As you wrap up the year and catch your breath…are you still marveling at the talent wars we have all been engaged in? And once you do get someone in the door, keeping your top employees from moving on to another company is almost as tricky. If so, you should consider an unpleasant thought: Your organization may be employing a bosshole.

It’s a fact that this type of manager gets operational results. Yet, in getting results, he or she may be taking down the organization in the process. These managers visibly gain ground in the organization, while simultaneously creating a path of destruction. They destroy morale, derail the efforts of others, and may ultimately destroy the company’s culture. We like to call these managers “abrasive leaders,” “competent jerks” or “bossholes.”

What Makes a Bosshole a Bosshole?
If you have one in your organization, they may not even be self-aware enough to know how they show up to their team. According to Laura Crawshaw, Ph.D., researcher, coach, and author of Taming the Abrasive Manager, “One of the characteristic aspects of abrasive leaders is they do not perceive themselves to be abrasive,” she explains. “They tend to be blind to their behavior, or think that it is necessary, that the only way to deal with employees is to be aggressive.” Essentially, these are the “red flag” behaviors that might be exhibited by a bosshole:

  • Quick to anger and will utilize retribution with peers and direct reports.
  • Superficially charming and makes a good first impression, but you soon see the personality and character flaws.
  • Will manage up and attempt to create a good impression on their own boss or board members.
  • Treats others with disrespect or publicly devalues others as being inferior or lacking.
  • Seems to be highly dependent upon recognition from others.
  • Constantly assesses for those who are a threat or will make him or her look bad.
  • The word “I” dominates conversations. This person is oblivious to the frequency of self-references he or she uses.
  • Takes little interest in you or others or in your life history, background, or accomplishments.
  • They don’t seem guilty of errors or wrongdoing and do not apologize for their actions.
  • Seeks to be the center of attention in meetings and will insinuate he or she is the smartest person in the room.
  • Preoccupied with success or power to the point of alienating others.

Unfortunately, these types of behaviors rarely remain contained at the manager level. As in any culture, the behavior at the top can trickle down throughout the entire organization. People might rationalize the behavior and say, “We are getting results, so what’s the problem? I know people can’t stand her, but she delivers!” So, what is the problem? For starters, these individuals often maximize their own results at the expense of others. This manager is focused on operational metrics but forgets that results cannot always be immediately quantified in terms of sales dollars, increased contracts, or great audits. Are operational measures important? Absolutely! Are they complete? Not at all!

This type of manager’s long-term impact can devastate an organization. Unfortunately, many have risen through the ranks because of their ability to hit the numbers…their behavior is reinforced with each promotion or additional assignment.  When I work with teams in organizations, I sometimes see specific “symptoms” in the rank-and-file employees that might indicate that there is a bosshole on the team. These include:

• People are afraid to challenge the leader or take risks
• Complaints regarding the individual’s interactions with coworkers
• Requests to transfer out of the leader’s department
• Attrition of valued employees
• Decreased morale and motivation
• The company gets a bad reputation from various stakeholders
• There may be increased litigation costs in the company

Everyone in the organization knows the damage these managers can cause, however the organization puts up with their behavior for the sake of bottom-line results. But are the results from these managers really the results a company wants?

The Ripple Effect
Unfortunately, the impact these bossholes have on the culture of the organization can be devastating. Certain people in the organization may have worked for years to build up the culture, only to have it destroyed by one or two people in the company.  These are the behaviors that employees report when working for a boss hole:

  • 48% intentionally decreased work effort and quality
  • 47% intentionally decreased time at work
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the behavior
  • 66% said their performance declined
  • 78% said their commitment to the organization declined

When looking at these percentages, it is obvious the impact that bossholes have on an organization.  However, the research indicates that their “Impact” may not match their “Intent”.

