21 December 2010

WORKPLACE SURVEY - 28% Quit their job over bad management, bad bosses

Getting away: One in ten workers have taken up a new career to get away from bad management

Getting away: One in ten workers have taken up a new career to get away from bad management

Fed-up with your boss? You're not alone as 28% quit their job over bad management

Workers are quitting their jobs and even switching chosen careers because they’re fed-up with their boss.

A survey found 28 per cent of workers have moved work in an attempt to find someone who can motivate them more.

More than one in ten have taken up a completely new career in their search, while one in 20 has decided to set up their own business to get away from bad management.

Asked what they thought were the qualities of a good manager, the top credentials were:

  • Approachability (83 per cent),
  • Good communicator (82 per cent),
  • Supportive (81 per cent),
  • Good leader (80 per cent),
  • Someone who respects their staff as individuals (76 per cent)

The report, compiled for bank First Direct also showed bad behaviour in the workplace is putting a strain on British business.

When working under a bad boss, employees report a loss of motivation (47 per cent) and productivity (28 per cent), with one in five (18 per cent) taking 'sickies' as an avoidance tactic.

Paul Say, First Direct's Head of Marketing, said: 'When it comes to fostering British creativity at work, it seems many managers are holding back the true potential of their staff.

'More than three quarters of workers (77 per cent) think their boss does not encourage new ideas or allow self-expression.

'The results make for bleak reading and given the current economic climate, so much untapped potential is a serious issue.

'But valuing workers as individuals and embracing their creativity can make all the difference - which is why we have launched a new search to find and reward the best bosses in Britain.'

The findings are featured in the Colourful Lives Report by the Future Foundation, commissioned by first direct to mark its 21st birthday.


10 December 2010

COURSE - Sydney University - Psychopaths in the Workplace - 2011


The majority of psychopaths are not serial killers or rapists; they’re colleagues, bosses and employees found in workplaces throughout Australia. We’ll examine what a psychopath is, their personality style, behaviours, interpersonal approach and thought processes. You’ll learn how they infiltrate companies undetected and the strategies they use to manipulate those around them to achieve power and promotion. The four different types of workplace psychopath will be explored, and we’ll also look at what companies and individuals can do to minimise damage caused by the psychopath. (Warning: this course will include material that may confront some students.)

Course Content

  • Psychopath Characteristics
  • The four types of workplace psychopath – organisational psychopath; corporate criminal psychopath; violent criminal psychopath; and occupational psychopath
  • Tactics and Strategies used by each workplace psychopath sub-type
  • Workplace Psychopath – Good For Business?
  • Victims of the Workplace Psychopath – Protecting yourself and your employees
  • Profiling the Workplace Psychopath
  • A Case of Mistaken Identity

08 December 2010

Australian Workplace - Canberra Hospital's Maternity Unit Bullying Cover Up?

Gallagher 'covering-up' maternity unit report

Pressure is mounting on the ACT Government to release the findings of an inquiry into bullying allegations at Canberra Hospital's maternity unit.

Earlier this year the ACT Government ordered two external reviews into the hospital's obstetrics and gynaecology units after allegations of workplace bullying were made.

The Government appointed a workplace relations expert to investigate the bullying claims.

The investigation was conducted under the Public Interest Disclosure Act - a law designed to protect whistleblowers by keeping information confidential.

Health Minister Katy Gallagher says confidentiality clauses in the legislation prevent her from reading the report or it being publicly released.

But the Opposition is pushing for the report's recommendations to be released in the Legislative Assembly.

Opposition health spokesman Jeremy Hanson says the information could be released without personal details being made public.

"I want to see the recommendations, I want to see the findings and unless we see that then we're going to have to consider further action," he said.

Mr Hanson says the Government is deliberately trying to cover-up the report.

"The minister has set this process up under the Public Interest Disclosure Act to avoid scrutiny," he said.

"We were very concerned about this when it occurred in February. We said then that what we needed was an open inquiry because in the end of the day the minister's going to make sure that this never sees the light of day, and it has come to fruition."

The ACT Greens says releasing details of the inquiry could jeopardise investigations in the future.

