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COMPANY CULTURE: BOSSES FROM HELL
Finnish researchers demonstrated a link between the way employees were treated by managers and their health. Workers who were treated unjustly had a 41% higher risk of sickness absence than those treated well.
Employees reporting to these managers are not likely to come forward in a company that tacitly encourages bosses from hell. These workers will merely find themselves another job or a position reporting to a different manager.
Credit taking is harmful to corporate advancement because top management is unsure or worse, misinformed about the identity of the high performing employee and cannot take steps to retain such an employee.
What is corporate bullying? The Chartered Management Institute of London defines it as “Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, or abuse or misuse of power, which violates the dignity of, or creates a hostile environment which undermines, humiliates, denigrates or injures the recipient.”
A study published in New Scientist magazine has found that there are far more sub-criminal psychopaths – self-serving, narcissistic schemers who display a stunning lack of empathy, but are not criminally inclined – at large in the business world than had previously been thought. Specifically, about 600, 000 exist. And many of them end up in managerial positions.
Due to their similar ruthless traits to sadistic killers, ‘corporate psychopaths’ often gravitate towards roles in business, the media, law and politics where their scheming and bullying is just part of everyday work life. They tend to be manipulative, arrogant, callous, impatient, impulsive, unreliable, superficially charming and prone to fly into rages. They break promises, take credit for the work of others and blame everyone else when things go wrong. Corporate psychopaths resort to white collar crimes.
“Psychopaths are social predators and like all predators they are looking for feeding grounds,” Professor Robert Hare of the University of British Columbia in Canada said. “Wherever you get power, prestige and money you will find them. The most important thing is to be aware, if you suspect you are working with a psychopath. Once you take that position you are in a better position to deal with them.”
But the research – which is not the first to find that sub-criminal psychopaths tend to show up more in management ranks than elsewhere in companies – has a deadly serious message. A set of managers unfit for their positions are rising and they can trigger nuclear company and economic failures.
Organizations need to be aware that they are perfect targets for such individuals and protect their interests. These types of managers will stifle creativity and silence ideas that could really move the company forward. Thought, not money is the real capital of business.
Unfortunately top management can aid and abet. The Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management at the Technion Institute in Israel found that it pays more for managers to get angry than for ordinary employees, and it pays more for men to get angry than women. Bosses from hell do cross gender lines.
“In order to succeed in a company that measures people by results, it is not enough just to be good,” says researcher Noga Prat, who decided to move from being a software development manger into human resources. “In the event of failure, if you take responsibility upon yourself, there is a chance that you will be identified with this failure and this will impede your advancement. On the other hand, if you get angry, and someone doesn’t know the details, there is a chance that you can throw the blame on others and justify yourself,” she explains.
“It is more worthwhile for the male employee to get angry than for the female employee,” explains Noga Prat. “For female employees, it is not worth it to express anger, as opposed to women managers for whom it is worth it. When women reach management positions they are perceived of as “men” from the point of view of the management traits expected of them, and anger apparently is one of those traits.”
When they were asked what they see happening to bullying bosses in their real-life workplaces, 44% of the high-tech employees said that they tended to get promotion. But only 25% said that acting aggressively benefits more junior employees.
This business menace may be tackled by the junior employees. Through courageous confrontation by several employees in possession of concrete evidence, acting with top management or Board members, the corporate bully is silenced. This scenario poses risks of demotion, stagnation, or dismissal to the workers involved. Those who have taken this road already had another job offer.
At a branch of the former Intercontinental Bank Plc, the employees resigned en masse in furious protest at the lopsided downsizing being carried out by Access Bank Plc which recently acquired the bank. The courageous employees knew they were to be laid off anyway and by resigning at once left behind an empty bank branch. The costs of rehiring, retraining, loss of customers, loss of customer loyalty and consequent loss of market share can only be imagined.
The greatest deterrent to damaging directors is an actively implemented anti bullying policy. The existence of such a policy is not, in itself sufficient, saying that “all policies are on the intranet – find it if you can…” is simply not enough. There should be formal steps and managers should have the courage to follow them.
Organization management culture is critical. The organization is hypocritical if while it has anti-bullying policies, the culture of senior managers is to bully other managers. Any managers complaining about bullying are thereafter treated with suspicion and distrust.
Corporate will also plays a key part. If the senior manager decides inappropriate behaviour is taking place, the senior manager has to express commitment to monitor future behaviour more meaningful than saying, “I can keep him off your back for a year but that’s the best I can do”.
Implementation must have clear communication and training on how to handle bosses from hell. Policies should provide a clear statement of the organization’s attitude to bullying and how it will respond to bullying incidents. It should form part of the HR orientation package for new recruits and provide guidance and support.
Policies covering bullying in the workplace may feature a number of elements, as indicated in Table 8 below.
|Formal process e.g. grievance procedure||92|
|Guidelines on acceptable behaviour||83|
|Definition of bullying||80|
|Defined responsibilities for managers||75|
|Contact point for advice||64|
|Informal process e.g. discussion with manager/HR||61|
|Internal confidential counseling||48|
|Defined responsibilities of trade union/employee representatives||33|
Analysis of the above elements shows that external mediation is the most effective deterrent. Some individuals welcome the chance to raise concerns without entering a prolonged formal process. However, managers need to treat any concerns seriously.
No single, off-the-shelf policy will suit every organization and a variety of elements may be useful in developing an effective bullying policy. The culture of the organization, the type of business and the personality and management style of those in positions of authority are all factors which must be taken into consideration when developing a policy. Organizations may wish to develop a stand-alone ‘anti-bullying’ policy, or include bullying in a wider-ranging ‘dignity at work’ policy.
picture credit: technorati.com