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Individuals leave Abusive Partners, not Relationships

... Because people leave managers, not companies

Individuals leave Abusive Partners, not Relationships

Tuesday July 07, 2020,

10 min Read

In May 2020, The Hindu carried an article which stated that emergency services across Europe have seen a sharp rise in domestic abuse calls under sweeping lockdowns imposed across the continent. Again by end of June 2020, the reports emerged that in India, Domestic violence complaints were at a 10-year high during COVID-19 lockdown.

According to the WHO, domestic violence often increases in times of crisis

What was even more disturbing to note was that 86% of victims who experienced abuse never sought help, and 77% of the victims do not even mention the incident(s) to anyone. The cases suggest that, regardless of victim background, they find themselves in an abusive relationship.

"Individual leave Abusive Partner, not Relationship".

A deep-dive into the reasons why victims remain with an abusive partner, even after undergoing years of abuse shocked me. It ranged from Fear to Family Expectations to Financial Constraints.

"At the risk of trivialising this global problem, I found similar reasons being given by long-tenured unhappy employees during my consulting assignments at large and small enterprises"

Now, with Job Market contraction due to COVID-19 impact on Businesses, many employees, regardless of their industry, role, or qualification, have found themselves in companies that have abusive or toxic Manager. Managers who never managed let alone led a team in a crisis.

It is a well known fact that employees rarely believe in the grievance redressal process of an organization. In most organizations, it has been done as part of statutory compliance. More importantly, if an employee grievance is raised during a business crisis, will it be reviewed fairly?

Did you know, among the 14% of domestic abuse victims who sought help, only 7% reach out to relevant authorities? This is because victims do not believe authorities can help and unfortunately, authorities do not have access to victims and assure them of help. However, in an organization, it is a much better case. Leaders (or individuals in authority) can spot Toxic Manager behaviour and Save Employees including the company culture from long term damages.

Hence, through this post, I would like to share possible signs or traits of a Toxic Manager for a Leader to spot :

