We talk about good leaders who create healthy organizational cultures — you know, the kinds of places where people want to work. We talk about bad leaders who create hostile and toxic organizational cultures, the kinds of places where bullying and abuse thrive.
But what about bosses who don’t think much at all about the quality of work life within their organizations? What if notions such as supportive work environments, fair compensation structures, and organizational justice don’t cross their radar screens? For that matter, what if they’re not into creating bad work environments, either? What if all that matters to them are profits/revenues, avoiding liability, pleasing their boards & superiors, and getting ahead?
In other words, what if they simply don’t care?
A common practice
I suggest this is quite common — especially in occupational settings where people are hired into leadership positions based, at least in part, on performance factors that have little to do with their ability to manage an organization.
In my twin realms of higher education and law, this happens all the time. In higher ed, people may be promoted to administrative leadership positions because they’ve been successful professors, or maybe they’re just good at impressing people in interviews. In law, people may be promoted to management positions in law firms, public agencies, and non-profits because they’ve been good litigators.
Oftentimes, the skills that made them good at their previous jobs aren’t the right match for their new management responsibilities.
Regardless of how they got there, bosses who practice benign neglect when it comes to organizational culture create a giant void for others to fill.
If, for example, their immediate underlings are attentive to nurturing a psychologically healthy workplace, then everyday working conditions may be pretty decent for the rank-and-file.
By contrast, if those underlings are clueless about managing a workplace effectively, then a lot of people may suffer. And if a manipulative, bullying type of individual seizes power within that void, a good number of people will suffer.
This post was revised in July 2019.