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No Room for Bossholes: Employees Demand Better Managers

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“Hate” is a really strong word, one that should not be used lightly. So when I saw the headline, “Most hate jobs” I thought it had to be the result of a headline writer with a gift for hyperbole. Turns out, sadly enough, the headline supported the story.

According to a new Gallup survey of the American workplace, seven out of 10 workers indicate they either hate their jobs or they’re actively disengaged at work. This disenfranchisement is costing American business an estimated $550 billion in economic activity annually. In Europe, employee engagement is no better, according to data from career site Blessing White. There has been no increase at all in employee engagement over the past few years.

Offering employees free fresh fruit or letting them take their birthday as paid time off won’t fix the problem. Ensuring better behavior, especially among managers, will. We’ve all seen countless articles and studies telling us that people leave managers, not companies.

Gallup CEO and chairman Jim Clifton is strong in his analysis: “The single biggest decision your company makes every day is who you name manager.”

At Edelman, we recognize that happy employees result in greater productivity and better client service, so we’ve taken some specific steps to help ensure a happier workplace by connecting performance and behavior:

  1. We conduct pre-hire assessments for VPs and above, called The Rembrandt Portrait, to get as objective a view as possible on candidates. The assessments measure 14 inherent personality qualities that can accurately predict whether someone is a cultural fit for us. I’ve seen what appeared to be fabulous candidates who interviewed well get flagged by Rembrandt as a considerable mismatch. Experience has taught us that when we fall in love with a candidate and convince ourselves to ignore any warning signs of the assessment, we usually regret it.
  2. A key part of our performance measurement system is focused on behavior. The most competent and productive manager in the world does more harm than good if that manager’s behavior fails to inspire others. Or worse yet, it actually demotivates others. So, in 360 feedback, we ask employees to provide input in only two areas: the person’s skills and behaviors. They carry equal weight, so a highly skilled person who has behavior issues isn’t likely to succeed.
  3. We tie compensation to behavior. If you’re a bosshole, you’ll get dinged come bonus time. We financially reward those whose leadership aligns with our values and goals and financially punish those whose do not make the kind of positive impact we expect. Since we began putting so much focus on behavior, we’ve seen significant improvement and we’ve terminated some otherwise smart, competent managers who just couldn’t make the necessary adjustments.

As Edelman increasingly looks to hire non-traditional candidates, especially in the area of creative, digital, research and paid media, we’ll continue to hold them to the standards we’ve come to expect of our most successful managers.

Claudia Patton is Edelman’s chief talent officer. In her role, she oversees talent management across the global network, including 67 offices in 30 cities. Follow her on Twitter @EdelmanTalent.

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