Have you worked for a toxic leader?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by bruno, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Rather an interesting and provocative question. I'm glad that the Army is looking at this- workign for guys who meet this description makes life really miserable whether you are in the military or civilian life. Sadly- I think there are a fair number of them around. I would be surprised if most people had not worked for someone who fits this description. I can think of two commanders who I worked for over the years that fit this bill- one of whom finally got relieved though too late to save several good officers who finally just bailed; but the other just wrecked careers until he finally retired.

    http://www.armytimes.com/news/2011/07/army-toxic-leader-callout-071511w/

     
  2. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    I'm not sure if it's a good story or not for the Army Times- but I know that Gen Dempsey in his 2 week tenure as the Army Cof S had made this a priority- I assume that Gen Odierno will as well (though I haven't read that he has said so). It's not just an Army issue- the Navy has had a slew of reliefs as well this year. I don't know if it's any worse now than it has been in the past- I'm glad that someone is at least looking at it. The proof of course is in the doing.
     
  3. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I would also call this the Peter Pan Principle...promote until you fail.

    All of those traits listed, IMPO, are traits I have seen from bosses who were uncomfortable in that position. They were uncomfortable because they were not ready to be there...promote until you fail.

    If you look at all of the descriptors, to me they all have 1 underlying commonality...personal professional insecurity. You micro-manage because you distrust, that is an insecurity. You stifle because you don't want someone else shining, that is an insecurity. You reject ideas because you believe you are the only right one or distrust; insecurity. You put your career above others because you are threatened; insecurity. Waste time because you want everyone to look at you; insecurity.

    The real problem IMPO, is that this will never go away, it is like Medusa. You can chop off the head of one snake, but 2 more appear. It is so inherent not only in the military, but the corporate world, that the only way to correct it would be relieving way too many people with too much knowledge. Worse yet, most people do not realize that these leaders leave and become leaders in the govt. or corporate USA for companies that are tied to the DoD. Hence, it is a gift that keeps giving.

    Many people at a level of command walk out of the Pentagon from their desk on Friday wearing their uniform and return Monday to the same office just wearing a suit and now are a GS15 or SES. If not the same office, something that is totally connected to that office in an important way, thus in daily contact. How does that happen...NETWORKING...in other words it is not what you know, but who you know. Another example of Peter Principle and why they are toxic.

    JMPO, flame me if you want. I am just looking from an outsider (spouse) who works in the corporate world.
     
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2011
  4. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    i would say that you are accurate PIMA though I think that an overweening ambition and a basic lack of integrity also contribute a lot to this. Guys like this really are poison though. I can recall a battalion commander in Korea about 30 years ago who started off his inbrief for new company commanders by telling them that " he was a better company commander than they ever would be and all they needed to do to be successful was exactly what he told them". It went downhill from there- guys would never turn off the lights in their offices, and would never turn the lights on in their hooches becasue he thought nothing of jerking them around at midnight just becasue he could. But- he was successful- it wasn't until he got Brigade Command that somebody finally found him out- when two Majors on his staff who were both SAMS graduates resigned from the army and cited him as the reason. then of course the Div Commander jumped in- but two really good guys were lost to the Army- just the last casualties in this guys toxic career. :thumbdown:
     
  5. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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  6. goaliedad

    goaliedad Parent

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    This civilian has had plenty of toxic bosses over the years.

    The things I've seen in common among them:

    1) Blind to their own toxicity.
    2) Don't recognize or accept toxicity in their subordinates and superiors.
    3) Don't own their job - just renting it for a while until they move up to the next one.
    4) Say their people are their most important asset, but do little to make them more valuable.

    Among the great bosses I've had, they've all...
    1) Been keenly aware of their own frailities.
    2) Accept the frailities of their subordinates and superiors and work to minimize those shortcomings, even those who are toxic. (They make it work regardless of the situation)
    3) Own their job and share it with those who contribute to its success.
    4) Find others to credit for their success and accept more blame for failure than they truly deserve.

    I suspect that in the recent past, the better leaders in the Army have been working around the toxicity, accepting it as a cost of keeping trained leaders when staffing has been in short supply. I am hoping that as it comes time to reassess our staffing levels that we become less willing to accept toxicity as the price we pay for the immediate need. Some have proven able to work around toxicity, while others have shown the lack of leadership necessary to have a positive environment. Let's hope those are evaluating leadership are those who recognize this.
     
