“This company values incompetence,” he continued. “That’s the real problem. That shows you how screwed-up it is. But they’re telling me that I’m the problem! That I need help? It’s the people upstairs that need it!” He shook his head in dismay.
Sound familiar? People like Ralph are all too common in companies today. He illustrates just one type of abusive boss, often part of an overall unhealthy management culture that takes an enormous toll on both workers and business success.
In this post I describe some examples of that toll in today’s workplace culture and point towards some ways to deal with them — ways that require something different from the usual coping and stress management strategies.
You might guess, correctly, that Ralph was oblivious to the fact that his description of others was how his co-workers and subordinates described him. One of his colleagues had e-mailed him after their last encounter, saying “If you ever set foot in my office again, I’ll throw your ass right out the window.” Ralph dismissed that with a wave of his hand, saying, “That’s typical – he’s threatened by me because he knows I’m leagues beyond him. Always have been.”
Ralph is a senior executive and, in fact, a high-level performer in his company. But his abusive management and poor relationships were generating a growing chorus of complaints. To its credit, his company wanted to salvage rather than fire him, and offered him an executive coaching program. But Ralph saw this as punishment.
Of course there are psychological roots to behavior like Ralph’s. But that doesn’t matter much to the people who have to deal with the consequences on a daily basis. Continue reading