WATCH #BadBosses: Judith Devries Discusses Bullies in Leadership at Oakland University

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Several studies have shown that leadership, more than money, is a top motivator for workers and fosters employee engagement and morale. On the heels of Donald Sterling’s infamous racist rant, which subsequently cost him his NBA team and caused teammates to protest, as well as Challenger’s most recent CEO turnover report which identified 6 leaders who could be put in the category of bad bosses, companies have turned their attention to bad leadership and how to combat it. “Bullies are more than those that spout hate or bias,” said Judith Devries, Challenger’s Director of Learning, “They can be subtle, using microagressions to assert their position of power. This can come in the form of taking credit for other people’s work, not allowing others to speak, dismissive body language, or as simple as mispronouncing a colleague’s or subordinate’s name.” The effects of bad leadership can cause a cessation of ideas, downturn in employee morale, loss of talent, and hostile litigation, all of which could certainly impact the bottom line.

The most difficult aspect of a bullying boss is how to remedy it. Workers who complain about a bad boss may become targets, and human resources executives may be powerless to take on the boss. “You need help to fix bad leadership. The workers themselves usually cannot do this alone.” If the leadership is broken, it will most likely take an external force to coach the leader, and ultimately the organization, to health.

Types of Bad Bosses

The Conqueror – This type of boss is physically imposing, micro manages, and hoards knowledge to keep control.
Performers – These leaders typically have low self-esteem, and therefore target others to feel empowered.
Manipulators – Manipulators work out of self-interest. They threaten and are vindictive, take credit for others’ work, and lack accountability.

How can you remedy bad leadership?
Policies must come from the top with formal anti-bullying policies that are enforced. These policies must have processes that allow for reporting, confronting, and eradicating workplace bullies, including those at the top.

What if the bad leadership is at the top and not open to such a policy?
In that difficult position, the worker must decide whether he or she can tolerate the toxic environment. This situation usually leads to talent drain and possibly litigation.

An executive coach, as an unbiased third party, can be used to asses the situation, identify instances of bad leadership and bullying, and coach leaders to change the behavior.

“The leader doesn’t, and often won’t, identify their own behavior as bullying. But that hardly matters as long as they change that behavior to foster a healthy environment, where their workers can express themselves and do their jobs without fear.”

Check out the video for great discussions, stories, and experiences with bad bosses and how to combat the office bully from Oakland University's Equity & Inclusion Conference, Leveraging Diversity: Affirming and Empowering the Educational Community.