  7. futureAFA

    futureAFA Member

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    I think micro managing is one of their defining characteristics. Not because micro managing is the worst, but because it’s associated with distrust. Distrust is one of the worst traits leaders have in my opinion.
     
  8. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    Had a fun micro-manager for my first boss at my first unit. After about a year he transfered out and the new guy arrived. Complete 180.....absolutely wanted everyone to find their own path. Not bad, unless you've been used to a micro-manager and now have to flip a switch and think again... I have to say that was bumpy for me, and it was bumpy for my divisions.
     
  9. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    GoalieDad- you hit this EXACTLY! You've nailed every one of the attributes. And your line about renting the job till they move up makes these folks doubly toxic. In the corporate world I have seen plenty of incidents where we went down the wrong- but irreversible- path despite plenty of people knowing the risks and likely costs and realistic paybacks, all because a senior executive really wanted to show that he could "make the tough calls". Then of course they move up or on and the next guy gets to try and glue the pieces back together. You also nailed what makes a really good "boss" and leader. I know I can think of several over the years that made you want to do your best in large part because you just didn't want them to be disappointed in you.
    And what LITS says is "Oh so true": going from a micromanaging control freak to someone who explains what he wants then trusts you to do your job is a huge change, and going the otherway is beyond frustrating.
     
  10. rkrosnar

    rkrosnar Member

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    Have you ever worked for a toxic leader?

    Bruno,

    Great post. Yes, I have. My Dad and both sets of grandparents taught my brother and sisters and I, there is no substitute for hard work. This was learned at a very early age. Not getting our hands dirty was not an option. We had to do and learned to do for others either giving time or being a public servant. I worked for a person who used intimidation and embarrassment to teach a person, what they did wrong and not behind closed doors either. But, I have never let this deter me. I love what I do for a living, not like love it. I go to work everyday with a smile on my face. And give 100 to 110% everyday, too. I been working in our State EOC for 21 1/2 years and it like, I just started yesterday. Your job needs to be your passion. I learned this from listening to CD's from Sir John Templeton, called the Laws of Inner Wealth. It has taught me and rein enforced, what I learned from by family. I truly appreciate what I have learned from my family and tried to teach it to my DD and DS, but at times been unsuccessful. I really love being public servant and doing what I do

    RGK
     
  11. fly boy

    fly boy Candidate

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    Though I haven't got much experience, I would add one more trait to the toxic leader: When confronted with their toxicity, they will deny it and often rationalize it as necessary for leadership.
     
  12. fly boy

    fly boy Candidate

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    Exactly. Though I haven't exactly had such a boss (yet), I can imagine how it would affect a unit. Being used to being told every single thing to do, and then have somebody who gives you the reins to do your job, that would be tough.
     
  13. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Sorry, that one made me chuckle. No offense, but anyone who has ever worked for a toxic boss would never do that, unless of course they wanted to fall on their sword. In other words get a "P" or "DNP" on their PRF instead of a DP or in the corporate world be handed a pink slip.

    Confronting a toxic boss with that premise only occurs when you have a job lined up already. I can say out of 20 yrs with Bullet in the AF, there was only 1 person that ever did that, and he survived. However, he became the staple of a statement...there is the AF way and XYZ's way! He, himself was toxic. Yes, he got a command!
     
  14. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I had a CO who was ... maybe semi-toxic. He was a NROTC midshipman at the Citadel. Served his time in the Navy, got out, drove around the country on a motorcycle for a few years, enlisted in the Coast Guard, and went to Coast Guard OCS.

    He had a knack for talking in an infinite loop. As some point in a story he would hit a trigger that would have him loop back near the beginning, make his way through the story back to the trigger, loop back to the beginning... etc etc etc.

    The Operations Officer and Engineer Officer had a deal, if they saw the other stuck in an infinite loop story in the captains stateroom, they would have them paged on the ship to have them report somewhere.

    That Captain also liked to show how salty he was. (He was pretty salty, only O-6 I know with nothing higher than a bachelor's degree).

