Bad Bosses Erode Performance and Engagement

How engaged are your employees at work? How productive are they?

Great leaders – those who inspire top performance AND genuine team member engagement – pay attention to both productivity and employee engagement, every day.

Why? Because a work environment that treats team members with trust, dignity, and respect in every interaction boosts engagement, service, and results.

The biggest influence on employee engagement? Jim Clifton, the Chairman of Gallup, says it’s the quality of your leaders. In his post, Millions of Bad Managers are Killing America’s Growth, Clifton states that an estimated seven million lousy managers are “not properly developing or worse, are outright depressing . . . millions of US employees.”

Tiny HR’s 2014 Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture report found that 49% of employees are not satisfied with their direct supervisor. Only 21% of employees said they feel strongly valued at work.

In Workfront’s 2015 Work-Life Report, sixty percent of employees believe bad bosses (those who are demanding, overbearing, and mean) have the greatest negative impact on work-life balance. Poor work-life balance is costly. 68% of employees report poor morale, while over 40% report employee burn out, high turnover, and poor productivity.

These studies – and many more – underscore the significant impact that the quality of your leaders have on team member engagement, service, and results.

I don’t think companies intentionally hire bad bosses. I do believe, though, that companies tolerate bad behavior from bosses far too frequently.

Any instance of bad behavior – be it yelling, cursing, demeaning, etc. – erodes trust, dignity, and respect. Why would companies allow these interactions? In my interviews with senior leaders, they frequently report bad behavior – but they discount the negative impact. “Oh,” they’ll say, “everybody knows that’s just how Bob is.” Or they might tell me how Bob’s team “always comes through at the end of the quarter.” Or they’ll say, “Bob doesn’t know any better.”

Or they’ll say, “I’ve tried, but nothing works. I don’t know what else to do.”

These are difficult conversations if your company has never formalized how people need to treat each other at work. If the only targets you set are performance standards, then people – bosses and team members – often behave badly to deliver those results.

The best way to move forward – and to hire aligned bosses moving forward – is to craft an organizational constitution. An organizational constitution is a formal statement of your company’s (or team’s or department’s) purpose, values and behaviors, strategies, and goals.

By formalizing the values you want modeled in every interaction – including defining values in observable, tangible, behavioral terms – you create clear agreements with your leaders about how they are to manage their team members as well what performance standards are required.

If, for example, you have a “respect” value and one of your behaviors is “I treat everyone in a civil manner at all times,” you can measure the degree to which leaders actually do treat others civilly. If they do, praise and encourage them. If they don’t, redirect them promptly.

If they continue to treat people badly, lovingly help them out of your organization. The quality of workplace interactions is too important to leave it in the hands of mean leaders.

Want to learn more about creating workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution? My latest book, The Culture Engine, will help.

Don’t let bad bosses erode team member performance and engagement. Demand civil treatment and model it, in every interaction.

What do you think? Do you believe that bad bosses erode engagement and performance in your company? Share your insights on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Photo © katie_martynova – Dollar Photo Club. All rights reserved.

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