Beware the Predatory Manager

Executive management in all businesses — installing security contractors are no exception — need to be wary of how mounting pressures in the workplace can adversely impact managers throughout the company.

Even top performers who have worked diligently to make their organization a success can quickly fall into a kind of survivor mode and begin to act out divisive behavior. Call him or her the predatory manager. Learn how to not only identify telltale signs, but know how to effectively change the person’s behavior or there will be consequences to the rest of the staff.

It all starts when managers are placed under extreme and continuous stress. With the inherent threats brought about by economic problems combined with the threat of declining company profits, they feel the pressure mounting.

When things get tough, these skilled political animals evolve into management predators that mark and defend their territory with the vengeance and cunning of a lion. This primeval reaction is followed by thoughts of downsizing, job loss and personal financial ruin. But there is something that goes much deeper that drives a manager’s attitude to change in ways that make the person unrecognizable to themselves and those around them.

According to author Michael LeBoeuf, Ph.D., “The strongest force in life isn’t self-preservation — it’s preservation of self-image.” The thought of a manager losing his or her professional identity is unbearable to most, and don’t think your high charging professionals won’t do whatever it takes to protect what is most important to them … who they are.

There is also another problem. The impact of this new internal competitive culture is that the other managers begin maneuvering to defend their own turf, and the turmoil begins to slowly and quietly spiral out of control.

Learn How to Pinpoint Trouble

Is it possible you could have predatory managers lurking the hallways of your company? They can be very difficult to identify, especially the higher up the organization chart you may sit. The reason for this is the predatory manager will do all he or she can to impress and ingratiate themselves to the higher-ups and will work extremely hard to get results; these all being attributes that would be appreciated by any member of senior management.

You may be thinking this is not all bad, but the problem is the predatory manager’s success is achieved on the backs and at the expense of his or her employees and peers.

If you want to know who your predatory managers are, and the impact they are having on your organization, ask your employees. They know the offender best and will likely begin their comments with, “I don’t know what has happened … he used to be a good boss.” What often follows this declaration is a damning word or phrase that contradicts the impression of what you thought to be one of your best managers. Maybe it’s the person is controlling or overpowering or displays a rigid attitude akin to If I want your opinion, I will give it to you.

There are many who might argue these are not necessarily bad management traits. In fact, most overbearing leadership behaviors will obtain successful short-term results. Moreover, you may even see a little predator in your own behavior these days and that is OK.

So what is the big deal? Consider that a predatory manager’s method for obtaining short-term results can in the long term be the same root cause for full-blown employee morale and productivity crisis, as well as a mass exodus as the economy and job market improves.

Getting Help; Finding Resolution

It’s likely the predatory manager’s ill behavior will continue as long as they fear personal failure and loss of control. The person is at his or her best and worst when under pressure, but it’s difficult to correct a long-term problem when a manager is having short-term success. To help the predatory manager, we must go back to the basic human need of preserving one’s own self-image and use this as the impetus in returning the person to the effective team player they once were. But what are your best options?

If a problem appears to be present it will be best managed by an experienced, certified executive coach/consultant. This investment of time and money will send a strong signal to the manager’s self-image that they are highly valued and their professional development is of great interest to the future of the company. At the same time, however, the manager must also be made to understand that the autocratic traits of his or her leadership are not acceptable, and that through working with a coach a new and improved leadership style must be developed and sustained.

Another choice would be to use an internal consultant — a manager within the organization who has the talent, appropriate credentials but most importantly is respected and has the established credibility to work with your managers one-on-one, as well as a group. This internal consultant must also have the very visible support of the top executive. As you might imagine, your consultant must be a very special person — a person of great strength and character.

The key for either of these approaches to work is to assure the manager(s) that while no one’s job can be guaranteed, the company is committed to a total success philosophy and will not accept a fragmented internal competition among its management. You must emphasize the true enemies are those who would attempt to defeat the company in the marketplace. There is nothing more important than your company’s total victory and to achieve this objective there will be no room for anyone who is not aligned with the program and pulling together.

The new priority of management behaviors and values that should be adopted and/or strengthened by the conforming predatory manager may include open-mindedness; unselfishness; able to stimulate participation at all levels; advocates a can-do team spirit; among other team-building qualities.

It’s time to get serious when dealing with your predatory managers who place their own personal interest above the interest of others and the organization. Once your expectation is made clear, let them know they should not test you on this matter. If they do, there must be strict consequences.

Members of management must be held to a higher standard. If they wish to persist in their predatory ways, show them the door. This will send a very strong message to the entire management team of your unwavering commitment to leading a successful organization.

Michael Hackett is Director of Human Resources for ADS Security in Nashville. Hackett has more than 40 years’ experience in human resources management and organizational development. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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