"What Mr Hanson is suggesting could potentially expose people, could threaten their confidentiality - either he doesn't understand the process or he's using it for his own political ends," said Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan.

Ms Bresnan says releasing any detail could lead to a loss of faith in the public interest disclosure process.

"With public interest disclosure, people have come forward on the understanding everything would be protected and while we might say, 'it's only a few details', Canberra's a small place, this is a small unit, and any information could actually potentially identify the people involved," she said.

"It would really seriously undermine the whole public interest disclosure process."

Chief Minister Jon Stanhope says the inquiry will be followed up.

"I can give an absolute assurance that any of the findings will be taken absolutely seriously and if there were recommendations or implications they will be taken seriously and there's no reason for people not to believe that," he said.

The Health Services Union says there is a broader problem with the way bullying claims are handled.

"It just seems to be endemic and also the process is so lacking in transparency and information," said union spokeswoman Bev Turello.

ACT Health says it has written to the people involved in the inquiry.

But the Ms Turello says in the union's experience, staff are often kept in the dark.

"They need to know if action has been taken, if appropriate action has been taken, if they're going to be safe in their workplaces."

Royal College of Obstetricians ACT chair Dr Andrew Foote says it has been nearly 12 months since the bullying allegations were made public and nothing has changed.

"I've spoken to a number of people at the hospital and there is a real dread, and fear and sense of helplessness," he said.

"It sends the message, what's the point in complaining about bullying because nothing will get done."


27 November 2010

JETSTAR WHISTLEBLOWER SACKED - Pilots union issue threat after Jetstar whistleblower Joe Eakins sacked

Jetstar pilot Joe Eakins has been fired by the airline

UPDATE 4:17pm: JETSTAR will be challeged over claims its fired a whistleblower who criticised the budget airline for "diminishing safety standards", the pilot's union says.

First Officer Joe Eakins, 31, criticised cost-cutting at Jetstar and the plan to hire air crews based in Singapore "on wages well below their Australian-based colleagues" and what effect this would have on passenger safety.

Eakins has been sacked for breaching company policy of speaking publicly about the airline in an article published last month.

"I am shocked and saddened they have chosen to react this way," he told the Herald Sun.

"I've been a good employee and I'm shocked any company would sack an employee for raising their concerns about safety and industrial issues, especially in the airline industry."

His said his treatment by the company did not "bode well for any other pilot with safety concerns".

"I believe the concerns I voiced were reasonable and legitimate," Mr Eakins said on Friday.

"I was acting within my rights as a union representative who advanced views of the association.

"I think Jetstar's actions were unwarranted and unjustified."

The airline disagrees, saying his claims are are “untrue”.

"The employee chose to publicly make incorrect accusations on multiple and separate occasions against Jetstar with the effect of misleading the travelling public," the airline said in a statement.

The Australian and International Pilots Association had said earlier this week it was prepared to take the case to the High Court and did not ruled out pursuing industrial action.

Association president Barry Jackson described Eakins as a whistleblower and hero to the Australian aviation community.

"Joe's bravery in blowing the whistle on some of these practices has been rewarded by an unfair dismissal," Captain Jackson said.

"The association will be taking Joe's case to Fair Work Australia, claiming unfair dismissal and making an adverse-action claim under untested Fair Work laws.

"The association is calling on all federal parliamentarians to carefully consider the implications of this shocking case."

Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway confirmed the first officer had been sacked "after a standard and lengthy process" for bringing the company into disrepute and said there were many "internal measures" for raising safety concerns.

"The Australian aviation sector is at a crossroads. Not only are the dreams of the youngsters who look skyward at risk, but the institutions that created our reputation for safety through well trained experienced pilots is under threat, which is bad news for all Australians."


10 November 2010

NEWS - Will Sexual Harrassment Ever End? UK Sales manager 'put female colleague over his knee and spanked her'

A sales manager chased a female colleague around the office, put her across his knee and spanked her as well as encouraging other women to grab his genitals.

Peter Smith also sat female staff on his knee and looked at sex toys and blow up dolls on the internet, an employment tribunal was told.

