Put a stop to toxic manager syndrome

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 March, 2006, 12:00am

As we go up the corporate ladder, we come across a range of managerial characteristics. Some bosses are considerate and fair, while others are unfair and rigid, behaving as if the commercial world is a war zone.

Managers' expectations also vary. One may be sexist or expect you to have no life outside work. Another may assign projects with impossible deadlines, fail to respond to your business needs and then get unreasonably angry when the work is not done on time.

Enter the Toxic Manager - 90 per cent emotion, 10 per cent logic and a 100 per cent reality of corporate life. These are people with crude management skills who can make the staff's life miserable.

Toxic managers can have a demoralising effect on employees. Their mix of aggression and emotion can stifle and irritate staff. That, in turn, can encourage people to put in less than their best effort, be late for work, be absent often or even leave the organisation for more emotionally stable pastures.

So why is this deep, dark side of the corporate family allowed to exist? Primarily because the accounts permit it - if a manager generates considerable revenue, few questions are ever asked.

Fortunately, termination is not the only solution to the problem. There are other mechanisms that can be used to ease such situations.

From a corporate perspective, one method is to encourage staff discussion. Although not everyone will speak up, it is important to keep all lines of communication with staff open. The exit interview, unfortunately, is one meeting too late.

The 360-degree performance appraisal is another method. Confidential employee feedback on supervisors is highly accurate in identifying vital attributes such as listening, understanding and responsiveness - or the lack of them.

Companies could also make treating employees in a respectful manner part of every manager's job responsibility. This establishes the company's position that fair treatment of staff is key to successful management.

Similarly, companies could make managers pay for turnover - that will send the message that profit and loss are not the only benchmarks of good management.

But what can you do if you work for a bad boss?

Make a list of the things the manager does that bother you. Record specific instances of objectionable behaviour and how they affected your performance. Draw up suggestions on how your manager could act differently and use this to prepare for a meeting. Be ready for a showdown, but keep your emotions in check.

As a last resort, go to the HR department, where all the information you provide remains confidential. Although most firms do not want managers who hamper staff performance on their payroll, other companies may not see things this way. In such cases, you may not last long in the company.

Having said this, to do nothing and hope that the issue will disappear is the worst you can do.

If you are not able to resolve the issue of working with a bad manager - even after requesting a transfer to another department - think about moving on. You may need to leave to save yourself from a difficult situation. However, it is better to secure a more conducive working environment before you resign.