Mean Girls In Leadership

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia


There are extreme cases of  “leaning-in” and women asserting themselves in the workplace. In fact, the asserting is more like aggression and the leaning isn’t necessarily “in” but rather on the backs of other employees.

What am I talking about?

I am referring to mean girls in leadership. These are the women that have been given reign over a group of employees and are wielding this perceived power as though it is Thor’s mallet. They are nasty, condescending, backstabbing and will do anything to destroy other women and/or employees that pose a perceived threat. Some are blatant in their attempts to destroy others. In the most dangerous of instances, they will appear to be friendly, courteous and kind; but all the while they are undermining your every accomplishment with a smile.

True leaders don’t get intimidated by employees who know their craft and execute duly. Instead, they champion the strengths in those individuals and elevate their visibility because they know that their superb work is not only a reflection of the individual’s diligence but a testament to your ability to appreciate the strengths of your team.

In my career, I have had at least three lunatics for bosses that just-so-happen to be women. If I am to generalize their behaviors that allow me to categorize them as “lunatics” here is your description:

1) They all were overly friendly to the point that you thought at times you were speaking to one of your girlfriends.

2) They all randomly snapped leading them to micromanage work, lie to create performance issues that were non-existent, and pick fights like grade-school children would in the school yard.

3) Nothing was ever what it seemed with any of them. If you thought you were performing well, you were really doing terrible. Good equals bad and suddenly nothing regarding my employment under their tutelage made sense.

Everything in me despises this sort of toxicity in leadership. Someone is bound to try to challenge me on why I am singling out “women”. Here is your answer: yes, there are bad bosses everywhere and they all aren’t women. Happy? I’m not, because I think these mean girls are a distraction to the overall women’s movement toward total equality and recognition.

I also wonder why companies who see extreme turnover, loss of productivity, or low morale in various departments headed by leaders like this don’t put their foot down and remove the cancer. It’s not reasonable to be nice or to say that this person drives business. Isn’t it far more costly to the business if you have unproductive, disengaged employees?

Stop speaking about issues in leadership like the solution is not within your grasp. You have the ability to shape your employee ecosystem. You also have the ability to create a culture of integrity, respect and all other virtues that attract candidates, retain employees and woo customers.

I am sick of the mean girl game and I am tired of employers dialing-it-in because they don’t want to deal with leadership issues. Additionally, I am disappointed in HR for not being more vociferous and actionable about the negative impact these sorts of leaders have on the organization.

I share some tips on how you can deal with the mean girls of leadership in your organization at the end of the video. Check out my latest  “Ask Czarina” episode below.

“Ask Czarina”- Toxic Women in Leadership Edition



The Leadership Truth of Turnover

A friend of mine posted this blurb on Facebook from an audio book he was listening to (note: I don’t know the name of said audio book):

“Numerous studies have shown us that those given authority are more likely to lie, cheat and steal, while also being harsher in their judgments of others for doing these same things. Science tells us people with power feel less compassion for the suffering of others.

Previous experiments also show us that those who are obedient to authority are capable of the worst forms of murder, and tolerant of the worst forms of abuse. They will even chastise those of us who resist corrupt authority. They become facilitators of evil, believing that obedience to authority absolves them of personal responsibility. “

This blurb above is an explanation of today’s cesspool management and hierarchy that permanently resides in many companies. Although we speak very seriously and regularly about the importance of leadership development as HR practitioners, the truth is very rarely are managers chosen with care. In fact, I have personally observed companies who promote people to management or leadership roles based on their ability to be obedient and play the game.

What happens is the road to leadership then becomes a chess match played by cheaters. The rules are not static, but changed on an as-needed basis to suit the players. People like myself and my colleagues never stand a chance in being promoted or even surviving as an employee, because we live and work by a code of conduct. The code of conduct isn’t some arbitrary manifesto we write down to make people believe we are responsible, discerning, fair individuals; but a construct that guides our work and how we treat others in and out of business.

When we say that employees don’t leave jobs they leave bosses- we really mean they leave regimes.  Within the companies of some of your most beloved brands and products lies a regime that takes pride in beating its talent to a pulp daily with unkind words, unreasonable expectations and in some cases bullying- just because they can.

Recently, I read an article of the CEO of a company I used to work for. The article interviewed him about how he runs this large conglomerate and of course highlighted all of the philanthropic work he does for the community. Great article, nice man, toxic company.  It’s his job to speak highly of his business, but what I know after working there in HR is that the leadership from HR to the actual facilities (in many cases) are toxic and a good 3/4 of the employees are disgusted; but remain there out of necessity.

Turnover is directly linked to these toxic environments. The age of obedience and subservience is dead. People want meaningful work and positive work environments. If they remain in your employ, it is purely out of necessity. Necessity breeds a paycheck- which also means that they couldn’t care less about the success of the company.

I’m not sure when it became cool to lead from a place of pure malice and fear, but it needs to stop. If the ultimate goal of talent management is to retain the right talent in organizations, it’s time we (HR and everyone else) took personal responsibility to be ethical, fair, equitable, and provide a workplace free of toxic leadership. That may mean getting rid of a manager that has high turnover even in light of his or her considerable contributions to the company. It could mean reprimanding a manager for being a jerk, even if he or she is your happy hour cohort.

A lack of personal responsibility, the inability to tell and own the truth; as well as unethical behavior are among the many reasons why your turnover may be high. Pay attention to your workforce. Don’t look the other way and cover your ears when it matters the most. Your talent is your brand. Treat them with the same respect and humility you would want for yourself.

How are you being more intentional about being better leader?

Contact us to help you build a strategy for developing positive leadership.

Translate »