Mr Smith and some of his colleagues are accused of bullying and and harassing former sales executive Angelina Ashby who worked for a marine supplies firm.

Sexual harassment: Angelina Ashby says she suffered at the hands of boss Pete Smith from marine supplies firm Cathelco

Sexual harassment: Angelina Ashby says she suffered at the hands of boss Pete Smith from marine supplies firm Cathelco

Miss Ashby, 40, told the Sheffield tribunal she was ostracised by staff for two years who teased her, talked about her in derogatory way, sent emails about and excluded her from office banter.

She also claimed they drew insulting cartoons about her weight which drove her to taking anti-depressants.

Miss Ashby, from Chesterfield, started working for the firm in June 2003 as a sales executive for Cathelco.

She said problems began in September 2006 when Mr Smith became her sales manager.

She said: 'I was subjected to a continuous course of mistreatment.

'A few days after my formal grievance was submitted Laura Holland, a sales administrator was chased round the office by Pete Smith, who then proceeded to put her over his knee and spank her.'

Her complaint was investigated by bosses but she resigned in October 2008. Miss Ashby said: 'Peter Smith would often make me feel uncomfortable.

'On one occasion he took his time to view sex toys, such as blow up dolls on the internet.

'He was more than aware I could see his screen as I sat directly behind and seemed to take his time viewing the website.'

Miss Ashby added: 'Pete Smith also used to sit female staff on his knee and stroke their hair and he would stand behind their chairs to do the same. I found it disconcerting and uncomfortable.'

She claimed Mr Smith also 'successfully encouraged' female staff to feel his genitals.

She is claiming constructive dismissal, sexual discrimination and pay discrimination against the firm, which supplies products to the marine industry to prevent metal corrosion and algae sticking to vessels.

The firm denies the allegations.

The tribunal was halted because one of the tribunal panel knew a witness. It will start again before a new panel next year.


22 October 2010

HR PRACTICE - A good risk management culture – an antidote for bullies

Bullying is considered to be any type of offensive or intimidating behaviour. It is an abuse of power with the intention to humiliate, undermine, injure or denigrate the other person. Whether it occurs in the playground or at the workplace, bullying can have a huge impact on the individuals concerned. While it can have tragic consequences on individuals, bullying can permanently damage businesses.

For an employee that has been exposed to bullying the impact can be devastating as the employee can suffer both social and mental health problems. Organisations also suffer hugely from bullying. Most will suffer from an increase in staff absenteeism, a decline in employees’ morale, a drop in productivity and an increase in staff turnover. Businesses might also incur additional costs associated with legal and workers’ compensation as well as management time addressing cases of workplace bullying. In addition, businesses will also suffer from having to incur further costs of retraining and it will eventually become harder for them to attract talent. Finally, organisations can incur fines under breaches of occupational health and safety laws.

Stephen Bonnici, HR Manager for Mizzi Organization stated: “Bullying can be costly to businesses. Some of the risks for organisations are losing talented and skilful employees, a reduction in productivity as well as incurring risks and costs associated with legal proceedings which might also affect the company’s reputation.”

Joe Gerada, CEO of FHRD said that he was called in by companies on a number of occasions to deal with such issues as managers would often either not have the training or the time to mediate in the situation. Such mediation is part and parcel of a risk management culture and in most situations the respective companies avoided some very embarrassing situations.

Hence, bullying is a huge financial risk to businesses. It can be considered to be part of a poor risk culture. Former Insurance Australia Group (IAG) chief risk officer Tony Coleman states: “It’s a culture where bosses tend not to want the hear bad news or the culture is to cover bad news up or a shoot-the-messenger type of culture.”

Hence, a poor risk culture dominates in organisations where bullying is ignored. If ignored long enough, the entire organisation is placed at risk, as it faces preventable trauma or litigation. According to a 2007 survey carried out by Utica, New York based market research firm Zogby International, 62 per cent of employers ignore the problem of bullying. Unfortunately, it is very much the case that when organisations ignore bullying they can also ignore other danger signals such as high turnover. Stephen M. Paskoff, a workplace consultant to global companies such as Coca-Cola and Nike, said: “Employers tend to ignore bullying particularly if it is someone who is a great performer.”

