Horrible bosses

I've spent a lot of time this weekend supporting somebody after being been treated dispicably by their manager, who has made completely unfair decisions which are devastating. Presumably they've done it because they think they can get away with it and it makes them look good - it may have ended somebody's career, but that's OK as it will enhance theirs.

Why is it that managers feel it's OK to treat their employees so badly just because they think they can get away with it? Probably because they do get away with it and have done so on many occasions - it's very stressful for employees to fight back against poor treatment and often people give up - which is understandable, but with help and support it can be much less stressful. 

The way I've seen some people treated by their manager (I'm purposefully not using the word leader for obvious reasons) is nothing short of bullying, and whilst it's very hard to do - bullies need standing up to, otherwise they carry on. In the school playground if a kid gets back up and bops the bully back it's the bully who runs away crying because they're not quite as sure of themselves as they made out - they often victimise people because they're weak and insecure themselves.

It's the same in management - there are some amazing leaders out there, but there are some awful managers who rule with an iron fist in an unfair way and they shouldn't get away with it. Yes, employers should ensure these behaviours don't take place but often they don't know - the bullying can be subtle, and usually they're very good at managing up the organisation - we used to call it 'brown-nosing' but I think the modern terminology is 'stakeholder management', which seems to be a key attribute in some organisations and not actual leadership ability!

Whilst it's very sad to deal with, I always feel a sense of satisfaction helping people to gain a sense of justice and fairness, but there's also great satisfaction in helping managers and organisations to become accountable for their actions and to avoid similar issues in future. Far too often the capability and performance of managers is not addressed, whether it be conduct or capability reasons - it must be addressed.

Don't get me wrong, often individuals act inappropriately and if that's the case I have no issue telling the employee they're out of order, but again the root cause is the manager - if an employee steps out of line repeatedly, performs poorly, is constantly late or never comes to work, etc - grow a pair and deal with it. It's your job! By not addressing poor behaviour you condone it.

The number of times I've been approached with a suggestion that an employee needs to be removed for poor performance and when I look at formal performance reviews they've been good for years - the manager has just avoided a difficult conversation. If you can't have a bit of a difficult but honest conversation with your employee then it's you that's the under-performer, not necessarily them - do something about it! If you don't know how to do it ask for help - a manager who knows their development needs, asks for help and is willing to help themselves is turning into a good leader.

Leading people is simple - know your people, respect them, treat them fairly and don't abstain from your own accountabilities. 

We'll continue to support through the formal processes in this case and if sense doesn't prevail we'll work with our legal friends and go through the employment tribunal process, but yet again this is another example where proper leadership could have avoided massive stress, time and cost for everybody involved.


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