I've written recently about bad leadership, and about a leader that was so bad that I used the term "anti-leader." What are the effects of bad leadership on good employees? What should employees do in a situation where they are subordinate to a bad leader, or, god forbid, when they are persecuted by an anti-leader?
I mentioned mentoring a colleague who is supervised by an anti-leader and I've noticed a fundamental change. This individual was formerly a model employee who always went the extra mile at work, engaging in what organizational psychologists call "organizational citizenship behaviors" - behaviors that are above and beyond the call of duty. This employee talked up the company, organized social gatherings among employees, was a cheerleader from the company (I received a thank you gift of a t-shirt with the company's logo), and was willing to work hard, putting in long hours of non-compensated overtime. Well what happened?
All I can say is that there has been a major and fundamental change in this employee's entire attitude toward work, the organization, and her career since the anti-leader replaced her formerly benign supervisor two years ago. The anti-leader has broken the employee's "spirit." "I used to love coming to work. Now, I hate it," she told me.
When people encounter a really bad leader/supervisor, the obvious course is to exit. But because of family circumstances and the economic downturn, this particular employee, like so many others, is stuck. My task in coaching is to focus on this individual's entire career, so we are working on her coping, while trying to find her another position. My biggest concern, however, is whether the anti-leader has done any permanent damage. Will this employee return to that level of motivation and dedication that she had before encountering the anti-leader?
Can good leadership "repair" employees' broken spirit? I haven't seen that particular question in the research literature, but for the sake of my client, I certainly hope so.
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