Throughout my career, I’ve spent a great deal of time studying the characteristics that make a great leader.
Research has shown time and time again that individuals who are authentic, outgoing, effective at communicating their goals, and mindful of the needs of their followers.
While it is important to discuss the positive characteristics that make a great leader, I believe we also need to take the time to address the hazards of negative leadership.
As bad as dealing with a laissez-faire or absentee boss can be, the negative leadership style that has the greatest impact on employee success is the angry boss.
While it is perfectly normal for individuals to get angry now and then, having a boss who flies off the handle at the slightest trigger can be stressful to say the least.
These bosses create a toxic work climate that decreases productivity and increases absenteeism, burnout, and turnover.
The first step in dealing with an angry boss is to identify their anger style. For the majority of angry bosses, their antics start with a desire to be perceived as a top commander in the workplace.
However, the means they use to they go about attempting to validate their position can have a significant impact on both the climate of the office and the techniques needed to handle their angry tirades and redirect them toward a positive leadership style.
The most common type of angry boss is the individual who is just chronically in a bad mood. These bosses bark orders and snap heads off, which rapidly tanks productivity and morale in the office.
Unfortunately, as tempting as it may be to snap back, this strategy will likely only increase their anger.
Employees dealing with these chronic grumps may avoid seeking guidance out of fear of becoming the target of today’s anger, or may be denied assistance outright. In these cases, employees are likely to continue to work on equipment using poor or even downright unsafe methods, leading to increases in accidents and injuries in the workplace.
The second type of angry boss seen frequently is the aggressive and defensive micro-manager who wants to be consulted on even the minutest decisions.
These bosses pitch ‘hissy-fits’ if their employees don’t complete tasks exactly as instructed, even if the final products of the two methods are indistinguishable.
These bosses are the most dangerous when their meticulously detailed instructions distract employees, or when they insist that work is completed in a manner that sidesteps safety regulations.
Finally, the hardest type of angry boss to handle is the one who piles on unachievable demands and then explodes when their employees are unable to meet their expectations.
Telling these bosses that you cannot complete their tasks in the moment is likely to lead to extreme verbal abuse, attempts to manipulate the employee into committing to the demands anyway, or even outright threats of firing should their requests not be met.
These overbearing bosses can decrease work quality and compromise safety as employees attempt to rush through tasks in the hopes of meeting their impossible deadlines.
When it comes to changing the balance from angry boss to effective leader, it is important that employees, human resource representatives, and other organisational leaders maintain their composure and carefully structure their responses.
For micromanagers, employees may be able to solve the problem easily enough by fighting fire with fire – requesting input before the boss has a chance to give it will stroke their ego and, over time, show them just how disruptive their behaviours are.
On the other hand, chronically ill-tempered or high demand bosses require a bit more finesse to redirect. The only really effective method is to defer to the boss in the moment and request a private meeting at a later time.
This conversation should begin with a frank discussion of the bosses’ perspective on performance, as there is always a chance that, while inappropriately expressed, their anger is rooted in a real issue that can be solved.
Once the boss feels as if their perspective has been heard, the discussion should be directed toward discovering mutually beneficial solutions for improving performance, establishing realistic expectations, and communicating effectively and professionally.
In the end, it is important for both employees and organisations dealing with an angry boss to understand that these individuals not only impact productivity, work quality, and safety compliance in the office, but the very physical well-being of their employees.
The levels of stress caused by micro-managing, cantankerous, and hot-headed bosses can leave employees susceptible to illness and at-risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. To put it mildly, an angry boss is an unsafe boss.
Whether the employee chooses to confront an angry boss themselves or involve their human resources representatives, finding a means to stop angry outbursts should be a top priority.
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Head of Training and Development
Originally published: 23 June, 2015
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