Sunday, October 29, 2017

Do You Dislike Your Boss?

Times have changed over the last five decades. There was a time where organizations had to develop and secure the best leaders to retain their best talent. Although poor leaders existed, they were often quickly identified by a high turnover of staff in their area – as employees voted with their feet.
Yet more recently and especially after the global financial crisis jobs have been scarce in many industry sectors, globally, with supply outstripping demand and hence poor leaders have been able to entrench themselves in many organizations, both large and small, as employees are less able to ‘vote’ with their feet anymore.
This is bad for everyone – organizations, employees and stakeholders and the only winners are the bad leaders - where way too many are able to ‘survive’ in today’s global economy, as many employees are ‘forced’ to put up with their poor dysfunctional behaviour.
According to the most recent Gallop ‘State of the Global Workplace’ study, half of all employees in the United States have quit jobs at some point in their career in order to get away from their bosses. The figures are similar or even higher for workers in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa.
The same survey, consistent with previous ones, also shows a clear correlation between an employee’s engagement (that is, motivation and effort to achieve organizational goals) and their relationship with the boss. Where 77% of employees who said they were engaged at work described interactions with managers in positive terms (for example, my supervisor focuses on my strengths).
What’s really worrying is that research has shown that an engaged workforce is a key driver of organizational success, and yet according to Gallop, only 13% of employees worldwide fall into that category.
Manfred Kets de Vries asks in a Harvard Business Review article: “What are these ‘bad’ leaders doing? Frequently cited grievances include micromanaging, bullying, avoiding conflict, ducking decisions, stealing credit, shifting blame, hoarding information, failing to listen, setting a poor example, slacking; and not developing staff. Such dysfunctional behaviour would make anyone unhappy and unproductive. However, whatever sins your boss commits, managing your relationship with them is a critical part of your job. Doing it well is a key indicator of how effective you are.”
Across the globe there are too many demotivated employees and their organizations seem unable or unwilling to try to shift the balance. The problem often starts right at the top with corporate boards and shareholders only focused on the short-term , where a ‘culling’ of the poor leadership would not be good for the share price in the short-term – although it would, if done correctly ensure much greater returns in the long-term, than they will get keeping the status quo.
The short-term focus mind set is destroying the very fabric of developing world class, efficient leaders who can develop their organizations to completely new levels of performance and innovation; two key factors required for competing in the global 21st century market place.
Kets de Vries offers some basic tips and tricks for employees who work for ‘bad’ bosses;
“Research has shown time and time again that practicing empathy can be a game changer in difficult boss-subordinate relationships, and not just as a top-down phenomenon. Experts such as Steven Covey and Daniel Goleman emphasize the importance of using this key aspect of emotional intelligence to manage ‘up’. Where neuroscience also suggests that it’s an effective strategy, since mirror neurons in the human brain naturally prompt people to reciprocate behaviours.
Second - Look at yourself. People who struggle to work well with their bosses are nearly always part of the problem themselves: their behaviour is in some way preventing them from being recognized and valued.”
However there is a naivety with these suggestions. With the first ‘tip’ many poor leaders just ‘lap up’ the empathy and actually don’t reciprocate it – rather taking the empathy as ‘tacit recognition’ statements that they are in fact ‘great’ leaders. These people refuse to accept their weaknesses and hide them behind all the poor traits that were listed above.
Sadly if these simple steps don’t work and you don’t have a solid case to take to your HR department – and remember it will have to be solid, with factual evidence and not conjecture and opinion. Then most employees start to just go through the motions at work and try to minimize contact with their boss – hoping that by playing the waiting game their boss will move onwards and upwards or move preferably out completely. The problem with this strategy is that during this ‘playing for time’ phase your relationship is unchanged at best, or deteriorating at worst, as from the poor leader’s perspective you’re not ‘putting in the effort or being a team player.’ Which they use against you to make life even more miserable.
Often it’s not the best strategy to play for the time when the boss leaves – but play for time when you can leave and use the time actively seeking alternative employment – specifically at a time while you are still feeling positive about yourself, your self-worth, and your future ambitions. Since being stuck in a ‘playing for time’ scenario for too long can have a negative psychological effect on you and ultimately your health.
There is definitely strength in numbers – but often in business it seems to be everyone for themselves. If a group of people can go to leaders they trust and ‘flag’ the poor leadership traits they are experiencing and have some constructive solutions, then maybe, just maybe, your voices will be heard. But it’s often a very risky strategy and you find those people who have promised to be ‘right behind you’ – are, when the time comes, so far behind you, you can’t see them for dust.
There’s a great quote that states “don’t push a loyal person to the point where they no longer care” – too many poor leaders are doing that on a daily basis around the world and sadly it’s a lose-lose scenario for everyone involved.
I just hope that key stakeholders will take a stance soon to bring effective leadership back into the workplace.
Kets de Vries, M.F.R. (2016). Managing Yourself. Do You Hate Your Boss? Harvard Business Review, December, 2016. P.97-101.

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