“If you don’t like it here… f*** off”, and other management traits

It might sound aggressive, but an “in-your-face” management style can work in certain environments. But which management traits help to create the highest levels of employee engagement? Gary Cattermole investigates the merits of a direct style versus a collaborative approach.

When you think of your ideal boss, you may have certain attributes in mind – perhaps kind, generous or supportive?

On the other hand, the shareholders of your company may look for a different set of assets. I know of a business that, prior to the appointment of its current director, was failing.

Since joining, the new leader has turned it around, making it far more productive and profitable. As a result, the shareholders are delighted and believe that he is the best thing to have happened to the business in a long time.

The f*** off approach

However, in the first 18 months following his appointment, the company haemorrhaged staff. It was just as his “if you don’t like it here, you can f*** off” approach became apparent.

It is a harsh reality and not one we are all ready to accept. Let’s admit it though, no-one wants to employ someone who does not want to be there.

So does being brutally honest work? In this instance, the overtly brusque management style gave the right people the right environment to thrive.

The company now has a workforce that is totally engaged because all of its employees are equally committed to profitability and success. They understand that the company’s performance directly affects their pay and progression through the ranks.

Due to their own career ambitions and admiration for their forthright go-getting leader, the majority of employees are now energetic, ambitious go-getters. They accept that they work in a tough environment as it will help them get to where they want to be professionally.

Also, the HR department has a solid understanding of the personality types that will “fit” the business, making the recruitment process more effective for the organisation as it moves forward.

The new management team views the process of change as the removal of “dead wood”, which was necessary to move forward in a more productive and profitable way. Without being able to implement his “in-your-face” management style, the new director would not have been able to transform the business.

While this style may work well in some workplaces, it would be the death knell in others. What it does highlight is the importance of really getting under the skin of an organisation and knowing what works.

The collaborative approach

Other workplaces offer a very collaborative approach to management, which some assume is the golden key to engagement. Any issues or ideas are discussed as a collective, with everyone in the business given the opportunity to offer their opinion.

This approach suits those who need to feel valued, part of a team, supported and nurtured – career “ball-breakers” need not apply.

On the negative side, a collaborative approach can result in little or no decisions being made and a lot of time sitting discussing matters without much getting done.

In staff surveys, collaborative managers are scored on the higher end of the scale, but there will be other issues that arise from the feedback employees provide – perhaps more process than management led.

Most of us respond well to a leadership style that sits somewhere between the two. The majority of us need direction, but we also need to feel valued.

In the same way that children require guidance in order to feel secure, staff tend to need clear direction. Similarly, in the same way that children require the freedom to develop as individuals, adults need the same.

Personally, I believe managers should ideally lead from the front, give clear direction and provide the opportunity and confidence that staff require for personal growth. This involves giving employees the freedom to explore their capabilities and to use their initiative.

Build relevant recruitment processes

Despite the fact that both a brusque attitude and collaborative leadership styles have their merits, businesses who employ leaders with either mentality have to deal with issues that have the potential to affect profitability and productivity.

For HR professionals working in either environment, the need for a robust recruitment process comes to the fore.

Ensure that recruitment advertisements convey the leadership style that is employed within the business, both in terms of design and the wording used. Also, ensure that the selection process is conducted with the leadership style front of mind.

Give careful consideration to the organisations that applicants have previously worked for, how long they have remained in post and how they describe themselves and their career ambitions.

Most importantly, personalities need to be carefully scrutinised during interviews and the personality of the business should always be conveyed in its true light.

Mistakes during selection will obviously increase the likelihood of employees resigning before a business has even had the chance to benefit from their service.

Gary Cattermole

About Gary Cattermole

Gary Cattermole is director of employee research consultancy, The Survey Initiative
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