Why Do We Tolerate Bad Bosses?

Far too many people leave a job to get away from that "boss from hell."

Far too many people leave a job to get away from that “boss from hell.”

As a diversity and career development consultant, I often teach workshops for Human Resources Professionals and Business Owners on the importance of investing in talent development. Part of that investment will be providing tools and resources to assist employees in building their skills and growing their longer range careers

One of the tools I provide is an analytical way to evaluate if a potential new position is a good fit. Unfortunately, many people do not make job decisions based on logical rationale, but often on more emotional issues, with the top one being to get away from that “boss from hell.” Too often people leave a decent job and run to a less than optimal position that does not really meet their professional or career goals.

In a recent workshop with HR professionals, I emphatically asked, “Why do we tolerate bad bosses?” They often cost our companies millions of dollars in lost employee productivity and attrition cost. With the high cost of recruiting and onboarding new employees, the cost of employees quitting to escape that bad boss is a large loss. And the remaining demoralized employees will spend too much time complaining about that bad boss or looking for a new job instead of focusing on delivering outstanding business results.

I believe HR professionals need to take the lead on addressing “bad bosses.” Some recommendations:

1. For a fairly new manager or first time offender, do offer training to address the manager’s shortcomings. Hopefully the manager will understand their issues and work hard to correct them. If the manager won’t even admit they are lacking in management skills, they need to be removed.

2. Managers with a repeated record of employee complaints and poor ratings on employee engagement surveys simply need to be removed from people management roles. One alternative to firing a bad manager is moving them laterally or perhaps demoted into an individual contributor role.

3. Offer a track to senior leadership that is based on strategic and technical skills that does not involve managing staff. There can be some excellent technical leaders who simply cannot learn how to manage others, yet they feel the pressure to move into management as the only option of growing their careers.

The most common objection I receive to not removing bad managers is “But they deliver business results. They get the job done” But really? Are the results that a bad manager may deliver worth the hundreds of thousands of dollars of recruiting and onboarding costs to replace departing employees? And are the results worth the poor morale and productivity? Something to think about.

The Tyler Clementi Foundation’s Innovative New Anti-Bullying Campaign

Blog author Stan Kimer (in the center) with Tyler Clementi Foundation Executive Director Sean Kosofsky and Tyler's mother and foundation co-founder Jane Clementi

Blog author Stan Kimer (in the center) with Tyler Clementi Foundation Executive Director Sean Kosofsky and Tyler’s mother and foundation co-founder Jane Clementi

For this year’s annual October Bullying Awareness Month blog, I would like to introduce a new program being offered by the Tyler Clementi Foundation and rolled out through corporations and organizations. Why is this exciting and innovative? Because most Americans spend the vast majority of their waking hours on the job, so that is the logical place to roll out resources to assist in various aspects of life.

Here are four shorts questions and answers.

QUESTION 1: Who exactly is Tyler Clementi and why is there a foundation named after him?

ANSWER: Tyler Clementi (link to more of his story) was a talented teenager in his first year of college coming to terms with being gay. Without his knowledge, Tyler’s roommate secretly livestreamed him in an intimate act with another young man, and then shared the stream with Tyler’s university peers as well as the roommate’s high school friends and Twitter followers. This act of cyber-bullying was a great embarrassment to Tyler and two days later Tyler died by suicide. After processing the grief of losing their son in this way, Tyler’s parents decided to take proactive action and started the foundation to address cyber-bullying in the hopes that it can be stopped and future harm and even deaths could be avoided.

QUESTION 2: What is my own connection with the Tyler Clementi Foundation?

ANSWER: Last year, a friend of mine from Raleigh, NC, Sean Kosofsky, who is one of the brightest non-profit leaders in the country, was offered the job of being the Tyler Clementi Foundation’s first full time executive director. He returned to Raleigh in early September and helped host a reception with Tyler’s mother Jane Clementi. (See photo at top of blog.) Sean updated us on the latest programs of the foundation and Jane spoke passionately as a mother hoping to bring positive change to America’s cyber-community as a constructive way of dealing with her son’s death. Total Engagement Consulting is proud to have provided a corporate donation to the foundation’s work.

Tyler Clementi, the young man for whom the foundation is named

Tyler Clementi, the young man for whom the foundation is named

QUESTION 3: What exactly is this new program that the foundation will be rolling out via corporations?

ANSWER: Too much of the burden of ending bullying is put on schools. The Tyler Clementi Foundation thinks parents play a key role, and thus has partnered with Workplace Options (WPO) to offer trainings on youth bullying to parents where they are during the day: at work. This training helps educate people about whether the young people in their lives are being bullied or are bullies, and not sharing this information. The focus will be to teach individuals how to identify, approach, discuss and resolve youth bullying issues with their children, and young people in their personal lives. More information can be found on the foundation’s program page. (Scroll about halfway down the page to the heading “Workplace Options / TCF Training

QUESTION 4: Can I provide some links to additional blogs with resources I have previously published?

ANSWER: Certainly!

In last year’s Bullying Awareness Month’s blog, I introduced the Tyler Clementi Foundation.

In my 2013 blog, I wrote about the link between schoolyard bullying and workplace harassment.

In “The Macroeconomic of Gay Bullying” I write about the grave harm to a nation’s well being and economics unaddressed bullying can result in.