Friday, June 30, 2006

She’s Got Bette Davis Eyes… but Joan Crawford’s Management Style

As we advance up (and in some cases, down) the corporate ladder, we meet a diverse range of managers with assorted characteristics. Some are fair, considerate, and flexible with styles that fit nicely with our personalities, work style and temperament. Some are unfair, inconsiderate and rigid, who behave as if the commercial world was a war zone. There are those that work with us as partners to those who live permanently behind closed doors. Shapes, sizes and blood to acid counts vary: maybe your particular manager is sexist or believes that because they are single and childless, that you have no life outside work also. Perhaps they assign too many projects with ridiculous deadlines, don’t respond quickly enough to your business needs, then shout and scream when completion dates are missed. People whose management skills are in such desperate need of polishing, they can bring other people to tears and whose very entrance into a meeting room can lower the wind chill factor by 20 degrees.

Meet the Toxic Manager - 90 parts emotion, 10 parts logic, and a 100 per cent sad reality of corporate life.

A toxic manager in, or for that matter, running your company can have detrimental, unproductive and demoralizing effects in the workplace. Their aggressive, rigid and emotional style can force staff to become stifled and irritable, which can later manifest itself through uninspired effort, increased lateness or absenteeism, staff attrition and, of course, dollar cost to the company as people ‘conga’ out the door for more emotionally stable pastures.

So, why has this deep, dark secret of the corporate family not become extinct? Primarily, because the financials allow it - if the individual generates considerable revenues or fees, few (if any) negative questions will ever see the light of day.

However, in the absence of termination of such staff, it is comforting to know there are mechanisms that company and staff can enact to solve or prevent such situations.

For corporate’s part, we can encourage staff discussion. However, not all affected employees will speak out in public, therefore, via as many avenues as possible (such as email or meetings outside the office), keep the communication highway open. Exit interviews help, but are normally one meeting too late.

Companies can implement 360º performance appraisals. Confidential employee feedback on supervisors is tremendously useful in highlighting such key attributes as listening, understanding, responsiveness… or a lack thereof.

Dictate the future. Incorporate treating employees in a respectful and proper manner as part of the managerial job specification. This clarifies the firm’s position and emphasises treating people well as a component to successful management. Make managers answerable for turnover. By doing so, managers can no longer be deemed ‘excellent’ simply based on the P&L alone.

As an employee… what can you do if you work for a bad boss?
Make a list of things the manager does to disturb you. Record actual occurrences and how such behavior may, or does impact your performance. Develop suggestions for how your manager could act / react differently and meet with your manager to discuss. Be prepared for your boss to see ‘red mist,’ but keep your own emotions in check. Given your manager’s maturity-level, the meeting could be quite positive or conclude dreadfully.

As a last resort, reach out to human resources - the last mainstay of privacy, where all confidential knowledge you pass along should remain as such. However, and although we would like to believe most firms would not want a manager on their payroll who is hampering staff performance, morale or turnover, the reality is corporate do not always see it this way and you may become labeled a trouble-maker. As such, your longevity with the organisation may be drastically diminished.

Having said this, the worst you can do is to do nothing, in a hope the problem will magically go away. Don’t count on that happening - most leopards can’t change their spots – and life is too short to allow any job, manager, or organisation affect your health, physical or mental.

If you can’t find a way to resolve the issue of a toxic boss – including expressing interest in a transfer to another department - it may be time to commence a new job search. Naturally, we don’t recommend quitting before securing a more conducive working environment, however you may need to quit simply to save yourself… if work becomes too insufferable.


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