Myths and Truths about Bossholes
Contrary to popular misconceptions, bossholes are not necessarily awful people.  They may buy into their idea of success and not be aware of the damage they are doing to the constituents they serve.  Research by Lynne Harrison from Black Tusk Leadership states the following is true about these abrasive leaders:

  • They often lack awareness of the real impact of their abrasive behavior.
  • Their intention is to “do what it takes” to get the job done.
  • They are defending against the threat of being perceived as incompetent or possibly failing.
  • Often intense and driven, they are accustomed to being successful.
  • They became leaders because they were individual solid contributors not because they were great leaders.
  • They work in an environment that places high value on results regardless of how achieved.
  • Sometimes the culture actually encourages abrasive leadership behavior.
  • The organization is typically facing a high level of competition.
  • The leaders did not receive any vital feedback from the organization requiring they change their behaviors.

Bossholes are especially sensitive to anything that challenges their position, success, self-perception, authority, or need to please. Therefore, they tend to overreact.  From experience, they have learned to survive by deploying unacceptable behaviors and will defend against any threats to how they are accustomed to achieving success.  Again, we want to emphasize that they may be shocked to find out that they are hurting the people around them.

Taming Bossholes 
In order to stop the destruction that occurs in organizations due to bossholes, people at the top have to take action.  They have to realize that while these individuals do get results, they are not the results that build a strong culture or typically align with company values. These are critical to being successful in taming your bosshole:

  • Describe clearly the impact of their behavior on other employees.
  • Declare their behavior is inconsistent with organizational values and will not be tolerated.
  • Offer help and be actively involved in holding them accountable.
  • Look at the organizational practices that may be contributing to the problem.
  • Assess whether the leader, in fact, really is ready to change.
  • Hire an outside coach or mentor for leadership development.

In summary, we have all either worked for a bosshole in the past or know a “living and breathing” one in our organization today.  It is essential to understand that the current culture may unintentionally encourage such abrasive behaviors.  But, the truth is that none of us has to continue to subject the people we are entrusted with in our organizations to these bossholes.  Any company with a relevant core purpose (that goes beyond making money) and truly lives by its core values will not allow a bosshole to continue to wreak havoc on the culture.

Shark Tank has been in the news lately…Mark Cuban plans to leave after 16 seasons. The following is a relevant, yet vintage, video about Mr. Wonderful on the ABC television show “Shark Tank” – a behind-the-scenes look at a self-proclaimed bosshole.


Have you ever crossed paths with that one remarkable person who makes you feel truly special? The kind of individual who not only listens to your words but holds onto every sentiment you share. Someone who remembers your most significant milestones, birthdays, pivotal life moments, and even goes the extra mile to check in on others’ well-being? This is the caliber of people who are the very heartbeat of an organization’s culture. They are the connectors, the nurturers, the colleagues with doors wide open. Regrettably, it’s all too easy to take for granted the invaluable contributions these remarkable people bring to the workplace.

We’re all familiar with the fast-paced nature of the modern workplace, where we can easily be swept away by the whirlwind of tasks and deadlines. We often find ourselves moving from one project to the next, working tirelessly to meet our goals, sometimes forgetting to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible people walking alongside us. But today, let’s pause and reflect on something profoundly important…expressing gratitude for the people we work with, especially considering the recent loss of a colleague.

In the most gut-wrenching moment recently, our Steople family was shaken by the loss of a beloved friend and colleague, Kristi Gifford. Kristi had been an integral part of our team, weaving her presence into the fabric of Steople since 2009. Her departure has reminded us of the fragility of life and the value of the bonds we share. It has underscored the significance of showing gratitude to those who stand beside us, navigating every triumph and tribulation together.

The Importance of Everyday Gratitude
How do you rate yourself showing gratitude to those who now sit around your table?  We must become intentional because true appreciation shouldn’t be a one-time event reserved only for moments of loss or significant milestones. It’s a daily practice that should seamlessly permeate our everyday work lives. Recognizing the efforts, dedication, and unique talents of those around us not only fosters a great work environment but also strengthens the bonds of all our relationships.

