London - Is your new boss a nightmare? Then it may be because he or she feels threatened.
A new study has shown that people who are not used to holding a position of power are more likely to be vengeful when in charge.
Those experienced in wielding power, on the other hand, are more tolerant to criticism and things going wrong because they feel less vulnerable.
The research, co-led by Dr Mario Weick of the University of Kent, and Dr Peter Strelan, of the University of Adelaide, Australia, explored the relationship between power and revenge.
Researchers based their conclusions on a series of four experimental studies conducted in the UK and Australia involving 500 people.
Across all four studies, participants responded to different offences such as plagiarism, negligence, gossiping and drunken violence. Crucially, some participants were exposed to power before the researchers measured participants’ inclination to seek revenge.
Other participants were not exposed to power, or experienced an episode of powerlessness, depending on the study.
In all the studies, after being exposed to power, individuals not accustomed to having power sought more revenge than self-assured individuals who tend to exercise power more frequently.
“Power is not simply good or bad, it affects different people in different ways,” said Weick, of Kent’s School of Psychology.
“Our studies highlight some of the negative effects power can have on people who are less accustomed to being in charge.
“For those more accustomed to power, on the other hand, the consequences are actually quite positive, as far as people’s revenge tendencies are concerned.”
The researchers also showed that it is not only the ability to impact others that can bring out different inclinations to retaliate in people.
Body posture was also shown to have an effect.
In one study, one group of participants stood upright with an expansive body posture, while another group of participants sat crouched on the floor.
In another study, participants either made a fist, or an open palm, whilst reading about transgressions.
Dr Weick said: “Both the expanded body posture and the fist-gesture instilled a sense of power in participants and led to greater vengeance in people who are less accustomed to power, compared to more self-assured participants.
“These differences did not emerge when participants sat crouched on the floor or made an open-palm gesture.”
Dr Strelan added: “Fear of retaliation could be one reason that prevents people at the bottom of hierarchies from acquiring powerful positions.” - Daily Mail