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Leadership Critical to Change Cynical Attitudes

Leadership Critical to Change Cynical Attitudes In today’s business climate, work is about change as intense competition mandates that most organizations evolve to stay economically viable.

The task is especially difficult when an individual or workforce has a cynical attitude towards the prospect of change.

A new study shows leaders who can inspire their employees and make them feel confident in their work have the best chance of warding off such attitudes.

“Having a leader who can do those things makes people want to change,” said Katherine DeCelles, an assistant professor of organizational behavior at the University of Toronto.

DeCelles and collaborators conclusions were based on information collected through surveys with nearly 700 correctional officers at 14 different prisons in one mid-Atlantic U.S. state.

Information on employee insubordination was also gathered.

Not only did researchers confirm that employee cynicism contributed to lower levels of commitment towards change, they also found that a more cynical climate in the workplace led to lower levels of individual commitment towards change, regardless of officers’ personal attitudes.

A poor climate could bolster individuals’ negative attitudes too.

“The cynicism starts to become more of a norm, so it becomes much more entrenched,” said  DeCelles.

Cynicism was reduced, however, in workplaces with “transformational” leaders — people who helped employees see themselves as valuable and competent, and who successfully communicated their ideas about why change was necessary and desirable for everybody.

Prisons are rarely used as subjects for organizational behavior research, said DeCelles, who initiated the study after participating in a previous project about rehabilitation activities in U.S. correctional facilities.

However, their rigid, hierarchical structure made prisons ideal for studying the effects of cynicism towards change, she said.

With nearly half a million employees, a 38 percent turnover rate, and two million inmates, the prison system also deserves to be studied because of the resources dedicated to it and the important role it plays in society.

“It really is a significant organization on so many different dimensions and yet we know very little about how it functions,” said DeCelles.

The paper was published in a recent issue of Organization Science.

Source: University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

Business work group photo by shutterstock.

Leadership Critical to Change Cynical Attitudes

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Leadership Critical to Change Cynical Attitudes. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 13 Jan 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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