How to handle a badly-behaved CEO

Dealing with unruly employees isn’t exactly easy but it’s a walk in the park compared to execs, warns one expert.

It’s easy to chalk up rude or disrespectful behaviour in the office to a co-worker possibly having a bad day but when it comes to a misbehaving CEO, their antics can impact the entire organization.

“Dealing with a difficult CEO is always challenging and requires careful examination of the situation before any moves should be made,” says Kelvin Lim, Southeast Asia’s first Master Coach and founder of Executive Coach International.

According to Lim, there are a number of potential reasons which could be causing CEOs to act out – such as “personality traits, lack of emotional intelligence skills, [or] recent changes that induced stress in their lives.

“Having solutions to such background causes might be the way to resolving this situation with the CEO,” he suggests.

Although the chief executive is, technically, at the top of the corporate food chain, Lim says it’s likely they’re still influenced by the company’s senior leaders so HR should look to find a third party who can positively influence the CEO’s behaviour.

If there is a senior leader who can offer advice and valuable guidance to the CEO, he suggests setting up a three-way conversation to address the ongoing issues.

He cautioned, however, that this approach won’t necessarily work if the unruly CEO was appointed while already displaying such tendencies.

“If the CEO got promoted anyway despite having such behaviours, this could be actually tolerated or encouraged somewhat from the top of the organisation,” he warned.

In a worst case scenario, Lim said outside intervention might be the key as external experts are more likely to be able to diffuse the sensitive situation.

“Such an approach requires extensive preparations including, but not limited to, one, ensuring the CEO is able to hear and respond well to the intervention and, two, preparing responses to the CEO’s typical aggressive retorts,” he concluded.

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