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Tips on How Not to Suffer Hubris Syndrome

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

Supervision is an important part of the daily routine of managers. Managers have power and authority at various levels and thus have great influence over employees' fate in terms of their motivation, commitment, performance evaluation, and even skill development that will help them take on higher tasks with greater responsibility.

In addition, supervisors are the ones who recommend employees for contract extension or termination, as well as for promotions and bonuses in compensation.

This great influence on employees' lives can often lead to problematic relationships between supervisors and employees, especially when supervisors cannot achieve the goals or privileges they desire.

Hubris Syndrome

Hubris syndrome is defined as the disorder caused by possession of power, especially power associated with great accomplishments over an extended period of time.

This brain disorder is most commonly observed in leaders with enormous power, such as heads of state who can become dictators if they abuse that power.

However, this syndrome, or at least some of its symptoms, can be observed in any superior who has even a modicum of power.

At Wells Fargo, a scandalous fraud and unethical business practices occurred in 2016. When Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf was asked to explain to Congress the 2 million false accounts and the firing of 5,300 employees after the fraud was discovered, he showed no apologetic behavior and blamed others, especially the fired employees, but himself. The CEO's behavior was a well-demonstrated case of a corrupt leader who held on to power for a long time, according to Harvard Business Review.

Hubris syndrome is the disorder caused by possession of power, especially power associated with great accomplishments over an extended period of time. This brain disorder is most commonly observed in leaders with enormous power.

Supervision in the workplace

Supervisors should be wary of hubris syndrome because they may become one themselves.

They occupy a very important position in the lives of many people and their families and loved ones. Therefore, the relationships between supervisors and employees can lead to problematic supervision.

According to a study at APA PsycNet by Grant and his fellow researchers, problematic supervision is characterized by four main reasons: confrontational criticism, direct blaming, unclear or hidden intentions, and a directive learning process or mentoring instead of an interactive and employee-driven process.

On the other hand, according to supervisors interviewed in the study, typical difficulties in workplace supervision include employee competence, ethical issues, and employee characteristics, which may include low emotional awareness, problems with autonomy, personal issues, professional identity, respect for client diversity, and personal motivation, as well as resistance, defensiveness, and negative transference.

It is important for supervisors to approach their employees with compassion and empathy.

Empathy is feeling the emotions of others as if they were your own, and compassion is the intention to contribute to the happiness and well-being of others.

Compassion and empathy are very important leadership traits and should be an important component of leadership development programs. A compassionate leader does not suffer from the syndrome of hubris and does not abuse his power toward his followers.

On the contrary, a compassionate leader proactively seeks opportunities to show compassion to people around them.

The former Cisco CEO John Chambers had a system in place at the company to ensure that he was notified within 48 hours when an employee sufferEd a serious loss or illness. He personally wrote a letter to the affected employee and offered the necessary support.

Every manager, supervisor, and leader in a company should make compassion a habit in the workplace and reach out to their employees by asking, "How can I help this person?" If compassion and empathy are not among the most important leadership traits in the workplace, there is a greater likelihood that conflict will arise between supervisors and employees and between employees.

Managers should be able to resolve conflict, manage it, and discuss it with those involved.

Inexperienced or novice managers usually do not try to proactively find strategies to resolve conflicts, but leave it to the parties involved to resolve them spontaneously. Unfortunately, this approach is nothing more than sweeping the dirt under the rug.

When managers start resolving conflicts too late, they become more complicated and difficult to resolve, ultimately negatively impacting the manager, the customers, and the entire organization.

To successfully manage workplace conflict and find resolutions, managers must actively listen to the parties involved and then understand the situation and grievances causing the conflict.

The manager then assesses the challenges and proposes a solution that is fair and equitable. The solution should be discussed with the affected employees or other parties involved with the utmost confidentiality.


Supervision never ends. For many supervisors, it can be a job for life. The characteristics of successful supervision should be developed at every stage and every year of a manager's career until the end.

Managers should look for ways to show employees care, understanding, and compassion to gain their trust and motivate them to work for them. The company culture should reflect these important qualities, which will have a positive impact on the entire company, as employees will be more engaged and motivated.

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