  1. Managers who operate on survival mode. These are Managers who send their team into battle without any ammunition or preparation so that the manager can plan an escape or survive another day. During the recent layoff spree, I had come across many such managers at a client place. These managers were willing to layoff most of their team members as long as their job was safe. Few of these managers were considered as part of the core team & believed in the founder's vision. Not even one of them fought for the retention of their team members or tried to get a better severance package offer for members affected or maybe wishful thinking - make an empathic plea offer of salary cut from their side in exchange for their team members' job assurance. Such managers cause more damage rather than build teams in an organization. Studies show that layoff during a crisis impacts an organization at a much larger scale than salary cuts.
  2. Managers who are never wrong while the failure is always attributed to their team. This is hard to believe but such managers are in large numbers and also, survive very well by diverting the mistakes onto a team member or worse, the entire team. As part of a Responsibility Matrix assignment, we were reviewing the various successes and failures of the Sales Team at a large FMCG company. When Sales Head recounted the successful contracts, statements started with I did this... while the contracts that had margins lower than what was envisaged, statements started with XYZ felt it was good order and I went along. This is a subtle trait which will be known to team members as well and cause a work environment of low trust - When the going is good, everything is fine but when there is an issue, the manager will throw the individual under the bus. Studies show that employees who do not trust their manager will never try to take a risk and try to improve self or team performance.
  3. Managers who love the limelightThese are Managers who accept credit on every successful milestone publicly and very rarely include their team members in meetings where Senior Leaders are present to primarily congratulate the success. They do not pass on the congratulatory statements of the leadership to the teams as well. Last year, while conducting a talent review for one of my client's hospitality wing, the promoter had no comments on talent below the GM. This was a property that had won multiple awards for Food and Service over the years. This was primarily because the GM of the property never exposed any of the team members to the owner or allowed them to interact in public award functions. Studies show that employee recognition when done rightly and on time, has a better retention impact than rewards or cash payout.
  4. Managers who micromanage. These are managers who carry a tag of adherence to process or quality. But 8 out of 10 can be weeded out to be control freaks and not individuals who have ensured higher-quality outcomes in the last five years let alone one year. Such managers are high on distrust and low on confidence. A Retail client had an operations head who wanted each & every individual at the store and warehouse to follow the SOP that had helped them get various certifications. However, errors from the operation were not dropping even after every individual was trained on a periodical basis. This was primarily because the organization had increased in size & scale but the SOP (that was personally documented by operations head) was a decade old. No team member was allowed to make any changes to the SOP and the operations head (who wasn't part of floor level operations anymore) never accepted the need for the change either. Studies show that enthusiastic team members try to find meaning in their job and later join the pack of followers or leave. In the end, the organization's productivity and profitability get impacted.
  5. Managers who have no direction or opinion. These managers come to work with no plan but just clock their time and pray for no crisis. Many times, they communicate one approach to a set of team members and the complete opposite to another set of team members or external stakeholders. Few of them, take it to the next level of procrastination during a crisis. They will let the crisis get so bad that the Manager's superior or external factors will decide the plan of action so that they can avoid any kind of team meeting or discussion on the crisis. A couple of years back, there was a sudden drop in production output for a manufacturing client. The plant head gave no direction nor initiated a discussion with the team (on how to bring back the production output to the planned level). This gradual decrease in production capacity was blamed on equipment age and no alerts were passed on to HQ about it. By the time HQ was involved, the client had lost its largest customer and had to assess the need for the factory. Studies show that while employees look forward to empowerment, they also look up to their managers for direction and feedback on work.
  6. Managers who do not encourage. These managers behave like a schoolyard bully. At every individual or team discussion, they believe in putting their team members down. They believe through this technique of destroying an individual's confidence, team members will behave themselves and not retaliate to orders given by them. However, these are traits of managers with very low self-confidence and very high insecurity. Our real estate client in a tier two city had a top sales executive and on account of being a consistent high performance, the individual was made the head of the sales team when the earlier sales head retired. This young sales head was known as a manager who never complimented any of the team members on a sale. The standard statement that was communicated before signing a sale deed was "I am not happy with the price but it's okay. Go ahead!" It was a way to keep the team member in check but in reality, most team members left, even though they earned and could earn even more high-value incentives. They felt it was very demotivating to hear such statements every time they had succeeded in their task. Studies suggest that when teams are encouraged, profitability doubles.
  7. Managers who live in two time periods. These are managers who onboard members in their team with the expectation of new-age performance but provide them with stone age benefits. However, these managers ensure they are compensated as per industry standards if not higher. This can be analysed when simple parity checks are done between the manager and the team w.r.t compensation. While compensation is a confidential subject, humans are social animals and tend to obtain this information about others without much challenge. When this ratio is very high, you will also notice that team members push decisions up and take a back seat with the view "Why should I work hard when the manager gets all the perks". The manager ends up spending considerable time on operations and not strategic matters. The manager knows this reason but continues to keep the team member compensation low so that cost is shown low while ensuring one's compensation is as per market standards or higher. At one of the infrastructure projects that our client had won, the project head was given compensation and perks as per market standards. Now, when the project head hired team members, the compensation offered to these team members were either lower than the market or came with way too many conditions. As key milestones were achieved on time with superior quality, the client offered additional perks such as luxury car and house to the project head. However, nothing was offered to teams by the project head or at least proposed by the project head to the promoter. By the end of the contract, the project was over time and budget. This was primarily because the team members were demotivated as they were never compensated as per industry norms but saw the project head being rewarded consistently for the team's deliverables. Hence, they started to push all decisions to the project head. The focus for project head became operational issues rather than strategic milestones. If the project head had ensured the team members were compensated at similar conditions, the teams would have seen a manager willing to be part of the team. Unfortunately, the project head exhibited signs of greed and caused a large loss to the organization rather than saving salary-related costs. As per Peter Drucker, the ratio of pay between employee and senior executive can run no higher than 20-to-1 without inflicting damage on a corporation’s internal dynamics. Its means, we need to increase the compensation of the employees so that ratio can be achieved and not cut the salaries of senior executives

As I end this post, I would urge each leader to spot such toxic managers in your organization and weed them out of the organization. This is the right time because when the job market opens, organizations will see large exits of talented team members.

Remember, Even before the crisis..... Many were not Managing let alone Leading...

“People leave managers, not companies”