pay for lab costs, and give compensation to participants who volunteer for his study.

“A student asked if we could study it and I was curious. I’d never had a bad boss,” Brown replied when asked why he chose to pursue this topic.

Brown said he believes that his research could help alleviate workplace stress in two different ways, one being that once they understand why the “bad bosses” are acting in this manner, they can be convinced to behave in a more nurturing fashion. The other is learning how people cope in these stressful situations to teach others how to handle an unhappy workplace.

For now, Brown hopes to discover more about how this type of environment affects people, even outside their work life, and determine how they can overcome these types of situations.


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