The News We Didn't Want To Hear: We Should Thank Mean Bosses For Productive Workers

If you've ever had a boss who was always breathing down your neck, you might want to take a moment to call him or her up and say thanks. Yup, that's right: Apparently strict bosses are driving our economy and making us more productive employees. According to two studies featured in The Atlantic , a watchful eye is key to productive employees.

If, like most people, you've had a few different jobs, you know how it is. Bosses have all kinds of different ways to get their employees to perform. Some choose to monitor and to punish endlessly; others choose to let workers run wild, trusting they'll do the right things. Strategies usually tend to be either based on punishment or reward, and we're all pretty much trained to prefer rewards. But, as is turns out, being scared of the boss' power is the best way to work your ass off.

Just think of the 2008 recession. As lay-offs kept rolling, people kept getting more afraid they would lose their jobs. Basically, every day was a test where employees had to prove they were worth their salaries. Turns out, productivity actually increased when fewer employees were around, according to a paper by Edward P. Lazear Kathryn L. Shaw Christopher Stanton, "MAKING DO WITH LESS: WORKING HARDER DURING RECESSIONS." If you don't believe it, it's all on their chart logging productivity per employee as the recession unfolded:

Productivity rises during the recession. What's more, workers in states with high unemployment rates experienced an even higher rise in productivity. Fear will get you moving.

It gets scarier. Not only are we more productive when our boss is physically looking over our shoulders, productivity is also significantly boosted when cameras are installed. The New York Times explains the findings published in the recent paper "Cleaning House: The Impact of Information Technology Monitoring on Employee Theft and Productivity":

The researchers measured the impact of software that monitors employee-level theft and sales transactions, before and after the technology was installed, at 392 restaurants in 39 states [...] after installing the monitoring software, the revenue per restaurant increased by an average of $2,982 a week, or about 7 percent.

Employees were feeling the Panopticon effect and actually got off their procrastinating asses and sold as much as they possibly could. Yikes.

But don't despair yet — as much as these studies seem undeniable, there's also lots of research that shows that a more relaxed attitudes makes for more productive (and happier!) employees. Whether it be shorter days, four-day workweeks, summer vacays, and short breaks, there are lots of more lenient ideas out there. Seems like some middle-ground would be the best solution — working hard and taking your job seriously, but still checking out the occasional cat video.

Chart: "MAKING DO WITH LESS: WORKING HARDER DURING RECESSIONS"