President killing his own firm with authoritarian ways

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Dear Joan:
I am writing to you because the employees of the company I work for are very concerned about our president and manager. I've been with this company since its inception. We have almost 50 sales people working here. We really enjoy our jobs and have an excellent compensation package, but we have a problem with the "hands on" approach our president uses to manage our company.

We care very much about our president. He has an outstanding analytical mind and knows how to construct a company. However, he violates a basic rule of management by constantly belittling people in front of others. He talks down to people and threatens with total disrespect, including upper management. In fact, just recently, two managers and the director of sales stepped down from their positions due to his conduct towards them in public.

When we've addressed him regarding his management style, he has defended his position by stating that he believes in reprimanding and insulting people in front of others because he learned that this is an effective management style when he was employed by a major manufacturing firm and he told us he does not mean any harm. Unfortunately, we are now starting to lose employees and everyone here is too embarrassed to bring other people in to work here until the president learns to treat people as competent adults. The disrespect is so blatant that he even insults the secretarial and support staff.

This is the only problem we have with this man. We have tried to individually speak with him and to address him as a group, but our attempts are only met with anger and a closed mind. We want our company to grow and succeed. Can you help us?

Answer:
Your president is killing his own company. His management style seems to be, "The public humiliation will continue until your respect for me improves." Unfortunately, he learned this destructive behavior back when authoritarian rule got some results. Forty years ago, barking orders, yelling at employees and treating them like peons was what bosses thought they were supposed to do. These managers believed that if you weren't tough (like military officers in WW II) people wouldn't do what you wanted them to do. They thought the only way to command respect was to act powerful and use fear as a "motivational" weapon.

This military style continued well into the '70's. Many managers thought that employees were “subordinates” (in the true sense of the word) who couldn't be trusted. They believed only managers were wise enough to make decisions...employees should just follow orders.

Things have changed. He hasn't. He needs to analyze the outcome of his behavior. He says his intentions are good (and I believe him) but let's apply his philosophy to other areas of life to see if the same good intentions cause the desired result. For example, how would he feel if his child's teacher screamed at his son or daughter, "Class, look at how stupid and lazy this child is!" Would his child respect that teacher? Would he or she be enthusiastic and motivated to do his or her best? What would he think of an athletic coach who said to the press after a close game, "My guys are a bunch of morons. They can never do anything right."

Let's bring it closer to home. How might he react if his wife humiliated him by talking about his most embarrassing faults and weaknesses in front of his best friends or family? (His weight or sexual performance might be areas needing improvement.) Would he be grateful that she used public humiliation? Would he be motivated to change? Perhaps. But chances are he would feel bitter resentment and he'd rather leave...just like his employees are doing.

Your manager may not mean any harm but that doesn't mean he isn't causing harm. If he's smart, he'll change his behavior. If he can't change, he'd be wise to step out of the day-to-day management and give the reins to someone who is more skilled at managing people. He has a good analytical mind. Why not do a job where he can contribute this talent? Maybe finding this column on his desk is the best favor you can do for the future of your company.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 354-9500, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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