C-Level Secrets: 3 Ways To Identify A Dirty Leader

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Bad leaders create poor performing employees, and poor performing employees reduce a company’s profits. Treat people with respect.

Deloitte’s recent report stated, “Today’s reality is that people continually make choices, consciously or not, as to how committed they are to their work and the enterprise.”

People don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses. This applies no matter where a person fits on the pay scale; minimum wage to six figures.

Dysfunctional leaders can wreak havoc on organizations and create poor performing employees, and poor performing employees reduce a company’s profit margin.

According to Gallup, disengaged employees cost U.S. companies $450-$550 billion every year. Regardless of the industry, or how big a company is, lost revenue is painful and small businesses can’t survive long with poor leaders.

Related Article: Real Talk: Which Annoying Coworker Are You?

Because of my super nerdiness and previous experience with a dysfunctional leader, I’m hyper sensitive to leadership, even in situations that seem mundane to others. With large companies that have built strong brands, dysfunctional leadership is easy to identify when people act uncharacteristic within that brand. 

This leads me to share a recent encounter at a restaurant when I requested a replacement for a poorly cooked to-go order.

People Can’t Make Simple Decisions

After presenting the food to the on-site cook and waitress, and explaining that the food was made earlier that day (so they weren’t responsible) they both seemed indifferent. He asked her, “What are we going to do?” She said, “I don’t know.” Stunned at their resistance to my request, I asked, “Do you see what I see?” The air of resistance to make a decision was so thick; you could cut it with a knife. They were capable, but wouldn’t.

I thought to myself, their manager must be crazy and treats them like crap. In an environment where people are empowered to make simple decisions, there wouldn’t have been resistance to an obvious need to replace my food. A simple, “Wow! Let me remake that for you,” was the expected response.

The waitress called the manager for approval and repeated what he said, replace one part of the meal, but not the meat. I asked, “Do you need to send him a picture?” She said, “No. I asked him to stay on the line if you had questions, but he said he wasn’t taking calls.” My eyes were the size of golf balls. She offered a lackluster apology and moved on. For me, the issue about the food paled in comparison to what was really going on— we had a poor leader in our midst.

The employees were young but bright. I’ve heard some people grumble about managing millennials, but I managed 100+ millennials in my previous career, and increased their workload and our productivity without complaint, so millennials aren’t the problem. When people are treated with the core elements of great leadership, they will respond accordingly.

Related Article: 5 Things You Should (Almost) Never Tell Your Boss

Not being in a position to replace a low ticket food item without permission was a clear indication of suppression and poor treatment of personnel. My mind started to wander; thinking about the underlying issues of this behavior and the unintended consequences of locking down ALL decisions. Is this resulting in high turnover and headaches of managing poor performers?

People Follow Orders Blindly and Won’t Stand Up For What’s Right

After initial persuasion (and the absurdity of not remaking a meal that was clearly wrong), the cook started both parts of my meal while the waitress was on the phone. He didn’t hear the manager’s decision. Before he put the meat on my plate, the waitress told him not to, and he put his head down and apologized. Again stunned. Not because of something so minute, but how poor leadership reflects on a person’s character and how they see themselves. Not only can they not make a decision, but they also aren’t able to do what they know is right in their heart.

I discerned they were more concerned about how the manager felt than me. What does this mean for customer service when you forgo the customer to appease the manager? Too wrapped up to be offended as a customer, I was more appalled as a leader.

When I got home, I sent a note to their corporate office with a picture of the original meal. Within 30 mins I got an e-mail from the Division Manager. This was after 9 pm, so I was impressed. The corporate level obviously takes customer concerns very seriously. He apologized and said he would get back to me after he got insight on the decision making of the store manager.

Leaders Don’t Take Responsibility For Their Decisions

Within 36 hours, I was made whole. I got another e-mail from the Division Manager stating the District Manager attempted to call me and they were giving me a free voucher. Also, that the waitress “misunderstood” the leader’s decision. TRAGIC.

Shifting blame is the quickest way to lose respect as a leader. A leader without integrity is a person in a leadership position, but they don’t exhibit the qualities of a leader. Even if the personnel don’t hear about him blaming them (which I’m sure they will with this display of character), the future implications are immense. If a leader can shift blame over a $5 decision, what’s going to happen when given responsibility for $200k decisions?

When people are treated poorly, they will act poorly. Then leaders expend their energy managing poor performers, without realizing they are managing the behaviors they created. Can you really blame what you created? Treat people with respect, common courtesy and be a leader worth following, and loyalty (retention) will be a byproduct. People will work for great leaders even at a lower wage.

Related Article: 5 Signs of a Bad Manager

Leadership is tough, and it’s difficult to manage all the moving parts, but as higher level leaders, it’s important to ensure that everyone under your care is taken care of and treated with respect, regardless of income level or position. Again, a seemingly mundane issue filled with leadership nuggets to share. I thank this company for the experience.

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