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Executive Assessment: Bad Bosses Gone Wild

March 22, 2012

I consider myself very lucky.  I have worked for a number of different people within widely different industries.  Every one of the leaders I have worked with has helped to shape my style in one way or another.  I have had the good fortune to work with some very good leadership, and I have learned some very valuable lessons from them.  I have also worked for a few that make you scratch your head and say, “hmmmm….”

We are all human beings, and as such display very different behaviors depending on intrinsic and extrinsic factors.  If you are feeling good, and having a great day at work, your behavior tends to follow suit.  But, if you are off your game, sometimes even good bosses display bad behavior. There is always one take away:  you can find a learning point (positive outcome) in every situation.  

What I learned from the “Intimidation Rules!” Boss

I recall a time early in my career, when I witnessed an interesting act of “Leadership”. I worked in a corporate office and was walking past the door of a regional executive.  Just as I passed the door, I heard him slam his fist on his desk and yell at the top of his lungs at a group of people who were on the phone.  And honestly, this was not the first time I had witnessed this type of outburst. I was not even the target of his wrath, but still the emotion I felt as a result of this behavior was intense. I was afraid. So, from him, I learned that fear is an important part of leadership:

 1. Make your direct reports fear you.  It is important to be afraid of your bosses.  After all, doesn’t fear equal respect?  If you fear them, you will do exactly what they want, right.

2. Don’t be honest with him/her.  If there is a safety incident, try to hide it.  If something did not get done on time, don’t admit it.  Hide issues at all cost…if you don’t, you risk public humiliation and ridicule.

3. Do not allow people to make mistakes.  Failure = weakness, and that is intolerable and unacceptable.

4. Do not encourage people to challenge the status-quo, or suggest process improvements.  If you want them to do something, you have to make them understand that you are the boss, and the work/process must be done your way.

5. Set the stage early and intimidate often.  It ensures that people know who is boss.  And make sure they know that if they don’t meet your expectations, they can leave.

Seriously, all joking aside, does intimidation really get results?  It will often get compliance at best…along with suppression, and submission, absenteeism due to stress-related illness, and turnover.  

Leaders do need to have the courage to step up and address problem employees or take control of difficult situations, modifying their behavior to fit the situation and /or the individual they need to address.  However, taking the time to think through the situation before you act will help maintain your professional demeanor while maintaining the dignity and respect of others, and ultimately net better results.

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Carolyn Cosco