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Coaching Abrasive Leaders: Using Action Research to Reduce Suffering and Increase Productivity in Organizations

L Crawshaw International Journal of Coaching in Organizations 2010

Abrasive leaders rub their coworkers the wrong way. Their words and actions create interpersonal friction—friction that grates on subordinates, peers, and even superiors, eroding employee motivation and organizational productivity. In its more extreme forms, abrasive behavior constitutes workplace psychological harassment, also known as workplace bullying. This article describes a coaching method—boss whispering—that engages abrasive leaders in action research with the objective of developing less destructive, more productive leadership styles. The method is based upon sociobiological and psychoanalytic concepts of threat, anxiety, and defense, the concept of emotional management, and findings from empathy research.

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