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Bad Behaviors at Work

Tough Talking for Bad Behaviour

I continue to hear executives complaining about lack of professional behaviours in colleagues at all levels. The latest complaint concerns a Director of a regional business, part of an international conglomerate. This person is thought to be disgruntled due to his CEO’s direction and interference in his role and priorities, but staff only see the unprofessional results of whatever is going on in his immature head: the Director misses, delays and drops meetings including staff annual reviews with little or no notice; leaves meetings early; sends one-word emails to colleagues, typically ‘no’; is obstructive, unhelpful and careless towards staff including changing their jobs without consultation. What to do…I wish this was uncommon. My only surprise is that this is within a multinational framework rather than, most often, within home-grown businesses where the Directors are long-in-the-tooth and inexperienced on the wider stage. In fact, this company is IIP certificated in the UK and no surprises for learning that their latest report includes dreadful feedback from staff about their Board (again!). Will they notice or care, or just blame someone else – you guess?!

This multinational like so many others, believes that human development (including skills-development) is for everyone ELSE but not the Board. And that view is more unusual among UK subsidiaries of large international companies. It is extraordinary that staff continue to suffer from such appalling leadership and role-modelling in 2011. Where these behaviours are exhibited without curb, others will emulate behavioural extremes away from the norms expected in better-managed organisations.

Of course, most of us expect managers and leaders to have control over their emotional issues, including stress, and behave/perform like professionals. Thankfully, the majority of workers can. But surely it is time that more Boards got wise to the anachronistic, unhappy and unproductive nature of these behaviours and the lack of experience at the top? So, ask yourself, if you will, how much time did your Board spend on personal-development? How much experience do they have in other sectors and countries? Does the CEO listen and encourage discussion of creative change or squash ideas out-of-hand?

Evidence suggests that many leaders of significant companies are no better than the worst-run, small business running blind.

And the answers?

There are many possible strands but all should include these:

  • Change the CEO (out of post or sea-change in behaviours)-  a happy ship is productiveship
  • Invest in educating and exposing Directors to wider challenges and growth
  • Measure and set expectations for improvements in the behaviour of Directors
  • Measure and set out behavioural standards for working and make them positively-stated
  • Set up rewards and recognition to underpin these behavioural standards
  • Invite criticism, fresh ideas and ‘listen-them through’ discussion – honour the originator.

And for staff – what should you do? Recession or not, be bold and move out. Other organisations will be impressed that someone in-post is looking to move. It shows confidence. Say nothing to your current business about your reasons, be professional and tight-lipped. Your silence may speak louder than words and your example will help others to do the same. In any case, the leaders of such companies deserve the company of like-minded people. Leave them to their own core-type and the business will struggle and change will come one way or another. Unfortunately,  the ‘pain and gain’ route to corporate change is the one that often succeeds. Either way, you are better out than in!