Company XYZ seemed to be on the right track. A spin-off company, it had immediately established its own grip within the BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) industry on the East Coast. They were tiny compared to the nearest competitor’s thousands. But it was precisely their size that was an advantage. 200 employees was their optimum. Best of all, their business model carried on well throughout the pandemic. In fact, not only did they survive the repeated lockdowns, they faced unprecedented growth in their niche. There was a bad boss issue, however, that confronted them.
The measurable problem was their churn rate. Churn rates, or attrition rates, is the rate at which people leave the organization. It’s an issue that besets BPOs around the world. Reasons vary. It could be geography, travel time, the lack of a work-life balance or simply the desire to work closer to home. Pay is also a major factor.
The problem is that once the employee is trained, they opt to leave as their marketability increases. Management reasoned that the churn was caused by the lack of growth opportunities. The pay and perks may be good, but without a change in rank, employees are more likely to leave for another organization to further their career.
Or so they thought.
The case was different for most of the employees working for Company XYZ.
In their exit interviews, almost half of the employees who left opted out because of their direct superiors. Names were mentioned, incidents enumerated and tears shed. One employee didn’t hold back, calling his bearded superior the “boss from the bowels of hell”.
It broke the HR director’s heart to see these well-trained, top-talented employees leave. Not only would they have to spend more resources finding and training new employees, the ones leaving were the passionate ones. 10 of those who left were with the company way before the spin-off.
Now another company (heaven forbid, a competitor) is bound to benefit from their experience and their skill sets. How long will Company XYZ be holding on to their competitive edge?
You know your employees are the lifeline of your company
Acquiring top talent is a priority. But so is retaining top talent. If employees quickly come and go, there’s no telling how long a niche organization like Company XYZ can hold out – especially in a fiercely competitive industry.
And as many leaders know by heart, employees do not stay solely for pay and perks.
Perhaps Company XYZ’s managers are performers. After all, they were placed in management and supervisory positions for good reason. But we often neglect how delicate and unique these roles are. We often ignore that they are also placed in charge of other living, breathing and feeling employees and have responsibility for employee development and business growth.
This isn’t to say that they should act like those proverbial sports coaches made famous by motivational clips. But every organization should consciously make arrangements to create a “bad boss-free zone”.
Building a bad-boss free zone
Upper management usually isn’t aware of the bad bosses at work. But they’re easy to spot. They’re the ones who notoriously fail to establish trust and psychological safety with their team members. Effective bosses (who are at the same time respected and loved) are known for creating an environment where employees are free to speak their minds. They’re ok with people challenging the status quo, or people who are able to think of creative solutions to challenges.
The bad boss also shuns feedback – whether it’s to give or receive. In a 2018 People Management study from the Predictive Index, numbers revealed that a manager’s rating was directly related to the volume of feedback given an employee. Managers in the extreme (zero or too much feedback) were rated the lowest. While managers who struck a balance scored twice as high.
This penchant for feedback also has a lot to do with their ability to listen.
Know when it’s time for an intervention
Bad managers are NOT necessarily bad people. Perhaps they simply were never trained before assuming their roles.
Every organization is bound to encounter one at any given time. But it is up to you to find them and help them or remove them from the role and not necessarily out of the organization unless they want to leave.
Keep in mind that you aren’t out on a witch hunt. Nobody is out to trap, torture, or penalize managers. Rather, the effort is to present them with measurable data, and respectful feedback (from peers, direct reports, and colleagues), so that they can grow and help their people develop.
This first step might not be something you even thought of. Ask them from the get-go if they have the desire to take on the job. A manager is far different from an individual contributor. I’ve seen one too many managers who didn’t want the role of supervising others. They would have preferred to stay put and collect more commission for their own skills.
It sounds simple
Because it is. Informed organizations, including those that have undergone training with TIGERS, understand why assessing manager suitability and engaging in dialogue are top priorities. Organizations may always opt to offer career advancements that does not involve climbing the ranks. For instance, a lab analyst prefers to work by her lonesome on projects. Career advancement options can include additional compensation and/or opportunities to advance to higher learning within their discipline. (So perhaps creative but obnoxious Frank from research and development shouldn’t be forced to head the R&D team.)
Another is to give that potential manager the opportunity to grow. Managing people isn’t something you learn overnight. And it’s not something you can learn in school either. This is where a leadership or management development program is needed. It’s also a grand opportunity to give the potential manager diagnostics, and with the data collected, craft a program that would align them with the team.
We’ve had Franks who ended up reverting to their old positions and Franks that flourished following completion of a development program. If managers have solid, valid, and reliable data about themselves, as well as clear objectives on what is expected of them, the bad boss would no longer exist. Create that self-awareness among your leaders HERE.
Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton
About TIGERS Success Series
TIGERS provides a comprehensive, multi-pronged and robust system for improving your collaborative workforce behavior, collaborative work culture, profitability, project management and team leadership success. We license existing coaches, consultants and HR professionals in the use of these tools.
We specialize in building cooperation among employees and collaboration between departments for profitable, agile, and high performance team outcomes. Scaled to grow as your organization and leadership performance improves, our proprietary TIGERS Workforce Behavior Profile, Micro-Training technology and group facilitation methods result in your high performance team outcomes and change management success.
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