Bully Boss or Just a Tough Cookie?

5 Ways Abrasive Managers Get in Their Own Way and Everyone Else’s

Do you feel frustrated and maybe even betrayed by team members who seem unwilling to participate?

Does their behavior leave you feeling isolated, and burdened with the responsibility of feeling like you have to do everything yourself?

Are you fed up with having to deal with insolent, unresponsive, defiant employees?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might want to consider the possibility that their behavior is simply a reaction to your own. That they are withdrawing from you because they find it difficult to work when they feel that they are constantly being criticized, subjected to temper tantrums and impossibly high standards. When it comes to relationships of any kind, imperfection is a two-way street.

So, is it them or is it you? How can we be sure? Here are a few clues that will help to shed some light on the problem.

  • Do your team members remain silent when you ask for feedback and suggestions?
  • Does yelling and screaming seem like the only effective way you can get them to do the work?
  • Do you, yourself, have to work around the clock 24/7 because no one else can get the job done to your satisfaction?
  • Are you hearing from your superiors and/or HR that complaints have been lodged about your behavior?
  • Do you feel isolated and misunderstood?
  • Do you feel pressure about deliverables and panicked about performance?

If you answered yes to most of these questions, then it’s safe to say that you’re being perceived as an abrasive manager, or worse, a bully! Are you willing to consider that maybe, just maybe that’s a possibility?

If so, the bad news is – you have a serious problem – but the good news is – there’s a way to turn it around. Let’s examine your behavior and explore alternative ways to communicate that will encourage your team to open up so that you can unite all your best efforts.

  1. Yelling never gets us what we want. Ever. Even with little kids we only succeed in alienating them. In fact, the louder we roar, the more likely it is that our words will fall on deaf ears because people tend to recognize bluster as nothing more than an empty threat. Did we learn nothing from the Cowardly Lion?
  2. Withholding information, even if it is bad news, doesn’t make you more powerful than the next person. Do you treat your team members like small children, assuming that they are incapable of participating in the decision-making process? If so, then you’re not giving them the opportunity to take responsibility. If you are withholding, then I can guarantee you that they will be withholding as well.
  3. Contempt is an act of judgment. If you are more focused on people’s shortcomings than the task at hand then you are setting the scene for a hostile and defensive workplace.
  4. Trust is the foundation of a healthy team. If you cannot create an environment where people feel safe enough to contribute their ideas and share the abilities that got them hired in the first place, then you cannot expect them to be open and honest with you.
  5. Empathy, the ability to feel what others are feeling, is the #1 job requirement of a strong leader. Authoritarian managers may think that they are strong, but those who can feel what others feel are the strongest among us. Do you empathize with your team members? Have you ever tried walking in someone else’s shoes?

Imagine an environment where people work collectively to achieve a unified goal; where things get done in a timely manner, where the accomplishments and positive interaction amongst team members speaks volumes to your superiors about the great manager they have in you. Think how peacefully you’d sleep at night…

Fairy tale?

On the contrary, the kind of workplace we just described is actually the norm for those who favor patience and good communication over abrasive management practices. A good manager understands the value of clear directives, is willing to embrace new ideas, and is able to focus on the job at hand instead of competing with personalities. You have it in you to be a great manager! All it takes is a little practice and self-management along the way.

For more information on How to Handle Abrasive Managers


Kathleen Bartle