Poor managers and exploitation in the workplace
Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for Georgia.

Poor managers and exploitation in the workplace

Jack Bernard, a retired SVP with a large national healthcare firm, has worked extensively with hospitals across the nation regarding cost containment and insurance. He was also the first Director of Health Planning for Georgia.

A while back, Gallup released a very important paper: “The No. 1 Employee Benefit That No One’s Talking About.” Strangely, it is rather misnamed.
It is a discussion of why employee morale suffers at some firms versus others.  According to Gallup, poor managers affect: “absenteeism; performance; customer ratings; quality; profit”.
Let’s face it; no one wants to work for someone that you do not get along with and who doesn’t get along with you. Or even worse someone who has repeatedly made unwanted advances, as the “me too” movement has successfully pointed out. So why do employees, female and male, put up with the Harvey Weinsteins of the world? Unfortunately, the answer is fear.
I mentioned to a close friend, a strong conservative who only watches and reads right wing news, how horrible it was that so many powerful men were abusing their positions to exploit women at work. His response was that none of these women can be believed no matter the evidence because they did not report the incidents when they happened. In his view, the victim was the perpetrator.
I explained to him that when you are in a position with little power versus your exploiter, you are at a distinct disadvantage, especially in an employment situation.  You do not want to lose your position, raises, references, and so forth. And, unfortunately, this form of retribution is often hard to prove and can be devastating to one’s career.
So, what can and should be done? The remedy starts with training strong, ethical managers. And then backing them when the going gets rough.
For example, good managers can identify internal bad apples and apply appropriate discipline in the case of sexual harassment. A bad manager will not. But, as Gallup mentions, there are many other ways other than sexual harassment that a bad manager can hurt a firm. I will provide a personal example.
In my career I have been very fortunate to work for very high-level executives (CEOs, Presidents, COOs, and EVPs) with strong people management skills…with one notable exception. In this particular case, I worked for a man who, although he was very well educated and high up in the food chain, was mentally unbalanced. He was eventually terminated for cause, but not before he did great damage to that corporation.
I was known as an aggressive, strong, capable executive with a fine track record. But in the years I worked for him I put up with continual verbal abuse, including out-of-control screaming and cursing when no one was around to hear. Would I have been happier as well as more effective and productive under a good manager versus a sick one? Of course!
So, why did I put up with this behavior? The answer is fear; I had three children in college and a non-working wife. I made a calculated, rational judgement to put up with the abuse for the financial gain.
In retrospect, I would have acted differently and taped these unacceptable, senseless fits of rage and gone to the CEO with the tapes. But that action was hard to take at the time given the possible negative consequences if the offender had not been terminated.
Once again, if the CEO was a stronger manager, he would have stopped the abuse before it progressed. But, although a good man, he was not in tune with his employees or aware of the dynamics as to how his organization really operated. Nor did he want to be.
Due to the basic superior-subordinate relationship, the possibility of exploitation will always be there. With the shrinking influence of unions in the workplace, downward pressures will only increase.
We must all be aware and take appropriate action, even if it must be anonymous, when we see anyone abusing their subordinates. And, as managers, we must be aware enough with our organization to see these negative tendencies and nip them in the bud.