So, why don’t we show gratitude more often?  In a recent study, respondents unanimously agreed that saying “thank you” to colleagues “makes me feel happier and more fulfilled”—but on any given day, only a mere 10% acted on that impulse. A stunning 60% said they “either never express gratitude at work or do so perhaps once a year.” In short, Americans actively suppress gratitude on the job, even to the point of robbing themselves of happiness.

Why? It may be because, in theory, no one gives away anything at work; every exchange is fundamentally economic. You don’t deliver that memo to your boss at three o’clock sharp out of the goodness of your heart, but because that is what you’re being paid to do. Your paycheck becomes the equivalent of a “thank you.” Fail to do what you’re “asked,” and you may not see another one.

But, we cannot fall into that dangerous trap.  If you really want to be an employer of choice and cultivate a strong culture, expressing gratitude must become a habit.  Small gestures of appreciation, such as handwritten notes, picking up a lunch tab, highlighting a colleague in a meeting, or sincerely expressing appreciation for their contributions, are powerful ways to convey the depth of our gratitude. These actions celebrate the unique qualities that make our colleagues indispensable and contribute to a workplace culture that thrives on genuine appreciation.

The Power of Appreciation
In the aftermath of experiencing such a profound loss, we are reminded of the immense impact a single person can have on an organization. These moments underscore how deeply we cherish the presence and contributions each of us brings to the collective table. It’s important to acknowledge that every individual adds a unique set of skills, experiences, and diverse perspectives to our shared endeavor. Together, we operate like the pieces of a complex puzzle, harmoniously fitting together to create something far greater than the mere sum of its parts.

Reflecting on Kristi’s time with us, it’s undeniable that she brought an invaluable richness to our collective experience. In times of grief and loss, appreciation takes on an even deeper meaning… it becomes a way to pay tribute to her contributions, friendship, and legacy. While there are countless ways to honor Kristi’s memory, we have carefully chosen the six most meaningful ways to remember her, highlighting what made her an exceptional part of our work family.

  1. Kristi was genuinely passionate about her work with people wherever she was – she never met a stranger.
  2. Her attention to detail and excellence was beyond reproach…she constantly went above and beyond for the team.
  3. Kristi had so many friends and invested as much time as she could with them – she was that 3 am friend you could always count on.
  4. She had a gift for conversation and storytelling, sometimes tickling herself as she recounted a funny story.
  5. Kristi was a crier with a heart as big as the ocean. But she always owned it saying – sorry I can’t help it!
  6. Kristi did everything she could to tend to others, often putting our needs ahead of her own.  This was her life’s purpose.

As I reflect on the void left by Kristi’s absence, I remember the warmth of her smile, the wisdom of her counsel, and the deep camaraderie we shared. I remember when we laughed together, overcame challenges, and achieved great things as a team. We also had so many heartfelt thoughts and memories shared by our clients about Kristi – I honestly am not sure how much each of us realized the impact we might have on others in our daily lives.  It was remarkable and a good reminder.

Moving Forward Together
Kristi’s legacy highlighted the value of each person in our organization. It urges us to appreciate the living, express gratitude, and strengthen the bonds that hold us together. In doing so, we honor not only the memory of our friend but also nurture the whole reason we are together as colleagues and friends.  We truly are sitting around the table together, working to make a difference in the world.

The team and I recognize that appreciation must transcend mere moments—it should be ingrained in our daily lives. Reflecting on the days since Kristi fell ill, we’ve openly acknowledged that we don’t celebrate and appreciate as much as we should, so we are working to fix that. We believe it’s how we can celebrate the remarkable group of individuals who make our organization great.

Here is a rallying cry. Can we all commit to making this a priority as we move forward together, ensuring that we appreciate one another?  Making sure we look across the table appreciating our similarities and differences, fostering a culture of gratitude, and working towards making all workplaces a place of support, respect, and camaraderie.

