There is a true saying, “People don’t leave companies, people leave managers.” While a small percentage of junior executives do change jobs in order to obtain higher salaries, the majority of job hopping, at every level of seniority, occurs because people are managed badly. The problem is that there are a lot of bad and abusive managers.
Often, bad managers are seen by their bosses as valuable employees and do a great job for their clients, but are horrible to their people. If they are good at what they do and are poor managers they can and should be retrained in order to control and lower turnover under them. Turnover is expensive.
I once worked for a notoriously abusive manager, who was a group head. I knew it when I took the job. On my second day on the job he was dissatisfied with something I had done and came into my office and wagged his finger in my face while I was sitting at my desk. I grabbed it. I stood, while holding the offending finger, and told him that I would not tolerate having a finger shoved in my face. For the next five years we got along well. There was never another negative incident with me.
I watched him interact with others who worked both for and with him. Most people accepted his antics, just mumbling under their breath. Others, after a time, simply quit because they could not take his abuse and did not have the inclination to fight back. Agency management knew about his behavior but did nothing about it. It is a shame on two fronts. First, because he caused talented and valuable people to leave and second, he was a brilliant advertising person who was heading towards self-destruction (in a few weeks I will post about how he self-destructed.).
Ad agency management puts up with bullies because they think they have to. The excuse is that, “The client likes him [or her].” That may be, but it is not an acceptable justification to accept bullying. There are many advertising executives who are known to be “screamers”, some are abusers, and many of them are CEO’s and Chairmen. However, titles are no excuse for bad behavior towards others.
There is no excuse for threatening, bullying, harassing, screaming or belittling employees. There is a famous story of a well-known ad agency chairman who was in a client meeting with his staff. During the meeting, for no apparent reason, he demanded that the most junior person in the room go out and shop for a bag of peanuts. This young executive knew not to raise a question and went out to go shopping. When the person came back with the peanuts, the chairman opened the bag and threw several peanuts at each agency employee (not the client), and as he tossed out the nuts, he said to the client, “We have to feed the elephants and keep them happy.” Everyone, including the clients, were appalled. To their credit, two of his employees stood up and left the meeting; in fact they quit their jobs. The HR Director tried to talk to the chairman, but was also fired. To my mind, the entire agency should have left. There is no justification for accepting this kind of behavior.
I can think of one agency which employed a notorious screamer. He happened to be the general manager. I was constantly asked to fill the same jobs working for him, often multiple times within a year. A new and very smart HR Director sent this manager for counseling. It worked. I always thought they put him on meds, but nevertheless, after a few weeks he became a model manager. It was an inexpensive way to lower turnover and keep a valued employee.
All companies should offer counseling for valued employees who have management issues.
Sometimes I hear stories about more subtle abuse – managers who take other people’s ideas for their own (fairly common) or making all of their group employees stay late every night just in case they are needed for an emergency later in the evening; they are usually not needed. Or managers who call, text or email employees during the weekend and demand that they leave their families and come to the office, often for no urgent reason. This kind of behavior can and should be controlled through counseling or re-training. (Good for the French, who just passed a law making it illegal for firms with over 50 employees to email after hours.)
Ironically, even reluctant managers who receive counseling are usually thankful for it.
All companies should have management training for their employees; that training should include how to manage people. Since most of us learn from the people who managed us it is critical for companies to have exemplary managers.
Companies that ignore poor managers are costing themselves money because of avoidable turnover.