Furthermore, Paskoff argues that “even if the bully is a strong performer, the problem is that the behaviour loses clients and costs the company business. Or, in a health care setting, it can cost a life.”

Paskoff also commented on how organisations ignore behaviours such as bullying that are not clearly illegal.

Unfortunately, bullying in the workplace is very often subtle or hidden. Either way it does not mean that bullying does not exist. It is up to the employer to take the initiative and be proactive by developing the right culture and systems whereby it is able to identify whether bullying exists or whether it has the potential to exist within the organisation. Bonnici mentioned the systems that Mizzi Organisation has put in place to prevent and stop bullying from occurring within the business:

“We carry out performance appraisals, one-to-one meetings with employees, open discussions; we have appointed employee representatives to act as a medium to report on acts of bullying on behalf of the employees. We also have policies and procedures in place that clearly state that such behaviour is not tolerated. “

Joe Gerada CEO of FHRD said organisations need to ensure that they develop a good risk management culture that helps to identify and spot cases of bullying in the workplace. This includes creating an environment where intimidation is not tolerated. This needs to be formalized through the core values and employment guidelines, which help to minimize, if not eradicate bullying. Businesses need to have systems and structures in place that allow them to spot bullying happening and do something about it and make the management staff aware that it is being monitored. Employers need to make sure that they watch out for certain danger signals which can suggest that bullying is taking place such as complaints about stress and depression, high turnover, lots of sick leave, and absenteeism. It is also crucially important that a culture of trust and respect dominate within the organisation.

Businesses today cannot afford to turn a blind eye to bullying in the workplace. This is because demoralised workers will vote with their feet and bullying will probably cost thousands of euros in increased absenteeism, staff turnover as well as decreased productivity. Hence, bullying needs to be managed by identifying and solving the problem rather than by denying and ignoring it. Managing bullying hence becomes part of developing a good risk culture within the organisation.


13 October 2010

Sacked oboist was 'bullied' by conductor, tribunal hears‎

World-famous conductor 'bullied oboe player who asked him to stop singing in 16-year victimisation campaign'

In the artistic world of music, harmony between conductor and orchestra is paramount.

But in one loud clash, two musicians have apparently been engaged in a feud which has lasted 16 years. Yesterday, details emerged of the discord between Carlo Rizzi, the world-renowned Italian conductor of the Welsh National Opera, and principal oboe player Murray Johnston.

Murray Johnston, principal oboist for the Welsh National Opera, leaving the employment tribunal in Cardiff
At work: Oboe player Murray Johnston

Claims: Murray Johnston leaving the employment tribunal in Cardiff, left, and in action as principal oboist with the Wales National Orchestra

The 61-year-old claimed he was ‘victimised, bullied, harassed and intimidated’ by Mr Rizzi after once ordering him to ‘stop singing’. The veteran oboist has been sacked after playing with the WNO for 34 years, performing in more than 50 recordings.

He is claiming wrongful dismissal, saying he was ‘persistently abused’ by Mr Rizzi, 50, who became musical director of the Cardiff-based company in 1992.

Their relationship ‘never recovered’ after a rehearsal two years later when Mr Johnston told Mr Rizzi to ‘stop singing’, an employment tribunal heard. The context of the order to the conductor, who had previously been at the Royal Opera Company, Covent Garden, was not explained.

But Nick Smith, for the oboist, said: ‘Rizzi’s behaviour was extreme on that day. He stormed off, locked himself in a room and kicked furniture about.’

Mr Johnston told the hearing he suffered bullying and intimidation by Mr Rizzi during his work with the 55-strong orchestra over the following years. The principal oboist had to re-audition for his job even though he had been doing it for decades.

Tribunal: Italian conductor Carlo Rizzi, who is accused of bullying Mr Jonston

Tribunal: Italian conductor Carlo Rizzi, who is accused of bullying Mr Jonston

Mr Johnston, of Radyr, Cardiff, told the hearing he passed his audition, but alleges he was subjected to an ‘attack’ by Mr Rizzi in front of the orchestra during a rehearsal.

‘He stopped the rehearsal probably 20 or 30 times to criticise my playing. I felt victimised and bullied,’ said the musician.

