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Jul 30, 2014

A friend of mine posted this blurb on Facebook from an audio book he was listening to (note: I don’t know the name of said audio book):

Numerous studies have shown us that those given authority are more likely to lie, cheat and steal, while also being harsher in their judgments of others for doing these same things. Science tells us people with power feel less compassion for the suffering of others.

Previous experiments also show us that those who are obedient to authority are capable of the worst forms of murder, and tolerant of the worst forms of abuse. They will even chastise those of us who resist corrupt authority. They become facilitators of evil, believing that obedience to authority absolves them of personal responsibility. “

Why do we REALLY promote people?

This blurb above is an explanation of today’s cesspool management and hierarchy that permanently resides in many companies.

Although we speak very seriously and regularly about the importance of leadership development as HR practitioners, the truth is very rarely are managers chosen with care. In fact, I have personally observed companies who promote people to management or leadership roles based on their ability to be obedient and play the game.

What happens is the road to leadership then becomes a chess match played by cheaters. The rules are not static, but changed on an as-needed basis to suit the players.

People like myself and my colleagues never stand a chance in being promoted or even surviving as an employee, because we live and work by a code of conduct. The code of conduct isn’t some arbitrary manifesto we write down to make people believe we are responsible, discerning, fair individuals; but a construct that guides our work and how we treat others in and out of business.

When we say that employees don’t leave jobs they leave bosses, we really mean they leave regimes. Within the walls of some of your most beloved brands and products lies a regime that takes pride in beating its talent to a pulp daily with unkind words, unreasonable expectations, and in some cases bullying — just because they can.

Turnover and toxic environments

Recently, I read an article about the CEO of a company I used to work for. The author interviewed him about how he runs this large conglomerate, and of course, highlighted all of the philanthropic work he does for the community.

Great article, nice man, toxic company.

It’s his job to speak highly of his business, but what I know after working there in HR is that the leadership, from HR to the actual facilities (in many cases), are toxic, and a good three-quarters of the employees are disgusted but remain there out of necessity.

Turnover is directly linked to these toxic environments.

The age of obedience and subservience is dead. People want meaningful work and positive work environments. If they remain in your employ, it is purely out of necessity.

Necessity breeds a paycheck — which also means that they couldn’t care less about the success of the company.

It’s time to deal with the jerks

I’m not sure when it became cool to lead from a place of pure malice and fear, but it needs to stop. If the ultimate goal of talent management is to retain the right talent in organizations, it’s time we (HR and everyone else) took personal responsibility to be ethical, fair, equitable, and provide a workplace free of toxic leadership.

That may mean getting rid of a manager that has high turnover even in light of his or her considerable contributions to the company. It could also mean reprimanding a manager for being a jerk, even if he or she is your happy hour cohort.

A lack of personal responsibility, the inability to tell and own the truth, as well as unethical behavior, are among the many reasons why your turnover may be high.

Pay attention to your workforce. Don’t look the other way and cover your ears when it matters the most.

Needed: a little respect and humility

Your talent is your brand. Treat them with the same respect and humility you would want for yourself.

How are you being more intentional about being better leader?

This was originally published on Janine Truitt’s The Aristocracy of HR blog.