As an executive recruiter, many people turn to me out of unhappiness with their managers. They’ll tell me that they love their job, the company is great and they work well with their peers. However, the employee-turned-job-seeker says they can’t stand working for their boss any longer. These folks list a litany of complaints and examples of how their supervisor lacks leadership. They point to an unusually high rate of employee turnover, internal squabbling and it’s impossible to get anything done. These are just a smattering of the issues they are frustrated with. Some employees have even reported their manager to higher internal authorities to no avail and they’re left with no alternative other than to leave the company.
It’s not just me. A recent survey from Hult International Business School reported on the lack of self-awareness of managers. The study concludes that roughly 60% of managers claim “they never or rarely appear frightening to junior co-workers.” Contrary to the supervisors’ opinions, the study shows that employees are scared to approach managers with their opinions. They feel afraid to speak up in meetings due to potential backlash and feel their ideas are shot down. They definitely sense the pressure not to dare speak “truth to power,” even if the company is engaged in unethical endeavors, which may yield catastrophic consequences — think Wells Fargo, Boeing and Volkswagen’s recent scandals. In a related piece written for The Harvard Business Review, co-authors Megan Reitz and John Higgins offer some suggestions to supervisors, including managers being cognizant of their facial expressions and the words they use. I’d like to offer some additional things managers should do to become strong leaders. This doesn’t come from an ivory tower, but from years in the trenches dealing with people.