Mr Smith added that many orchestra members wrote letters to complain about Mr Rizzi’s behaviour.

‘The language of these letters was very, very strong,’ he said.

‘They are from numerous members of the union, some anonymous, some not.

‘They accuse Mr Rizzi of intimidation and harassment, of even making one woman ill.’

The tribunal was told that Musicians’ Union members wrote letters to opera managers ‘expressing anger at the treatment of Mr Johnston’. A motion was also passed accusing Mr Rizzi of bullying.

WNO managing director Peter Bellingham denied Mr Johnston was unfairly dismissed.

He told the hearing that Mr Rizzi felt the oboist’s standards had dropped to such a level, he was ‘holding the entire orchestra back’.

Mr Rizzi, who has since left the WNO, will not be giving evidence. The hearing in Cardiff continues.


Sacked oboist was 'bullied' by conductor, tribunal hears

Welsh National Opera musician claims unfair dismissal after 1994 incident triggered years of 'persistent abuse'

22 September 2010

EXCLUSIVE: The Irony, Australian WorkCover Authority That Helps Investigate Bullying & Harassment in the Workplace, has been covering up its own bully

Intimidation and fear: welcome to agency charged with stamping out bullying
Cathy Wilcox

THE state government agency responsible for investigating workplace bullying is harbouring a serious bullying problem in its own ranks which it has been attempting to keep quiet.

There was a ''pattern'' of bullying within WorkCover's Licensing Solutions Unit, the agency's money-spinning department that approves workers to drive forklifts, operate cranes and work on construction sites, an investigation last year found. But the report has been buried and the agency has attempted to cover up the problem, telling its minister it revealed no bullying.

The inquiry, conducted by one of WorkCover's own safety inspectors, Petar Ankucic, found bullying had been ''occurring for a prolonged period of time and that various factors, including selective supervision, multiple chains of command, workload equity, continuous negative feedback and a somewhat autocratic management style … have contributed to unintended bullying''.

But when the Finance Minister, Michael Daley, was asked about the bullying, he twice denied it existed. In May he told Parliament: ''The investigation revealed no evidence of bullying as defined in the WorkCover publication, Preventing and Dealing with Workplace Bullying.''

A senior manager told workers in April there was no bullying in the department. But the report noted staff cried when interviewed. They also showed a ''mixture of intense dislike, fear and almost hatred'' towards two of their bosses.

In a follow-up review, the atmosphere improved, but Mr Ankucic said the ''seemingly calm work environment … is still very fragile and … is best described as a good work in progress".

A Herald investigation has discovered the agency is still plagued by mistrust and fear. A number of current and former employees claimed bullying was rife within the Gosford-based organisation.

Licensing officer Paul Newton, fed up with the ''spying'' and ''controlling'', resigned last week. He said colleagues had been reduced to tears and likened the workplace culture to East Germany. ''It's like the Stasi,'' he said.

''I just think it's terrible that an organisation that exists to protect the emotional and physical well-being of people in the workplace fails to protect the emotional well-being of its staff.''

An online survey of 816 WorkCover staff in April, seen by theHerald, showed problems extended beyond the licensing unit.

Almost 60 per cent were not convinced people avoided politics and back-stabbing and only one-third believed management was almost always ''honest and ethical''. Just 20 per cent thought it was nearly always an emotionally and psychologically healthy place to work.

''Licensing is the bullying hot spot, but not the only place that has problems,'' a worker said.

"WorkCover's just so demoralised.''

A spokeswoman for WorkCover said it had firm internal policies to prevent and address bullying. ''All reports of bullying are taken seriously and investigated on the evidence,'' she said.

''A culture survey conducted in 2010 … found that 66 per cent of staff found WorkCover 'a great place to work'.''

In the five years to mid-2007 there were more than 4000 workers compensation claims for harassment or bullying in NSW, costing $80 million.

Queries about dealing with workplace bullying are now among the top five reasons people contact WorkCover's information centre.

'I hate working at WorkCover.'

