If you Think employees do their best work when the boss is around, Think again
Author Jacqueline Detwiler
If you didn’t know this study had been authored by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Ethan Bernstein, you might think it was made by a group of cubicle dwellers who’d rather spend their working hours scrolling through cat photos than filling out TPS reports. Workers are more productive when their boss can’t observe them? Yeah, right! And yet, it’s true: The five-month study detailed in Administrative Science Quarterly found that workers at a mobile phone facility in China who were hidden from the boss by a curtain were about 10 to 15 percent more productive than those who were open to observation. The researchers—some of whom were covertly embedded among the workers—reported that the increase in production can be explained by workers using efficient techniques that hadn’t officially been approved, rather than the more burdensome procedures expected by management—a strange finding, given the notorious effectiveness of most bureaucracies.