HR Strange But True!
August 16, 2007

Do the aggressive managers in your company leave employees tired, frustrated, and distressed? Do they have a destructive impact on the entire workplace? According to the self-proclaimed "Boss Whisperer," Dr. Laura Crawshaw, a psychotherapist and executive coach, these "Bossus Abrasivus" may not be "chronically evil," but just in need of some techniques to tame their career fears.

In her forthcoming book, Taming the Abrasive Manager (Jossey-Bass/A. Wiley, October 2007), Crawshaw, founder of the Executive Insight Development Group ( says that abrasive bosses who "erode effectiveness, paralyze productivity, and cause workplace suffering" are found in all industries and professions, at all levels of management, and from all sexes, races, ages, and ethnicities.

Her suggestions for handling these "creatures" start with observing them in "their corporate corrals" and looking for characteristic behaviors: overcontrol, threats, public humiliation, condescension, overreaction, aggressive language, hostile humor, favoritism, and discrimination.

Then, Crawshaw says, the bosses, who are often in "intense and unresolved confrontation with human resources," can be placed into four categories: Annoying, Abrasive, Avoidant, and Aberrant.

So, what does the "Boss Whisperer" say is the secret to "taming the abrasive manager"? Crawshaw says it is--empathy!

The key is doing what a horse whisperer does--reading behavior and understanding motivation. If an "animal" fears for its survival, you must allay this fear and break down well-established defenses in order for change to occur, and Crawshaw explains how to do this.

The fear, she says, is that bosses "don't know what to do" and "they don't know how to do it"--and they put all the blame on their employees. "Threats to their competence must be defended against at any cost," she explains, resulting in interpersonal aggression.

So, Crawshaw contradicts recent books on "bully bosses" that state that bad behavior is intentional and can't be changed. In her book, she suggests "taking the bull by the horns" and getting the abrasive bosses into executive coaching so they can realize how their unnecessarily rough behavior is affecting their subordinates.

And could you be an abrasive manager? Crawshaw offers a self-test so you can find out!

Source: Taming the Abrasive Manager

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