Paul Newton, who resigned from the agency this month, said managers used bullying and favouritism, sometimes subtly, as a means of ''controlling staff''. Colleagues were encouraged to spy on each other and collect information to be used against workmates. "It's like orchestrated management bullying," he said.

'My hair started falling out.'

A former long-term staff member, granted workers compensation for work-related depression arising from bullying, said she was so stressed her hair fell out in clumps. One manager turned an allegation of bullying against an individual into a ''bitch fest''. The woman said she was accused of bullying without explanation. "During this time I was a mess.''

Probe ordered into WorkCover bullying claim

The NSW government has ordered an independent inquiry into allegations of widespread bullying in a division of WorkCover.

Finance Minister Michael Daley announced the inquiry - to be conducted by someone outside the government - following revelations in today's Herald that a "pattern" of bullying existed within WorkCover's Licensing Solutions Unit.

WorkCover is the state government agency responsible for providing "safe, secure and productive workplaces", which includes "preventing and dealing with workplace bullying", its website says.

The Licensing Solutions Unit approves workers to drive forklifts, operate cranes and work on construction sites.

Mr Daley said he had been previously told by WorkCover that the agency was addressing the problem but wanted to be sure the alleged harassment was stopped.

He has asked the director general of the Department of Premier and Cabinet to commission an independent review of the allegations.

"Due to WorkCover's role as the regulator of workplace safety, including bullying matters, I have requested that this review be conducted by somebody independent from WorkCover and the government," Mr Daley said in a statement.

"Bullying and intimidation in any workplace is unacceptable."

The Greens said a premier's department probe does not go far enough and a parliamentary inquiry should be held.

"If WorkCover can't stop bullying in its own ranks, how can it be up to doing its job in other workplaces in NSW?" Greens MP and the party's industrial relations spokesman, David Shoebridge, said.

"Neither WorkCover, nor this government, can be trusted with getting to the bottom of this.

"We must have an open and accountable parliamentary enquiry into WorkCover's palpable failure to deal with bullying.

"It is not good enough to fob it off with another behind closed doors report on a report." source

20 September 2010

STUDY - The Calculated Tactics Revealed In How People Climb To The Top - Brown Tongue, Sucking Up, Bosses Pet, Manipuator

Flattery will get you far

Research by Assistant Professor Ithai Stern suggests that corporate leaders are more likely to win board appointments at other firms when they use subtle forms of flattery and conformity within their organizations.
New research reveals seven types of ingratiation that increase boardroom prospects for top executives
In the corporate world, board appointments are typically perceived as markers of success. However, new research from the Kellogg School suggests boardroom entrance strategies are rarely based on merit alone.

According to the study, “Stealthy Footsteps to the Boardroom: Executives’ Backgrounds, Sophisticated Interpersonal Influence Behavior and Board Appointments,” corporate leaders are more likely to win board appointments at other firms when employing subtle, but sophisticated, forms of flattery and opinion conformity within their organizations.

“Past research has demonstrated the effects of corporate leaders taking part in ingratiation and persuasion tactics,” said Ithai Stern, assistant professor of management and organizations and co-author of the study. “However, our study is the first to look at the effectiveness of specific tactics in increasing the likelihood of garnering board appointments at other firms, as well as which types of executives are most likely to effectively engage these tactics.”

As part of the study, Stern and his co-author James Westphal, strategy professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, drew from theory and research on interpersonal attraction, as well as interviews with 42 managers and CEOs of large U.S. industrial and service firms, to identify a set of tactics that are less likely to be interpreted as manipulative or political in intent, and are therefore more likely to bring about social influence.

