We all know them. The boss who constantly berates their people. The team leader who creates division within the team rather than harmony. The manager who condescends to talk to the individuals in their team, but rarely pays attention to their opinions. These are definitely toxic bosses.
I was called in a company recently to help with their customer service. Very quickly I discovered that they had over 10 people in a customer service position in the last two years. Upon investigation, I discovered that there were no procedures in place to support training, the office furniture and conditions of the office were uncomfortable and above all the boss/business owner was demeaning and a micro manager. These toxic bosses create toxic environments. If you’re in one of these offices, you’ll feel like you are among “The Walking Dead”.
These people drain the energy of the individuals in their groups. They are belittling, trivial and obnoxious. They consider themselves superior to other people and they don’t really care who knows it. All they are concerned about is “getting the job done”. Or perhaps it’s “straightening this place out”. As part of their drive to accomplish their goal they dismiss or ignore the other members of the organization. And eventually it affects them too,
It is vital that you, as a hiring manager or human resource executive, to be able to identify these toxic bosses. They can severely diminish productivity while increasing cost. They can make a large company an unpleasant place to work, and they can destroy a small company.
How to uncover a toxic boss
Often all you have to do is walk around. Listen, employees might seek you out to point out their toxic boss. If that isn’t going to happen it usually is due to the fear that the toxic boss builds in the organization. Then you’ll have to get the facts some other way.
Consult clients, or even former clients, of your company. Pay attention to the side remarks they make as they answer your direct concerns about something else. Get them to talk about the managerial strengths of the organization and be sensitive about what or who they leave out.
Investigate overhead costs. One of the leading costs of a toxic boss is in personnel issues. Generally these costs are accumulated into overhead accounts as opposed to charged to operating units. Regardless if your company’s annual employee turnover rate is within norms for its industry, check out the numbers.
Does one group have significantly more people quitting (or retiring) as compared to others? Have there been occasions where a few individuals from the same unit have left the company within a short time period? Does one department have greater overtime costs in contrast to others. Have the employees in a particular department used up all their vacation and more of their sick days than the average?
How to handle it?
Someone who can be described as a toxic boss didn’t get to where they are devoid of being effective in something. If they weren’t capable of some specific element of the business they would have been fired long ago. You’ll want to evaluate the value of this individual to the company and weigh it against their cost to the company.
If the toxic boss has improved sales by ten percent in the last year the stakeholders will possibly not care if the employee turnover rate in that department is higher than average. However, if you document that the cost of goods sold has risen by five percent over the same period, because of increased training costs, fees to employment agencies, sick leave costs and increased overtime, you will get their attention.
Your strategies with respect to a toxic boss would depend on the circumstances. You can recommend coaching or advanced training for the toxic boss. It’s possible that the individual should be transferred to a position without a lot of responsibility for people. Perhaps the goals set for the individual are unreachable, which has been responsible for their toxic boss management style, and should be adjusted.
Always document and quantify the measurements which you use to determine that a toxic boss is impacting the company. Use overhead expenses as well as direct costs to demonstrate true bottom line impacts. Finally, use the same measurements to quantify the benefit to the company when your actions resolve the toxic boss problem.
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