In my 26 years in business, I’ve seen the good the bad and the ugly of leadership. And I have experienced the same. I can still remember vividly working for a boss who was what you would call a nightmare!
People were scared of the guy and for good reason. He had a temper, would swear, become abusive and sulk for days if something didn’t go his way. He was very intelligent, competitive and believe it or not a good communicator when things went well.
I was working in a team of 5 at the time. Our main mission became NOT to upset ‘The Boss’. So we’d do whatever we could to control our environment, made extra effort not to make mistakes and get things done on time. As it should be right? Well not when you have the fear of God in you and stress over the stupidest things in case you make a mistake. That’s not a great culture to work in!
Inevitably, someone would make a mistake and cause “the rant’! It used to go on for what seemed hours, no one was spared and the atmosphere afterwards was tense to say the least.
Have you had that experience before or could this be you, hopefully to a lesser extent!
We never told the boss what a goose he was being. We never stood up to him. We never told him that life sucked working for him. How could we, we were scared of him and he was the boss. We just left! And he lost some pretty great talent and the trend continued for years. Until he came to ask me what it was like to work for him. I could feel myself tense up and thought why did he have to ask me!
So I mustered up all my courage and I told him exactly what it was like to work for him and I didn’t hold back! By the end, I felt heaps better about it all but I could tell he felt pretty bad and he was in disbelief. He asked why we hadn’t told him that he was causing such stress and fear? I looked at him blankly and said you were our boss, you were our leader and we were scared of you. That is why. And quite frankly I was shocked he didn’t know how he was being.
So with his tail between his legs, he proceeded to make significant changes and I believe is now a fantastic boss. I haven’t heard any rumblings of volcanoes erupting of late so he must be doing well.
So what the boss doesn’t know will hurt him – significantly. If you are even remotely like this or get a sense that your team isn’t being open with you and not forthcoming with communication, especially if it’s a problem, you need to look in the mirror long and hard and ask yourself if you are the problem. Your staff won’t do it unless they are brave, and the brave are rare. You are their leader and like it or not you have a significant impact on their confidence – positive or negative. You have a choice. Decide carefully.