Mangers are like parents in some respects. They can have a long-term influence on their teams in a variety of ways. This is why bad managers are so destructive. Their practices can be easily spread around as the people exposed to them early in their careers come to think of bad practices as the norm.
Unlearning that message can take a lot of work, so it is important to support managers in this respect as much as possible. Recognizing where these tendencies come from is also worth looking at as often aggression really only needs the right environment to fester.
The old adage about power corrupting is very relevant here. Human beings are, for better or worse, endowed with a natural penchant for dominance as part of our survival programming. This can emerge more strongly in insecure managers, who go unsupervised for long periods. This is part of the problem. When unchecked, a person with considerable authority can be seduced by a belief in themselves or a drift towards aggressive tactics. Furthermore, these practices are often only reserved for the people that report to them and a different persona can emerge when they are dealing with their peers or superiors.
A lot of ink has been spilled through the years concerning grievance and Labor Court issues, where managers have been called to account and a sort of ping pong match of he-said she-said begins. It has been H-Training’s experience that many of these managers are in fact blind to their behaviors and often project characteristics onto their team members that are in fact their own feelings about themselves. However, it is often the power factor that trips this switch, which is why they are able to shift so seamlessly back into being nicer people when they are not in control.
Impoverished Leadership is one of the styles identified by Blake & Mouton. These are managers who essentially abdicate their responsibility. Some of them may not be good at having difficult conversations or may allow themselves to be led by their teams. These are the types of managers, who although they may have direct knowledge of a poor management practice and the impact of it, feel ill-equipped to do anything about it. What this does is layer bad management with even more bad management. The cases brought against organisations can expand to include a second manager (or indeed an organization), if it can be proven that the problem and behavior of someone who reported to them was highlighted, perhaps in writing and never acted upon.
Another instance where these bad practices could be allowed to thrive are where the two more senior managers have a pre-existing relationship. This is yet another scenario where nepotism causes more problems than it is worth. Friendship and loyalty can greatly cloud people’s feelings and lead to bad judgement. We have regularly worked with new mangers at H-Training who have developed habits of making commercial decisions from a place of emotion, which is a great liability. The line between friendship and professionalism needs to be clearly delineated. But furthermore, professionals need to treat their teams fairly and behave with integrity. This is how to build a better culture of leadership, but it starts from the ground up.
What are the messages that permeate the working culture in your organization and how can we start to change them?