The researchers identified seven effective forms of ingratiation most likely to help executives win board seats:
  • Framing flattery as advice seeking: Occurs when a person poses a question seeking advice as a way to flatter the subject (i.e. “How were you able to close that deal so successfully?”).
  • Arguing prior to conforming: Instead of agreeing immediately, a person will yield before accepting his/her manager’s opinion (i.e. “At first, I didn’t see your point but it makes total sense now. You’ve convinced me.”).
  • Complimenting manager to his/her friends: Praising manager to his/her friends or social network with hopes that word gets back to manager.
  • Framing flattery as likely to make manager uncomfortable: Positioning a remark as likely to be embarrassing (i.e. “I don’t want to embarrass you but your presentation was really top-notch. Better than most I’ve seen.”).
  • Engaging in value conformity prior to flattery or opinion conformity: Expressing values or morals which are held by one’s manager (i.e. “I’m the same way. I believe we should increase minimum wage.”).
  • Conforming to opinions expressed by one’s manager to a third party: Covertly learning of manager's opinion(s) from his/her contacts, and then conforming with opinion(s) in conversations with manager.
  • Referencing social affiliations held in common with one’s manager prior to flattery or opinion conformity: Mentioning an affiliation, such as a religious organization or political party, shared by both individuals. (i.e. “I watched the Republican National Convention last night. The keynote presented some great points.”).
As part of these findings, the authors also discovered that managers and directors who have a background in politics, law or sales are significantly more likely to engage in sophisticated forms of ingratiation. Similarly, managers and directors who have an upper-class background are more sophisticated in their ingratiatory behavior than individuals with a middle- or working-class background. The authors argue that this proclivity is consistent with social norms in these environments. These findings shed new light on why there are only a few top managers with backgrounds in engineering, accounting or finance, as compared to top managers with backgrounds in politics, law or sales.

“Lawyers, politicians and salespeople routinely take part in flattery and opinion conformity to complete their jobs, similar to those operating in an upper-class social environment,” said Stern. “Ingratiatory behavior is a form of interpersonal communication that is acceptable and expected in both arenas.”

Stern and Westphal note that acts of flattery are successful in yielding board appointments at other firms if the influence target doesn’t recognize these acts as a favor-seeking motive.

“To tap into the corporate elite’s inner circle, a person cannot be too obvious,” Westphal said. “Being too overt with one’s intentions can be interpreted as manipulative or political. The more covert the ingratiation, the more sophisticated the approach and effective the outcome.”


The study, “Stealthy Footsteps to the Boardroom: Executives’ Backgrounds, Sophisticated Interpersonal Influence Behavior, and Board Appointments,” appears in the current issue of Administrative Science Quarterly.

Illustration by Cathy Wilcox.
This kind of subtle flattery can also help employees climb up the corporate ladder. The more you disguise the sucking up to bosses and managers, the less likely you will be seen as manipulative and scheming. According to one study quoted here, managers were more likely to come down hard on people they see as sucking up to them, who are not being subtle and who are going over the top. But the study notes that when managers are fooled into believing the compliments are sincere, they are more likely to rate that person’s performance highly.
In other words, you have to do it right. It takes practice and skill the fool the other person.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Andrew O’Connell says flattery appeals to people on an unconscious level. When people are gushing all over you, you don’t believe it. But on an unconscious level, he says, you want to believe it. So the trick is getting the person on an unconscious level. “Persuade a customer or colleague on a conscious level, and he or she will retain that conviction only until a better counterargument comes along … Persuade a person on a gut level, and the feeling will last and last. And last.”

15 September 2010

What Makes A Great Leader? ... Listen, have a heart, be inspirational, don't Bully, don't harass or be arrogant ...

The secret to being a great leader isn't to bully or harass your underlings - it's to be a sensitive listener.

Researchers say the best politicians, businessmen and managers stay in touch with their followers and support those they lead. Their findings also revealed most leaders have a natural shelf life and that over time they tend to become so isolated they fall out of favour.

Margaret Thatcher and John Major William Hague

Good leader, bad leader: Baroness Margaret Thatcher was a good leader while William Hague was bad because he lost credibility over his beer boasts

The study sheds light on the rise and fall of some of the most influential leaders of the last 100 years, including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

Prof Alex Haslam and Dr Kim Peters, psychologists at Exeter University, have spent the last year distilling the wisdom of 85 self-help books and biographies.

They discovered most leaders have seven secrets to their success and that most of those are surprisingly 'touchy feely'.

The most common of these was to be sensitive to followers, a trait cited by 57 per cent of the books. More than half of those studied were 'positive and inspirational', while 48 per cent treated followers with respect, the researchers told the British Science Festival in Birmingham.

