You probably don’t want an angry, confrontational, bullying boss. But, do you want the other extreme – a conflict-avoidant boss? I vote, “No.” Conflict-avoidant bosses create breeding grounds for passive-aggressive employees and self-appointed tyrants.
For example, Helen’s boss is nice and sweet. And that’s her problem.
To read the rest of this article from the Austin Business Journal, see: Bosses who avoid conflict create a big mess http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/stories/2007/07/23/smallb3.html
Larry is always thoughtful and considerate. He tries to agree with everyone. Although he inspects each employee’s results and asks penetrating questions, he won’t tell them what they must do. If two of his staff disagrees, he won’t intervene and make a decision, or force them to resolve the issue.
Helen has frequent and critical deadlines, but in order to do her job she needs information supplied by Lindsay, another employee in Larry’s department. Lindsay says she’s too busy to give Helen the necessary information within the agreed-upon timelines.
Helen asks and asks but nothing seems to work. She tries begging, twisting Lindsay’s arm and even explaining her predicament at team meetings. She tries every communication and management technique her friends and human resource professionals suggest. Lindsay simply goes on her merry way and stonewalls Helen. She’s a sneaky bully.
In public, Lindsay always agrees to do that part of her job but then simply ignores the commitment. In private she says Helen’s not important enough. She doesn’t like Helen and she’s going to sabotage her. In one-to-one meetings with Larry, she undercuts Helen’s needs, communication skills and performance.
Larry avoids conflict with Lindsay but creates conflict with Helen. He’s upset with not getting what he needs from Helen but not upset enough to break the deadlock. He’s more afraid of Lindsay than he is of Helen. Lindsay knows she’s secure. She has no pressure to serve Helen and no consequences for resisting.
There are numerous variations on this theme but they all lead to the same symptoms. Performance decreases. Behavior sinks to the lowest level tolerated. Narcissisism, incompetence, laziness, gossip, back-stabbing, manipulation, hostility, crankiness, meeting sabotage, negativity, relentless criticism, whining, complaining, cliques, turf control, toxic feuds, harassment, bullying and abuse thrive. Power hungry bullies take power.
Absentee bosses – whether they’re waiting for retirement, have distracting personal concerns, are mentally tuned out or are cowards – create sanctuaries for unprofessional behavior. When there’s a vacuum of authority, the most aggressive, ruthless and controlling people are drawn in to fill it. It’s like the worst behavior of children coming out when their teacher leaves them alone for the day.
If you avoid facing someone who’s unhappy, you’re abdicating your responsibility as a leader. You’ll probably live to regret the pain caused by abandoning your duty. Your good employees certainly will regret it.
High standards protect everyone from unprofessional behavior. You can learn to eliminate the high cost of low attitudes, behavior and performance.