Two examples of notably opposing management styles have gone viral in the past few weeks—depicting the difference between stern leaders and toxic leaders.
- One story involved an anonymous hiring manager who found a quick way to weed out poor candidates by disguising herself as a receptionist and seeing how they treat low-level employees—resulting in one candidate’s interview being cut short after five minutes for abusive behavior.
- The second story involves a toxic workplace where a manager posted a sign for staff heavily discouraging them from making workplace friendships and conversations, “WORK IS NOT MEANT TO BE FUN. DO NOT FACILITATE FRIENDSHIPS DURING WORK HOURS.”
- A 2016 Gallup survey found that respondents felt 82% of managers were underqualified for their jobs and that the lack of quality leadership had cost U.S. companies $500 billion per year.
- A similar 2020 poll from the Society for Human Resource Management found 84% of employees agreed that poorly trained managers were creating unnecessary work and stress.
Why It’s Important
The two recent viral stories depict the opposing effects of quality leadership—the value of decisive leadership against the stress created by a toxic office environment.
Casey Hasten is a hiring expert for VIP—a Texas-based consulting firm that provides executive staffing services. She tells Leaders Media that the connecting thread between these examples is insecurity—leaders reacting well or poorly to difficult situations.
“People will often try to make those who report to them feel less-than so that the leaders feel more-than. I recently spoke with an employee who left because her new hiring manager stripped her of her communications capabilities and started taking credit for her work. This wasn’t a small company, and this happens often,” says Hasten.
Bad management does not want to listen to employees and dictates what is best in every situation, fearful that employees may present better ideas than their own. They become manipulative. They micromanage employees because they do not trust themselves. The effect of this is a disintegrating company culture where employees seek opportunities elsewhere—as it only takes one bad leader to destroy company culture.
Knowing the line between a stern boss and an abusive boss, particularly in difficult jobs involving expertise, precision, or high stakes, can be difficult. The challenge of delegating to difficult employees does not aid it, as some employees do not put in the effort or comprehend the tasks they are given or simply cannot fulfill them. Sometimes an employee needs a stern talking-to, while sometimes, a tough boss needs to back up and reflect on his leadership style.
“Employees should sit down and evaluate what is going on in difficult situations—make sure you yourself are not being overly sensitive, or if you are underperforming and need discipline. It could be an opportunity to grow, but if you try and it turns out to be a hostile situation, you have several options. Seek out an HR department, face your boss, or consider another job,” says Hasten.
“I can give you two examples of what signifies the difference between good and bad leaders. I came back this morning from being gone one day, and my team welcomed me back. Everybody feels like they’re part of a community in my office. Our organization empowers us and listens to us. The organizations that permit free thinking and don’t put people in a box are the ones that will flourish,” says Hasten.
“I also worked for another organization for less than a year, and the leader was a tyrant, control freak, and micromanager. He would be running down the hall screaming if payroll was late. He also kept people on their toes, asking team leaders to provide instructions for tasks and telling them they did it wrong regardless. It isn’t a healthy work environment.”