Other so-called secrets included meeting staff expectations and avoiding arrogance.

Dr Peters said the findings clashed with conventional ideas that the best leaders were driven individuals with domineering personalities.

'Actually, it's someone who is always looking to their followers and who is concerned about their relationship with them,' she said.

The researchers identified a 'leadership trajectory' which eventually sees leaders fall from grace. This happens when, instead of recognising that their success depends on keeping a good relationship with their followers, they begin to believe their own hype and the decline in popularity begins.

Good leaders must also hide the fact they are trying to be 'one of the people'.

Former Tory leader William Hague lost credibility when he boasted about drinking up to 14 pints a day as a teenager.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela and wife Graca Machel with former British prime minister Tony Blair. Mr Blair and Mr Mandela were among 81 leaders analysed by researchers at the University of Exeter. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Former South African president Nelson Mandela and wife Graca Machel with former British prime minister Tony Blair. Mr Blair and Mr Mandela were among 81 leaders analysed by researchers at the University of Exeter.

BECOMING A great leader is less about bluster and command and more about caring and sharing, according to a new analysis of the psychology behind “leadership and followership”.

It also shows that, no matter how popular, all leaders have a shelf life. The study of 81 “leaders” from Hillary Clinton to Attila the Hun, and from Tony Blair to Santa Claus, was one of the topics discussed on the opening day of the British Science Festival.

Prof Alex Haslam and Prof Kim Peters of the University of Exeter described their analysis of 85 books about the world’s greatest leaders, putting their findings into a soon to be released book, The New Psychology of Leadership.

The analysis provides insights into what makes a successful leader, and offers seven “leadership secrets” that can help achieve this.

Prof Haslam said leaders gain power and hold power not by being rough and tough, but by being recognised as one of the people. Leadership is a process of “social identity management” that counts on a leader’s ability to create in followers a sense of being “special” and a feeling of belonging to the group, he said.

“The real secret about leaders is it is not about me, it is about the group.” While ultimately it is all about power, getting there is about getting cosy with the followers. “Emotional connectivity is important for leaders because it shows they are part of the shared group,” said Prof Haslam.

Margaret Thatcher hardly seemed to depend on emotional connectivity, and yet she also depended on her support group, those who disagreed with the power of the trade unions and those who backed an approach suited to the middle class.

Tony Blair was also particularly good at making an emotional connection, said Prof Stephen Reicher of the University of St Andrews. Successful leaders ally themselves with those they represent, all the time remaining ordinary members of the group, he added. “They are extraordinary in feeling ordinary.”

They also, however, tend to follow a familiar trajectory, said Prof Reicher. Early success as a popular leader often begins to make them think they know better and have all the answers, in effect losing contact with the group. “Leadership has a shelf life. The risk is they begin to believe in themselves, and lose the sense of us.”

US president Barack Obama has faltered in the polls because of this, said Prof Peters. He assumed power with a close emotional bond with the voters. Yet he failed to see and respond quickly enough to strong public anger about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This has broken his link with the public, she said.

Those with leadership ambitions also need to be convincing when attempting to connect with the people.

Former Tory leader William Hague failed miserably in this regard, Prof Reicher said. “He was the quintessential ‘other’, he was a geek politician.” The baseball cap fooled no one.

Choosing the greatest leaders was likely an impossible task, said Prof Michelle Ryan of Exeter. “It depends on who is deciding. There is no one greatest leader,” she said.

The participants were slow to suggest a top three, but Prof Haslam tentatively offered former South African president Nelson Mandela. He was extraordinary compared to other leaders in that he also knew when to bow out, “exiting gracefully”, Prof Haslam said, adding that it could be difficult to make people leave when their connection with the public was lost.

The science festival got under way in Birmingham yesterday and continues into the weekend.

Ruling class how to command

A STUDY of world leaders by Prof Alex Haslam and Prof Kim Peters of the University of Exeter has established seven “leadership secrets” for success:

1 Be sensitive to followers;
2 Be positive and inspirational;
3 Treat followers with respect;
4 Work hard for the group;
5 Meet or exceed followers’ expectations;
6 Support followers;
7 Don’t be overbearing or arrogant.