Sometimes our face says it all. I recently interviewed a group of employees about their organization and its leadership. Every time I asked about one of the managers, the interviewee’s face twisted like I had given them something sour to eat. Literally, six different people all looked like they had eaten the worst tasting thing in the world and were compelled to hold it in their mouth. When I asked about the manager that caused this reaction, the flood gates opened. The list of overbearing, demeaning, and almost cruel actions seemed endless. Each employee described the work environment the same way: tense and miserable.
When I asked if the manager knew that he created that type of environment, the response was the same: we have not told him. Moreover, most agreed that bearing the misery was a much better option than letting him know. The reasons varied for why no one let him know: fear of interacting with him in general, concern with retaliation, and pronounced disengagement from the team.
Although most of us would assume that the greatest threat from a manager like this is that people will leave. While this is a very realistic outcome, the lack of desire for interaction may be just as damaging. If an employee does not want to interact with a manager, then critical communication does not occur. Specifically, issues are not dealt with, plans developed, or ideas exchanged that might significantly improve the operations of the work unit. Another impeding factor is that no matter how positive other facets of the job may be, the actions taken by the boss will overshadow anything else. Most of us would be very happy if had work that is interesting, assignments that match our skills, positive interactions with coworkers, and positive work results. However, the attitude and actions of an overbearing boss can overshadow all of these positives.
What are some of the signs that someone that works for you might be overbearing?
- Does the manager feel that he or she always knows best?
- Does the manager feel that employees cannot be trusted to do their own work without guidance and supervision?
- Is the manager impatient with his or her direct reports?
- Is there a lot of conflict in the manager’s team?
- Does the manager feel that conflict is good for people and should be encouraged?
- Does the manager have a lot of arguments with employees or peers?
- Does the manager refuse to consider employee feedback when making decisions?
- Does the manager place the completion of the task above efficiency, customer service, and employee satisfaction?
- Is the manager closed to new ideas and ways of doing things because he or she knows best?
- Does the manager focus on the team’s shortcomings in communication?
If you have a manager that more than 75 percent of the above questions match his or her behavior, then it is likely the manager may be very successful personally at completing work, but a poor leader of others. This “get things done” manager is good in the short term, but is not the best for the long term health of your organization.