Workplace bullying is rampant. According to a Workplace Bullying Institute survey, “more than a third of adult Americans report being bullied at work, and 15 percent witness it and are made miserable.”
Oftentimes, the bully is a star performer, making it even harder for both management and human resource executives to confront the looming problem. Employers frequently don’t act, even though keeping an abusive leader onboard is often more risky and costly than pursuing solutions.
Abrasive leaders at any level can inflict deep wounds and intense suffering in employees. The organization often experiences the pain of working with an abrasive executive, manager, or supervisor as well, eroding effectiveness and paralyzing productivity.
An abrasive leader is someone in a managerial position whose interpersonal behavior causes emotional distress in coworkers sufficient to disrupt organizational functioning. The intensity and extent can be wide-ranging, from minor and infrequent incidents to more extreme manifestations of aggression.
Research indicates that abrasive leaders do not intentionally commit harm as is commonly believed, and are not fully aware of their action or the wounds they inflict.
Coaching abrasive leaders is not straightforward. Any perceived threats to their professional competence will be vigorously defended against. Because they need to demonstrate their superiority, in the classic coaching process they experience immediate and intense anxiety and defend against these threats.
So what does a coach do?
The client engages the coach as his co-researcher, interviewing coworkers to discover the negative perceptions and identifying what causes them. The findings give the coach and client an opportunity to develop strategies to eliminate negative perceptions and to manage them out of existence. The data collected informs the client of the nature and degree of the distress generated, helping remove the blinders blocking the client’s awareness of other’s emotions.
The key difference versus more classic executive coaching is that we’ve moved from eliminating negative client behaviors to eliminating negative coworker perceptions. By doing so, the leader can fight against perceived threats to his/her competence and help them accurately monitor their own and others’ emotions.
At Wolf Management Consultants, we apply the latest research-based techniques to coach abrasive leaders to understand the cause and dynamics of their behaviors while building programs for monitoring change which help create a path to ongoing success.
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