A hostile boss can make a workplace unpleasant. Working under someone who constantly tries to instil fear, bullies staff and conducts themselves in a way that would make HR shudder, is a real problem for employees in the UK.
But, which intimidating boss would really give your employees actual nightmares? A new totaljobs survey found that UK employees view Lord Alan Sugar, star of the BBC’s The Apprentice, as the most intimidating boss to be interviewed by and one of the scariest bosses to work with. However, perhaps Lord Sugar’s fear factor is just as enticing as it is scary, with 36% of employees viewing him as a ‘great boss’.
Another frightening individual cited in the study was US President, Donald Trump, with 65% of employers and 54% of employees naming him as the scariest boss to work for. And you can’t blame them, his track record for keeping employees doesn’t exactly dissipate fears. His administration has already gone through a Chief Strategist, a Chief of Staff, an FBI Director, a Deputy Assistant and two Communications Directors.
Another boss renowned for keeping employees on their toes, was Sir Alex Ferguson. Last year the former-Manchester United manager’s player, Ryan Giggs, was quoted as saying: “Fergie was scary and even now he still scares me.” But perhaps there’s a method behind the madness, when it comes to creating a culture of fear – it can motivate employees who tend to slack.
The survey found the top five scariest bosses that employees wouldn’t like to report into this Halloween:
- President Donald Trump (54%)
- Lord Alan Sugar (44%)
- Rupert Murdoch (26%)
- Sir Alex Ferguson (25%)
- Piers Morgan (25%)
Matthew Harradine, totaljobs’ Director, comments: “While intimidating bosses may make tough interviewers, candidates agree that their toughness would make them good people to work for. While the nicest person in the world might be fun to work with, our study has found employees don’t think they are necessarily the best people to learn from, which is what employees are looking for in a boss.
“On the flipside, the people employees least want to work for are those who seem to go through staff quickly and experience a high team turnover. It’s safe to say that a balanced and respectful environment is where employees feel they are most likely to strive.”
A separate study from Ohio State University actually found that employees who stood up to their bad boss enjoyed less psychological distress, increased job satisfaction and felt more commitment to their employer.
And, surprisingly, retaliating against their boss didn’t hamper a person’s career prospects.
Lead author of the study, Professor Bennett Tepper, explained: “Before we did this study, I thought there would be no upside to employees who retaliated against their bosses but that’s not what we found. The best situation is certainly when there is no hostility. But if your boss is hostile, there appears to be benefits to reciprocating. Employees felt better about themselves because they didn’t just sit back and take the abuse.” He added that the employees who returned the hostility didn’t see any negative consequences.
It’s important for bosses to move away from a culture of fear not only for the benefit of employees, but for the business. In their Harvard Business Review article “Why Employees Are Afraid to Speak,” James R. Detert and Amy C. Edmondson, cite a study within an organisation, which had a policy encouraging people to speak up about problems.
However, half the respondents felt it was “not ‘safe to speak up’ or challenge traditional ways of doing things.” The findings indicated that most respondents were reluctant to share creative ideas for improving products, processes or performance –out of fears that being honest could end their career.