By Brian Lucas
Dedicated to someone lost long ago, taken by the angels all too soon, because she was one of them!
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” ― Desmond Tutu
This is obviously an emotional and very important topic. A few weeks back, an article was posted in LinkedIn, in which I started a side stream about toxic managers. My comment touched a nerve and generated quite a few likes and comments. The relationship between agile and open and honest communication even with the highest level managers is paramount. Unfortunately, bad management and tolerance of toxic managers is rampant. I just came across a study by the Employment Law Alliance that has very disturbing statistics. Let’s look at a few statistics from the study:
- 50% of all employees have been the target of a bully boss.
- 95% of the bullying is witnessed by a third party.
- 82% of those bullied lose their jobs.
- 81% of the bullies are managers.
- 7% of the bullies end up being punished through censure, transfer or termination.
There were other disturbing statistics, such as 84% of the targets are women, but I wanted to concentrate on these five and what it says about management. Let’s take them in order:
The first statistic (50% of all employees have been the target of a bully boss) tells us that this is a prevalent issue and CEOs need to move this to the top of their priority list and stop ignoring it. Organizations that see, on average, a 75% employee disengagement should look to this factor as a major concern.
The second statistic (95% of the bullying is witnessed by a third party) tells us that management has established an environment where it is unhealthy for employees to admit they observed unacceptable behavior by a manager. I recently made a comment on a post of Jeff Weiner’s entitled, Three Musts to Retaining Superstar Talent. In my comment, I said, he missed an opportunity to follow up on his statement about, “burning bridges by speaking hard truths”. A great fault of executives is their inability to have employees tell them direct and honest truths about themselves, their policies, their managers, etc. My comment received 42 likes so far, so it touched a nerve. Obviously this is a dark side of CEOs they don’t want to admit. Perhaps there is too much emphasis on superstar talent and not enough on the general workforce.
The third statistic (82% of those bullied lose their jobs) is an incredible condemnation of executive management and the human resource organizations that should be protecting the employees. Just how bad does this number have to become for organizations to take this seriously. No wonder more employees do not report management infractions.
The fourth statistic (81% of the bullies are managers) speaks for itself. Management is the overall culprit here and ultimately culpable for this action. It reinforces and legitimizes the term “toxic”. How do you think the employees that are being bullied feel about coming to work every day? The response that management usually resorts to is, “If you don’t like it here, quit!” Some employees are single parents or others in difficult situations and cannot afford to lose their job and have little time to look for another.
I left the worst for last. Only 7% of the bullies end up being punished through censure, transfer or termination. This means 93% of these toxic managers, bully employees with impunity. Could there be a worse condemnation of CEOs being out of touch with their workforce. Until CEOs are willing to confront the issue of toxic management, they will not address the disengagement of the workforce. All the other tricks and tips they offer will only have minimal returns or be a waste of effort. Management needs to learn when you have a willing and engaged workforce, that has a well founded trust in management, you can accomplish anything. Bullying people is never a path to this type of success. If a CEO wants the organization to become agile, they must first loose their arrogance and insist the senior management team does the same. The resulting wealth of workforce engagement will make this exercise in humility worth the effort. Remember until next time – keep agile!