Why Bullying Bosses Are Bad for Business

You attract more flies with honey than vinegar – and make more money, to boot. Here are some reasons why bullying is a bad approach to managing employees.

Everyone knows that an unpleasant or difficult boss can turn even the most ideal work situation into a nightmare. In point of fact, people are more often driven to quit by a bad manager than by a bad job.

By far one of the worst transgressions a boss can commit against his or her staff is to publicly humiliate them. On any reckoning, humiliating or shaming employees can be considered a form of bullying; by most standards, it is tantamount to abuse. Clearly, this is serious stuff – and yet, many employers don’t realize how powerful this type of behaviour is, or how quickly it can drive employees away.

To understand the severity and scope of the problem of bully bosses, consider some of the more destructive consequences of shaming your staff – both to the individual members of your team, and the business itself.

Shrinking morale

You don’t need to be trained as a psychologist to figure out that putting a staff member down, unfavourably comparing them to others, or publicly highlighting their errors and shortcomings, will only succeed in lowering their enthusiasm for the job, and over time, their confidence in their own abilities.

If, as a boss, you’re in the habit of undermining the self-esteem of your employees whenever a mistake is made, the long-term result will be a staff that is insecure, discouraged, and generally bummed out about being at work. With dwindled motivation, your employees are more likely to cut corners, take sick days, or spend their time at the office quietly searching for alternate jobs.

If, as a boss, you’re in the habit of undermining the self-esteem of your employees whenever a mistake is made, the long-term result will be a staff that is insecure, discouraged, and generally bummed out about being at work.

Dejected employees will leave your company in rough shape. Bad moods spread like a disease, particularly among the more junior levels of staff. A couple of demoralized employees can lead to a substantial portion of the team being less driven and producing sub-par work.

Conversely, a boss who provides positive reinforcement and a nurturing, albeit firm, presence when the going gets tough will bolster their employees’ self-worth. In the long run, that makes for a far more efficient and productive team.

Withering innovation

People refrain from taking risks and demonstrating genuine creativity when they fear someone will dismiss or disparage them for it.

In this way, a boss that bullies or humiliates staff members endangers their own company’s bottom line: an organization that lacks innovation and stifles creative thought will stagnate, rather than grow. So do yourself a favour and give your employees room to experiment, breathe – and yes, even make mistakes.

Vicarious bullying

A recent Forbes article examined the deleterious impact a bullying boss can have on both the direct victim and, by association, their co-workers. If a manager chews out or humiliates a particular employee, other people are bound to witness it directly, or hear about it through the ever-active office grapevine. Very quickly, the collective opinion of a manager – and possibly of the company as a whole – can sour, leading to lowered productivity. Employees may even (perhaps) inadvertently share their negative sentiment with clients.

Vicarious bullying can also manifest itself in employees’ treatment of one another. If someone feels abused by their manager, they may unconsciously treat the people they supervise with disrespect, sending negative reverberations down the chain of command faster than you can say “bad vibes.”

“…these days, when you’re talking to one person, you’re talking to a thousand.” 

Bad press

In the words of Zoe Barnes – the scrappy young journalist who instantly tweets the ugly name her boss calls her in the TV series House of Cards – “these days, when you’re talking to one person, you’re talking to a thousand.”

If you’re rude or verbally abusive to your employees, don’t expect the slight to remain between the two of you – or even just to stay within the confines of company walls. These days everyone has a blog, a Tumblr, a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor account (which, if they’re smart, they are managing to build their social media presence). There’s no shortage of ready outlets for any and all grievances cast against them. So think twice before you disrespect those below you.

Most managers don’t set out to humiliate their staff, and many would likely be astonished or ashamed to discover that they had done so. But stress – not to mention power – does crazy things to people, and slip-ups happen. Unfortunately, the damage of bullying can be hard to undo. So think long and hard about the way you speak to and treat your employees. If you suspect you may be guilty of bullying, don’t hesitate to seek professional mentorship or guidance.

Let us know what you think! At Clarity Recruitment, we’re always interested in hearing from accounting and finance professionals like yourselves, who are ready for new, exciting opportunities that can take their careers to the next level. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@clarityrecruits) and connect with us on Facebook for more great tips and advice!