I was just at a conference for entrepreneurs and told a group I was presenting to that I always "win the award" for having had the most toxic micromanager of anyone in the room. I told them the story. Well, not the whole story.
We were in a meeting with a prospect when things got ugly fast. My manager and the CFO butted heads. There was this weird ego standoff, and my boss was escalating it rather than finding common ground. Before long, the client became so enraged by my boss's toxic attitude that she stood up, grabbed the proposal I had prepared, and threw it across the table at my boss. Then she used some very choice words that I won't repeat and kicked us out.
We got my boss' car, and he immediately started to yell at me and blame me for what happened. He had a scary look of rage on his face. We sped away in his car going at least double or triple the speed limit. Then we got on the highway, and he started going well over 100 mph and weaving in and out of traffic. I began to fear for my life. I asked him to slow down. He refused. Then I demanded it. He ignored me.
It wasn't until I threatened to call 911 and started dialing it on my phone that he slowed down and stopped yelling at me.
I got back to the office and spent every working hour from then on looking for another job. Several people from my office had gone to HR about this manager, and HR had done almost nothing to stop his abusive behavior. So I stuck it out a few more weeks until I found another job.
Not long after I left that there was a massive exodus of employees that led to the shutdown of the regional office.
Here are the seven toxic leadership behaviors I saw in this boss that I will never allow myself to exhibit toward any team I lead.
1. Narcissistic Micromanagement
Nobody likes to be micromanaged. Be a leader, someone your employees admire, rather than trying to control them at the micro level. Inspire by leading by example with your work ethic, integrity, and by treating people with respect.
A bad manager's motivational tactic is to threaten people's jobs. A leader should be the teacher and find ways to help people improve. Managing by fear makes employees resent the company. The first chance they get, they will jump ship. My old boss locked the back door, so we had to pass by his office every time we left the building so he could keep tabs on us. These types of passive-aggressive behaviors show a lack of trust and respect.
2. Creating Office Politics and Drama
This manager pitted his people against one another. He told one person one thing that someone said and then told the other person that the same thing was being said about them. Office politics kills morale, and as the manager, you should be doing things to prevent it, not perpetuate it. Don't be vindictive. Create a positive environment where people want to come to work every day.
3. Lying and Being Unprofessional to Customers
He lied to customers regularly and promised them things he knew we couldn't deliver.
4. Airing Your Dirty Laundry at the Office
My former manager was always telling us about the drama that was happening at his house between himself and his wife. Imagine that--his wife didn't like him either. It made everyone uncomfortable, and they resented him more and trusted him less.
5. Griping About Your Employees Not Working Hard Enough While You're Slacking
We caught him watching YouTube videos all the time in his office. Then he would take every chance he could get to tell us all how worthless we all were and that we weren't working hard enough.
6. Using an Abrasive Communication Style
He used to curse at employees during meetings and use public humiliation to put people down. Cursing at employees will get you in trouble with HR at most companies. If HR turns a blind eye to it, like it did in my case, expect a mass exodus of employees.
7. Extreme Arrogance
Nobody likes someone who is a know-it-all and can do no wrong. Don't take all the credit when things go right and then be the first to pass blame when things go wrong.
Have you ever had that pit in your stomach develop on Sunday just from the thought that Monday is only a day away, and, you know you have to go back to work? Well, I am glad I don't have it anymore. That place is my rearview mirror.
While this experience rocked me to the core, tested my inner resolve, and brought me to new career lows I could have never imagined, I learned and grew from it. I am a better leader myself because of having seen firsthand the effects one toxic manager can have on a company.