When the Boss Is a Spoiled Child, Who Will Be the Adult?

“Friends, I am glad to inform you that I quit XXXX yesterday. I choose self-esteem over job. This company where my MD routinely abuses, humiliates, and misbehaves with his employees. No one can disagree with him. He openly says, “Either get aligned to my thinking or leave the company.“

He calls people to his office at 10 pm for emergency meetings which at times can continue past midnight till 2 am. Then he would ask them to first send minutes of the meeting before they leave home. I am glad to have opted out. I walked off a meeting where he threw a pen at some senior officer. I told him “I quit” before leaving the room.

My phone has not stopped ringing since then. Every senior officer of the company including those who work with him called to say, “We are proud of you.”

Let’s spread the message so that no other person is misled to join this unethical and toxic organization.”

Verbatim it is. This is the actual note from a friend in one of my HR groups from India. When I read this my mouth fell open. If you look up “out of control boss,” this boss’ picture would have to pop up. If there was an Oscar for bad performance in the work place, the winner would be this man.

Whose responsibility?

What do we do here, because this is the CEO of the company? As I dissected this message, I noticed that some of my colleagues responded by going down the HR route as to why HR did not respond during this time. While in theory they are correct, to me this is a board and a broad issue. Blame can be spread across the horizon on this one.

This is the most egregious incident that I have ever heard off. Any leader who behaves this badly in the workplace should be immediately dismissed. This dismissal should be as public as possible to send the message throughout the organization that such conduct will not be tolerated and that the organization is headed in a new direction. This would be a communication treasure trove in starting the healing process.

As to the suggestion that HR should have stepped in, it’s almost laughable. To have other senior leaders calling my friend and congratulating him on his “growing a spine moment” speaks volumes about the culture of this organization. He was not the only senior member who has had to endure this abuse. He was the only one though who decided, “I will not put myself though this.” HR was probably just trying to hold on, hoping someone was going to come in and save the day. If the senior leaders were afraid, you and I know that HR was beyond scared.

Who is going to be the adult?

Somebody must be the adult in the room in our organizations. We hear all the talk about culture and my question is: “Who owns this most important ingredient in our space.” Is it shared or privately owned? The custodian of this gem is leadership at the top. HR should monitor and keep the fingers on the pulse.

Bad behavior within an organization is like a ticking time bomb. The fuse will burn slowly but at some time, it will ignite and the explosion will be felt throughout. If you are not careful it could reach external proportions.

What happened?

As kids growing up we were consistently admonished and called out for bad behavior. We were taught to say “Thank you,” “Please,” and other kind and basic words. We were called out if we acted out.

Article Continues Below

What happened? What happened to us after? If this CEO were a child, someone would have stepped in and stopped this foolishness. So for that reason my acquaintance was just doing what any responsible adult would have done and should have done. He stepped in and walked out to send a message.

My question to all of you is: What would you have done in this type of environment? Would you have stepped up or just endured till you found something else. It is something every leader or supposed leader should reflect on. Your leadership team may not be at this level of “out of control,” but it could be a manager or a member of your team.

Who is going to be the adult?

Ron Thomas

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.