Managerial Rudeness

Bad attitudes can demoralize your staff

When Maurice Moragne became vice president of sales administration in 2004 at a beauty care corporation in New York City, he was ambitious and enthusiastic. His fervor, however, was dampened by an executive who berated staffers and picked on team members when the company fell short of financial goals. Moragne and his team worked with a rude manager.

Eventually the team stopped identifying new opportunities and contributed only 10% to 15% of their abilities. “Self-drive dissipated to the point where employees came in almost as automatons, doing only what they were told to do,” he says.

Common characteristics of a boorish boss range from subtle behaviors, such as not listening or being unresponsive, to more severe infractions, such as publicly humiliating subordinates or being arrogant or manipulative. They may also lack self-control, compassion, and appreciation.

Trudy Bourgeois, president and CEO of The Center for Workforce Excellence, stresses that discourtesy is a major cause of problems in the workplace. The study, Employee Perceptions of Managerial Civility: Development and Validation of a Measurement, by Robert Mitchell Crocker, finds that managerial and supervisory incivility is linked to employees feeling afraid, distressed, and hostile.

After a year of feeling underappreciated, Moragne left the company, as did many others. “The company is now not functional in achieving profit margins or its full potential in the marketplace,” he reports.

When managers fail to accept responsibility for mistakes, never offer encouragement, and are routinely angry, they create an unproductive culture that leads to turnover, says Ella L. J. Edmondson Bell, associate professor of management at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

“People need to feel affirmed, heard, supported, and respected,” Bell says. “If you are rude, arrogant, and hostile, [employees] are not going to go the extra mile. Why should they?” She notes that it is easy for people to slip into inconsiderate behavior when they are overworked, frenzied, or tired, but warns that bad attitudes can be contagious and may eventually affect an entire company.

“The true testament of managers and leaders is to unleash the potential in those around them,” Bourgeois says. She emphasizes that this is unobtainable unless managers consistently display traits — including honesty, reliability, and accountability — that support positive relationships.

There are many ways to ensure that you are not the rude manager, or if you are, to change your actions in order to boost morale and establish an environment conducive to productivity.

Hold “Start, Stop, and Continue” meetings. In roundtable discussions employees can give their manager honest feedback on behavior and initiatives the manager should start, stop, or continue, says Bourgeois. The group can formulate norms for how employees should interact and conduct themselves.

Self-evaluate. Bourgeois suggests asking yourself questions such as “Why should I follow you,” to help you determine the effectiveness of your leadership.

Deal with your issues. Bell stresses the importance of managers taking time to identify the root of their problems, which may not be work related. Bourgeois says that discourteous conduct, such as acting superior or stealing ideas, is often related to personal issues such as

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