Are Teflon leaders poisoning your workplace?

Your favourite pan may have something in common with your company’s worst manager, says one prominent HR figure.

Are Teflon leaders poisoning your workplace?
r favourite pan may have something in common with your company’s worst manager – that’s the unusual claim from one prominent HR figure who’s written a book to back up her theory.

“Teflon leaders are the ones that no one or nothing sticks to,” says Roberta Matuson, president of Matuson Consulting. “Just like the Teflon pans, no matter what they do, nothing sticks.”

Matuson – who has worked with corporate giants such as Microsoft, General Motors and Glassdoor – says these non-stick Teflon leaders can cause serious damage if left unchecked.

“Their management style is such a turn-off for so many that employees won’t stick around, they just leave,” she tells HRM. “The organization can do all it can to hire really great, bright people but when they get under one of these Teflon managers, they just slip right off and out.”

According to Boston-based Matuson, the majority of organizations already know who their Teflon leaders are but a fear of confrontation and a perceived inability to act means they remain in management positions for far too long.

“People hate conflict and it requires this manager’s manger to tell them they’re doing something terribly wrong,” Matuson tells HRM. “They don’t do it because they’d have to go through HR and they have to justify their decision and it’s a heck of a lot easier just to hope and pray that the Teflon leader quits.”

However, Matuson – who recently penned The Magnetic Leader: How Irresistible Leaders Attract Employees, Customers, and Profits – says there are some proactive measures employers can take.

“Look and see if the organization has given this person the tools they need to be successful,” suggests Matuson. “It’s not very fair if you’re asking them to do something but they don’t have the right resources on hand.”

Next, employers have a responsibility to check the Teflon leader is still the right person for the job or whether the responsibilities have changed so much that they’re no longer suitable.

“Your company may have doubled in size since the person was hired so even after you’ve given them all the tools they need, it might become clear that they’re no longer the right fit.”

After those steps, Matuson says there are a couple of options open to employers.

“If they’re worth keeping, employers can either find them a position where they’re an individual contributor or they can have a head hunter call in and try to scoop them out,” she tells HRM.

“I’m not saying that you can’t reform these people but I firmly believe that if you have an opportunity to invest your time and money in improving employees, you’d be a lot better served getting B+ players to A status, rather than trying to get these C players to B status.”

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