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.