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Bosses Will Exploit Workers If Workers Don't Know It's Happening: Study

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Bosses tend to take advantage of their employees when the employees don't realize it's happening, research shows.
Bosses tend to take advantage of their employees when the employees don't realize it's happening, research shows.

Pro-tip for all you bosses out there: It's easier to take advantage of your employees when they don't realize quite how much you're benefiting from them.

A recent study published through the University of Heidelberg economics department claims that managers are more likely to try and exploit their workers when the workers don't have enough information to know just what the managers are getting out of them. (h/t to The Washington Post.)

For their study, the researchers set up a workplace scenario in which a manager had the power to control a worker's wages. The manager and the worker were attempting to finish a project together, and the more effort the worker put into the project, the less work the manager had to do.

When the worker knew about the relationship between their own efforts and the manager's, the manager was less likely to cut the worker's pay. But when the worker was in the dark about how their own productivity affected the manager, the manager made "frequent and pronounced" attempts to squeeze the worker to do more for less.

Plenty of employees know what it's like to get squeezed these days. American productivity has been rising steadily for the past three decades, but the ones who've mainly benefited have been the rich. Wages for most workers are barely growing.

That widening gap has become painfully apparent since the onset of the Great Recession. Even as poverty levels reached a record high in the last few years, corporate profits are as robust as ever. And the current state of the labor market -- still lousy, in case you hadn't heard -- means that worker wages are unlikely to take a big jump any time soon, since employers don't have a lot of incentive to start paying people more when there are still more than 12 million Americans looking for work.

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