How to handle a badly-behaved CEO

by Nicola Middlemiss07 Sep 2016
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 organisation.

“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.

Related stories:

Do CEOs who swear make better leaders?
How HR can earn the CEO's trust
What to do when your business has a new CEO


  • by Michael 8/09/2016 11:29:31 AM

    CEO's and all others in management positions, indeed everyone, need to realise that there are neither qualifications nor positions that entitle one to bad behaviour. It is true that behaviour is learned. There is an old saying that, "you can take someone out of the gutter but not the gutter out of someone". Then there are those who believe abusive behaviour is a mask for one's ineptitude. Somewhere in there lie the ills for CEO bad behaviour, I guess.
    A thug and a "manager" can achieve similar results. The difference between the two is that one leaves collateral damage.

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