Bosses who bully: Why do mean managers never get fired?

Isn’t it better working with someone pleasant? A nice, well-respected manager can get more work from their employees than someone who yells all the time. A recent survey from Canadian HR Reporter asked HR managers about abrasive leaders (i.e. jerks, or bullies) at work. The results confirmed what we probably would have guessed anyway—nobody likes working for a nasty person.

The top three negative effects were reported by HR insiders as:

  • Lower employee retention (68%)
  • Increased stress (86 %)
  • Decreased team performance (73 %)

Happy employees not only work harder, they have actually been linked to profitability. So how come companies are so resistant to dealing with jerks? Abrasive managers, it seems, are often viewed as “irreplaceable” because of their specialized business knowledge, and addressing their behavioural issues often falls below other priorities.

Yet 65% of workers say getting rid of their boss would make them happier than a pay raise, as discussed in this recent Forbes article.

This is not a new problem in the corporate world. Highly talented people do not always make effective managers. Abrasive personality types, while not diplomatic, often produce results and drive revenue, leaving them in a strategically sound place with senior leaders. Plus, the cost of either sufficiently dealing with problem or finding someone can come with a hefty price tag.

So how do you deal with a mean or unpleasant manager in your organization? If termination is not a realistic option, those surveyed favoured performance feedback from the abrasive leader’s manager (43 %), progressive discipline (40 %), executive coaching (38 %) and 360-degree feedback (36 %).

You don’t have to be a bully to get results from employees. Nice, respectful managers will ultimately keep your best employees working harder. Check out these 5 signs of an extraordinary boss for some ideas.

How would you deal with not-so-nice leaders? Have you found a strategy than works?


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