    We had a newly reported BM3 (E-4) who had reported straight from BM A-School. Guy was wet behind the ears, just wanted to please. In his first week on the bridge, breaking in BMOW, the captain walked behind the chart table and asked the new BM3 "point to Key Largo". In a panic the BM3 pointed at a random FL key...wrong one. The captain then said "Better figure out what you're doing or you'll find yourself working back at K-Mart in no time."

    Needless to say, to have the commanding officer of a ship say that to a newly reported junior member was a little damaging to that BM3's confidence.

    I got the feeling I rubbed that CO the wrong way. He was the first CO on that ship while I was there. I didn't think he liked me. Thought I did everything wrong in his eyes. At some point I walked up to his stateroom one evening after my watch and I said "Captain, can I talk to you?" I went in and had a seat. I told him I got the feeling he didn't like me, and independent of that, I wanted to know what I could change to at least do things the way he wanted me to. Basically "what can I do to make you happier". The result was actually fairly good. His approach changed, I didn't feel like I was doing everything wrong in his eyes, and I hope I made SOME of the changes I needed to make. Maybe he appreciated my willingness to ask to sit down and talk with him, or maybe he understood me more. Not sure. It wasn't an "attack" on him, I talked about what I could do to be better.
     
  15. Packer

    Packer Member

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    Wise choice LITS. Recognizing they are the boss and you need to do it their way and figure out what they want will help no matter where you are. There are good and bad bosses but they are the boss.
     
  16. fly boy

    fly boy Candidate

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    I didn't mean confronted by one of his employees or troops, but by a superior, such as when a complaint has been submitted.

    In no way was I saying that a boss would deny it if confronted by one to whom he was superior. I can see why you would chuckle. That would make for an awkward couple of moments!
     
  17. AF6872

    AF6872 Member

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    If you want a bad situation work for a Sociopath who is a relative. Day to Day nightmare.
     
  18. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    flyboy,

    Reality and theory rarely ever meet. In theory you are correct to go to the superior, but in reality it rarely results in a positive manner.

    For ex:
    Who selects the squadron commander in the AF? The Wing King does (most of the time). Now are you going to go the Wing King/Queen and say your decision bites?!

    Who selects the flight commander? The squadron commander. Again, nobody forced them to take that person (most of the time), it was their personal decision.

    Thus, what result do you expect to get if you did go? Instead most bite their tongue and accept that the decision was made at a higher pay grade than them.

    In the 20 yrs Bullet served, only 2 commanders were relieved.

    1. For having an affair with the Intel officer...not for toxicity
    2. For toxicity.

    The guy relieved for toxicity was forced upon the heirarchy and they wanted to get rid of him before his household goods arrived. It took them about 18 months, but they did get to do it.

    This guy was so "out there" that when he got his OPR, he framed it and hung it on his wall. It basically said "does not play well with others". He knew his days were numbered and he didn't care.

    As I said it happens that they are relieved, but the way the system works many times is the person over them placed them in that position. What good would it do.

    Think about even in the corporate world, that is the system, and if the boss brings someone in from the outside, they really selected them, which makes it that much harder to jump over their cranium.

    OBTW, want to know what happened to him? They PCS'd him to another wing in a command position. It is called push him up and out, so it won't be our problem anymore. Of course his reputation went with him, and that wing felt the same way about him that our wing command felt...forced upon them to take and started trying to get rid of him before he even entered the gates. (Forced because he had a flag officer - 3 stars to force it). See where I am going? The Wing King isn't going to say no or complain about him to a 3 star if they want to get promoted. Just like that FCC isn't going to complain by jumping his cranium if he wants to be promoted.

    The military is much smaller than you think, at least the AF is. You'd be surprised to realize that it is like the game 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon. That is why toxicity exists IMPO.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2011
  19. fly boy

    fly boy Candidate

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    Pima, I would basically agree, however, you cannot deny that trait of a toxic leader.
    If approached [by whomever, be it a private or an airman basic, or by a general (regardless of the probability of such a thing happening "in the real world")] about it it is most likely that they would excuse it. Who knows, maybe it would be criticism by a peer or somebody who is simply observing.

    A toxic leader would not be likely to recognize his toxicity when (or if) approached about it. He would deny it.
     
  20. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    I know of one that was i n the coast guard. The good news is that he retired from the coast guard 10 years ago. The bad news is: "I've been working for him for the last 6 years".
     

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