• Aline Foster

Is Basil Fawlty Costing your Business £1,000’s?

Not many of us would employ or endure working with a manager with the haphazard style of the famous Fawlty Towers’ star. But many of Basil’s traits are alive and well and being displayed every day in businesses and according to Harvard Business Review, they are costing companies millions (yes millions) of pounds.

“Not in my business,” I hear you cry. Well no, I am not suggesting that your managers behaviours are as extreme as slapping waiters and chasing ‘Siberian hamsters’ around the office, but that, in part, is the problem. It is the much more subtle behaviours and their impact that, when they go unnoticed or unchecked, create an unpleasant culture and it can be toxic and costly in the workplace.

‘Uncivil’ behaviour affects how your people feel and perform.

So what is ‘uncivil’ behaviour? It can range from subtle put downs, texting while someone is talking in meetings, being in a foul and unapproachable mood, taking the credit for someone else’s work, discussing employees behind their backs, blaming others for problems, not listening when someone has something important to say, making employees feel inferior and belittling the efforts of others (often in an effort to make themselves look better) or telling someone off in public.

Some of these behaviours sound extreme, but tell me that you don’t know a manager who displays at least some of these? (Ok, so Basil didn’t text while someone else was talking, but that is probably only because mobiles hadn’t been invented yet! Perhaps we could substitute eye rolling, time checking and finger drumming instead.)

Managers are human, and may not feel top of their game every day, but a little honesty, “I have had a bad weekend, I may not be myself today” would go a long way to making the team feel more comfortable rather than him or her walking round like a bear with a sore head!

The shocking truth is that if unchecked, these behaviours can have a huge impact on morale, engagement and on the bottom line. The leader’s mood is contagious and creates the culture. If negative behaviour is displayed by a manager, the impact can be costly.

A recent survey of 800 employees and managers reported in Harvard Business Review revealed that after being subjected to the uncivilised behaviour of a manager, performance declined following are the percentages of people in that sample group, who admitted to the following behaviours.

Sadly, these behaviours often go unchecked; perhaps because they are subtle, or perhaps because they are often displayed by characters that we don’t like to challenge.

Is it really so difficult to pay attention when someone is talking to you? It costs nothing to be civil but it costs a lot if you are not.

Most managers and business leaders do a great job, and even those who are struggling to get the best from their teams usually want to get it right. Businesses often promote people because of their technical ability in their role, not their people skills. They may be great salespeople, accountants, solicitors or marketing experts for example and so they are promoted to team leader or manager or director, where a whole new set of leadership skills may be required.

So what should we do?

We should hire leaders and managers or promote people with consideration to their ‘Emotional Intelligence.’ Emotionally Intelligent people are self aware, manage their emotions and responses to others and maintain healthy relationships through empathy and treating others and their views with respect. Some people are natural leaders and find managing individuals and teams comes easily, they have charisma, credibility and the ability to inspire. We work hard for them and their approval means a lot to us.

Most of us however, need more support to be the kind of leader that staff deserve and that dynamic companies need. Companies should ensure that those in leadership roles are offered training, coaching, help and support in developing these important qualities. After all, as a manager, looking after your people can become up to 50% or more of your role. When else would you employ someone for a role with 50% of the skill set missing without any training or support?

Companies should reward behaviours that improve morale and encourage others, embed these into their hiring, appraisal and everyday behaviours and processes. We should address negative behaviours and follow up on our promises.

We should create the type of leaders that we would like to be led by.

As the saying goes “people join a company, but they leave a manager”, but not before it has cost the company dearly it seems.

Aline Foster BA (HONS)

Leadership and Proffesional Development Coach

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