Bad bosses are a trope of the working world.
Employees have long moaned about their managers and their negative relationships with them, while workers today are reporting that their strained rapport with their boss as a leading cause of them moving to a different company. Unlike relationships with colleagues, an employee’s relationship with a boss colours their entire perception and attitude to work.
Out of everyone in an organisation bosses are the stewards of a company’s values and HR policies. Therefore, if you get your bosses right, everything else should fall into place. In the same vein, if you get these positions filled by the wrong people, this can spread toxicity in the organisation, which is bad for a collection of reasons.
This idea has been highlighted in the public sphere through the scrutinising of American talk show host Jimmy Fallon. Recently, the TV personality and host was accused by 16 employees who work on his show of creating a toxic work environment.
Amongst the accusations, his colleagues said he would often throw ‘hissy fits’, which made some employees cry, and his “bad moods” had the potential of ruining the day of staff members. Some workers on the show even described having hair fall out and suicidal thoughts because of the environment caused by Fallon.
“People wouldn’t joke around in the office, and they wouldn’t stand around and talk to each other. It was very much like, focus on whatever it is that you have to do because Jimmy’s in a bad mood, and if he sees that, he might fly off,” described one anonymous employee.
In a statement, the show’s network NBC explained that accusations from employees demonstrated behaviour that doesn’t align with their policies: “As in any workplace, we have had employees raise issues; those have been investigated and action has been taken where appropriate. As is always the case, we encourage employees who feel they have experienced or observed behaviour inconsistent with our policies to report their concerns so that we may address them accordingly.”
Clearly, workers at the Tonight Show, which Fallon hosts, felt they needed to walk on eggshells in the presence of an unprofessional and emotionally unstable boss. This led to his own bosses at NBC defending themselves in saying Fallon’s actions were inconsistent with their culture and values. But how do you make sure managers are not only acting in accordance with policies, but being ambassadors of them too?
Ambassadors of HR policies
On LinkedIn, some spectators shared their opinion on the Fallon fiasco, HR advisor and employment lawyer Daniel Stander, said: “There have been many examples of toxic workplace culture in recent years that have provoked public scrutiny - and this has coincided with attitudes to fairness and behaviour in the workplace changing significantly.
“Clearly, it is not enough to have in place policies and procedures to address bullying and harassment at work. In order for employees to feel safe, respected and that their voices are heard, employers need to have effective mechanisms to enforce policies on a consistent basis (a healthy "Speak Up" channel), coupled with regular and high-quality training (especially at C-Suite level - culture really does start at the top.”
Stander’s not wrong in saying that having clear channels of communication, effective training for managers, and enforcing policies are all important in helping prevent toxicity from leaders. But communicating policies, including reiterating your company values, is a good place to begin your journey to getting leaders in shape as competent ambassadors.
This can be done through ensuring staff know what your company policies are in the first place, and making sure they understand any rules and consequences. Additionally, consistently applying policies to all employees, treating everyone fairly and impartially, allows managers to recognise they aren’t above policies, and instead they embody them.
Overall, managers are the glue that holds your organisation together. Because of this responsibility, they can also be the people that can tarnish it too. Therefore, it’s important to recognise these leaders as ambassadors of your policies through effective training and education, and punishment when they don’t align with it. Employers need to create a culture of fairness and respect, and this starts with creating an environment conducive to this, from the top-down.