How jerk bosses and employees can destroy your organization

Be they steamrolling bosses or bullying co-workers, the get-it-done-at-any-cost types are vampires, not stars. A recent survey illuminates the harm they can inflict on your culture.


Think for a moment about your star employees—your top performers who can be counted on to get the job done and get it right.

Now, still thinking about those employees, ask yourself whether these star employees also get the work done in the right way. Do they demonstrate behaviors in line with your company’s core values, or do they bully, steamroll, and steal credit?

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Eric Sinoway asserts that top performers who get the job done, but don’t do it in the right way, are vampires, not stars. I couldn’t agree more. As Eric explains:

“Our company, Axcess Worldwide, was shaped in its early years by a small, tight knit group: my partner, Kirk Posmatur, and me and our first few employees. Now, after significant growth, we were honing our strategy, placing the right people in the right roles, continuing to deliver profitability while simultaneously maintaining a strong and meaningful corporate culture, something we consider to be one of our most powerful assets.

“The new executive we were discussing that day was doing what we had hired him to: immediately deliver results. But he was doing so in a manner that didn’t strike us as consistent with our culture; he was focused so intensely on ‘what he did’ that he paid little attention to “how he did it,” which resulted in consistently dismissing the opinions of others and pursuing what we felt was a strategy of ‘winning at any cost.'”

Negative impact from jerk bosses

Too many will simply dismiss this, believing “as long as the work gets done, it doesn’t matter how.” Now, new research supports the cost to business of allowing jerk managers to continue in your organization.

Just look at these findings:

  • Just under 25 percent of employees thought their bosses were overstressed, poor communicators, and lacking in empathy—a combination judged to be counterproductive and, in some cases, destructive by the report.
  • A mere 5 percent of workers said their managers led in a way that meant they were empathetic; explained why organizational change was good to staff members as individuals; created workplaces in which employees felt rewarded for their efforts; and were self-aware.
  • Only 35 percent of respondents said that, when their organization needed to change, their boss personally made them aware of the benefits.
  • Almost half (47 percent) of the 2,000 workers surveyed said their managers made them feel threatened, rather than rewarded.

If the boss can’t communicate to employees changing strategies and objectives, how employees are supposed to implement those changes in the daily work, or reward employees for doing so effectively, then change will not happen.

What do you do with the “zombie managers?” You have two choices: train them or fire them. If the manager is a bully by nature, then your choice is easy.

There should be no room for bullies in any organization that promotes a strong, positive culture today.

What do “star performers” look like in your organization?

Derek Irvine is vice president for client strategy and consulting service at Globoforce, a global provider of strategic employee recognition and reward programs. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com. A version of this article first appeared on his website, Recognize This!

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