I know so many of you can relate to what I am about to say…we are looking for great talent!  It is the #1 need of our clients right now and we are in the exact same position.  We have about a 90% success rate so far and want to make sure that we keep our great record of hiring great talent alive and well.  Probably much like everyone else we are looking for people who are smart, diverse, caring, fun-loving, business-minded, entrepreneurial, team-oriented, and problem-solvers (I know what your thinking – is that it?). Well, since we talk to so many of you about your strategy, we thought we would give you a peek behind the curtain at what our talent strategy is and our thinking behind it.  It comes out of years of seeing best practices from other companies we have worked with:

1. We are highlighting that we are a great place to work in our branding.
If we don’t tell our story, others will do it for us—and it might not be the narrative we want. Having a clear job description was a prerequisite 10 years ago, but it’s time to up our game. Not only must we use our website as a platform to showcase what makes the work we do incredibly meaningful, but we must also carry our brand message across social media channels and in the stories we share in person. For example, recently we applied to the 2022 Best Places to Work, and on the question “How likely are you to recommend your organization to a friend or colleague?” we scored 100%.  We don’t highlight that enough! Doing so will paint an accurate picture of what we are about for prospective hires and let them know what it’s like to work for our company.

2. We are maximizing employee referrals.
An astonishing 96 percent of companies with 10,000 employees or more—and 80 percent of those with fewer than 100 workers—say referrals are their #1 source of new hires.  Honestly, if an employee is willing to put their reputation on the line and bring in one of their friends or family into the company, that is our best tactic! Every employee should be a recruiter for their company, but few think that way.  To fix that at Steople, we offer a large bonus check to any employee that provides a reference that is then successfully hired.  Then it makes it worth employees’ time to reach out to their contacts, rather than expecting them to do it out of the kindness of their hearts. We believe you must truly incent people, not just say “thank you”.

3. We are offering benefits based on our core values and being transparent about who we are.
We continually emphasize what sets us apart from our competitors and acknowledge that we are not the company for everyone.  For example, while we are a global company, we have smaller, more boutique offices in various regions that offer bespoke services to our clients.  Often, we have young college graduates who want to be at larger firms with Fortune 100 clients.  What I impress on them is that it depends on what they want…in a large firm they will learn a lot, but they will be a cog in the big wheel, while at our firm they will have a voice and essentially be able to “own” their own business.  Another differentiator is that, while we work hard, we have a lot of flexibility and aren’t the “road warriors” working 80+ hours a week that the big firms do.  See where I’m going?  Additionally, we are always revising our benefits package ensuring it aligns with our core values. Examples include offering a personal development budget because we are a learning culture and concierge medicine benefits, so employees can focus on their well-being.

4. We also love our committed contract workers and their need for flexibility.
Since 2009 we have utilized contractors who you would never know weren’t employees.  Their commitment and dedication are remarkable.  The pandemic has ignited the gig economy in other sectors and people are now embracing part-time talent especially since it is so difficult to find good talent or excessively costly to hire full-time employees. Since we are a service firm the nature of our work is flexible and project-oriented, so it really lends itself to part-time workers.  But what we have come to realize over time is that it isn’t the number of hours a week worked, but the commitment to the team, the clients, and excellent outcomes that is important to us.  Embracing “new” ways of working that aren’t a part of the typical employee pool is important, especially during times of low unemployment numbers when full-time talent is so difficult to find.

5. Remote work expanded our talent pool significantly.
We aren’t going to fight the relocation battle.  So much of the work we do in our firm now is either via Zoom for coaching or we travel to do in-person work with teams. We realize that talented candidates have myriad career choices, and many of them are going to opt against moving to pursue a job opportunity…in fact, over 80% of today’s workforce wants to work remotely in some fashion.  But what we also realize is that most organizations fail to effectively structure and manage remote workers which can turn a potential solution into a waste of resources as remote workers struggle to understand and complete their duties…that is something we are keenly aware could be an issue and want to guard against.  Yes, we really are organizational psychologists that are that self-aware!

Now, all we need is your help in finding our next great talent!  Send a great one our way today…
You will find a QR Code below to send on to anyone you know who might be a great fit for the Steople team!