How Monster Managers Ruin Work Culture

Eviscerating ethics and engagement…

Perhaps you have one right now?

Monster managers are worse than merely bad bosses. This is because of their corrosive effect on employer ethics, employee engagement, productivity, morale, job satisfaction and company loyalty.

Within the course of my 25-year career, I’ve had a few monster managers. They are often megalomaniacs, bullies, bigots or some combination.

Monster managers can be malicious, abusive, vicious, or any number of unflattering terms. They discriminate, harass, bully, steal, lie, or commit other unethical behavior and managerial misconduct.

Put simply, monster managers are bad news for employers, not to mention for aggrieved workers who usually suffer in silence under their wrath.

Monster managers thrive in creating toxic work cultures which eviscerate any semblance of ethics and employee engagement.

Unethical Cultures

As noted in the prior post, monster managers wreak havoc in the workplace with damaging results for the company culture, including:

• Trampling employee engagement,
• Causing morale and job satisfaction to plummet,
• Preventing peak performance and productivity,
• Increasing employee absenteeism and related healthcare costs,
• Stifling innovation by clinging to change resistant bureaucracy, and
• Causing talented employees (human capital assets) to leave the company and work for the competition.

Monster managers cling to companies with unethical work cultures.

These organizations have lax policies and procedures regarding professional standards of conduct — including ineffective HR policies, diversity training, internal complaint systems and commitment to equal opportunity.

Unfortunately, some small businesses can’t afford in-house counsel or HR departments to keep watch on monster managers, to the detriment of employees and the company alike.

Daunting Data

According to a Gallup survey on the State of the American Manager, only 35% of managers are engaged at work. Most managers fall into the other 65% category who are disengaged from their professional work responsibilities.

Disengaged managers and first-line supervisors are too busy to be productive due to unprofessional, unethical or unlawful conduct.

HR Magazine of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported the following based on comprehensive survey results:

  • “41 percent of U.S. workers said they observed unethical or illegal misconduct on the job.” (Source: Ethics Resource Center’s National Business Ethics Survey)

Moreover, this is likely just the tip of the proverbial iceberg because many employees are afraid to speak out due to fear of retaliation.

  • “Globally, only 28 percent of [people] believe that businesses follow ethical practices.” (Source: Edleman Trust Barometer)

Or, put another way, seven out of 10 people think most companies are unethical.

  • Managers are responsible for 60 percent of workplace misconduct” (Source: Ethics Resource Center).

Thus, in a large company with a workforce of 10,000 or mote that’s a lot of monster managers running wild like bulls in a rodeo.

  • Only 20 percent of workers reported seeing misconduct in companies where ethical cultures are strong…

It’s in the best interest of employers to promote strong and ethical work cultures where employees can do their best work. This should be a so-called no-brainer.

  • “…Compared with 88 percent [of workers] who witnessed wrongdoing in companies with the weakest cultures.” (Source: National Business Ethics Survey)

The data is clear: monster managers create unethical work cultures which are bad for business — period!

Ethical Environments

It simply makes good business sense for all employers to make sure their organizations are built on a foundation of strong ethics with exemplary professional conduct and personal values.

Effectuating an ethical office environment equates with fewer monster managers and a more positive, healthy workplace. This benefits employees and management alike. Yes, a quintessential win-win!

But what should YOU do when trying to fend off a monster manager? What are some of the best and worst options for employees to handle the situation?

Stay, Pray, Flee or Fight

  1. Take it on the Chin: Play nice with a monster manager (ie. suck it up) while absorbing the abominable behavior because you need that paycheck — and pray for better times ahead.

Engage the monster manager by marching in lockstep, no questions asked.

2. Take Flight: Elude the monster manager by seeking a transfer to another department within the company or to a different location like a field office.

Often times, abused workers can find solace in a new office environment within a large organization.

3. Hit the Road: Escape the monster manager by seeking new employment ASAP, whether or not you remain with the company during the interim.

Many employees exposed to monster managers simply flee rather than fight.

4. Spread the Word: Identify other victims and formulate an effective strategy by acting in unison, as there is strength in numbers. You can speak confidentially with co-workers to help more victims come forward.

Often times, co-workers are likewise suffering but don’t want to speak out and stand alone.

5. Fight Back: Engage the monster manager head on — by standing up, speaking out and bravely fighting for your rights. Yes, fighting management abuse despite the risks because you just can’t take it anymore.

Unfortunately, fighting back against monster managers is the road less traveled for most aggrieved workers. But ignoring the problem only lets the monster manager grow stronger, while exacerbating your misery.

Ask yourself the following questions based upon your own career experience — and please consider sharing your valuable feedback in the comment section below:

  1. Do you think monster managers are a big problem or no big deal?
  2. What do you think is the best way to engage or elude monster managers?
  3. What do you think are the most effective ways to fight monster managers?

Final Thoughts

This troublesome trend does not appear to be dissipating.

From an executive leadership and management perspective, monster managers bring a heightened risk of legal liability, bad publicity and a diminished brand image — all of which hurts bottom-line productivity by perpetuating an unethical work culture with unhappy employees.

CEOs and the C-suite should remember that it only takes one rouge monster manager to make work-life intolerable for an entire team by poisoning the work culture.

Larry Boyer is the founder of Success Rockets LLC and a columnist for Forbes Career Coaches Council. Larry says the following about identifying companies where monster manager may run amok:

  • “Very few companies, if any, have the will to remove monster managers. We all know employees leave because of managers. Just look for high turnover, changes in turnover, and low engagement scores.”

Susan Rooks runs Grammar Goddess Communication. She says:

  • “The confusion is that most businesses want to make money and keep their employees, neither of which happens when there are monster bosses allowed to wreak havoc on so many. And it’s BS to say that top management doesn’t know.”

John White, MBA is the founder of Social Marketing Solutions. John writes in inc. magazine:

  • “I was dealing with an abusive micro-managing boss and a corporate culture that enabled this type of management style. This [monster manager] drove everybody out until the company had to close the regional office because everyone quit or was fired by this tyrannical psycho. Closing the office meant pulling out of the market completely.”

Jennifer Heflin runs Angels Evolution. She says:

  • “It’s hard to believe that with the changes afoot across all industries employees still have to struggle with bullies and bigots in the workplace. I imagine mutual respect as being the lowest common denominator for which most companies don’t have the luxury to tolerate any less.”

In essence, the best and most productive workforce is a happy and engaged workforce (see infographic below). However, ignoring the ignominious issue of monster managers won’t make them go away.

To the contrary, looking the other way only compounds the crisis.

What do YOU think?


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Image Credit for Infographic: Courtesy of Good&Co


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David is a strategic communications consultant, freelance writer and former federal government spokesman based in the Washington, DC-area. A native New Yorker, David was a journalist prior to his career of public service. You can also find him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

NOTE: All views and opinions are those of the author only and not official statements or endorsements of any public sector employer, private sector employer, organization or political entity.

Strategic comms consultant for social justice, DEI, CSR | prior career spokesman at U.S. EEOC, WH political appointee for Bill Clinton | DC-based, NY-bred

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