Petty Tyranny in Organizations

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

513 Scopus citations


A petty tyrant is defined as one who lords his or her power over others. Preliminary empirical work suggests that tyrannical behaviors include arbitrariness and self-aggrandizement, belittling others, lack of consideration, a forcing style of conflict resolution, discouraging initiative, and noncontingent punishment. A model of the antecedents of tyrannical management and the effects of tyranny on subordinates is presented. Petty tyranny is argued to be the product of interactions between individual predispositions (beliefs about the organization, subordinates, and self, and preferences for action) and situational facilitators (institutionalized values and norms, power, and stressors). Tyrannical management is argued to cause low self-esteem, performance, work unit cohesiveness, and leader endorsement, and high frustration, stress, reactance, helplessness, and work alienation among subordinates. It is further argued that these effects may trigger a vicious circle which sustains the tyrannical behavior. Research implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)755-778
Number of pages24
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • leadership
  • organizational dysfunctions
  • tyranny
  • vicious circles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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