Many business owners think that a cutthroat pressure-cooker management style works. Turn up the heat and things will cook. Be ruthless with people and only the best will survive. It’s almost a cliche — put on the pressure and you’ll get results. Does it really work?
High pressure organizations may think their approach works, but it has consequences. The stress results in higher healthcare costs, more workplace accidents, and a revolving door with employees. Who can be loyal to a company that treats its employees like automatons, throws out the “bottom” 10 % each year, and creates internal conflict and strife as a management approach?
Studies have shown that cutthroat organizations are actually less productive. They have less employee loyalty and higher turnover. It negatively affects workforce health, sucking the life out of people.
What exactly is a cutthroat organization? What things characterize that management style? As in most things, there’s a spectrum, from mild to extreme. Most cutthroat environments have these ten characteristics:
1. They overwork people. Bring on those 50 hour workweeks! Create artificial deadlines and pile on the tasks. Be sure to put high priority on all tasks, and as a kicker, when one project is only half done, assign another one, so there’s always several critical projects due. It helps to be chronically understaffed. Chant the mantra that more is better and only losers work regular hours.
2. There’s no empathy. Empathy is for weaklings. Only performance matters. Evaluate employees as “units of production.” Squeeky wheels should be replaced. Cutthroat managers don’t know what empathy is, and certainly don’t want to find out. Who cares what the turnover rate is. You have to sift through the sand to find the gold nuggets. Production yield says it all. The motto is “burn and churn.”
3. Bosses don’t listen. To quote one manager ” I don’t want questions, I want answers!” Employees should figure out how to do their jobs, or they are incompetent and should be fired. Can’t figure out what to do? Do what you want, but if it doesn’t meet our expectations, you’ll suffer the consequences. Experimentation and taking risks are for losers. Asking questions or offering suggestions is wasting time.
4. Don’t recognize contributions or reward good work. Only your best is good enough, maybe. Do an outstanding job and you’ll be rewarded by not being fired. Compliments are what losers give. High performance winners don’t need recognition: the work speaks for itself.
5. There’s no socializing and no fun. Cutthroat managers know that socializing reduces productivity. You’re not at work to have fun. Employees are to focus on production and getting the job done. Socializing and having fun are good excuses to fire slackers.
6. There are a lot of rules. Cutthroat companies are supposed to run like well-oiled machines, with strict rules for behavior, attendance, reports, processes and procedures. Strict compliance and order is important for productivity. Remember, those employees are units of production. Supervision should be intensive and scrutinizing. Employees must work within their own boxes.
7. Cutthroat managers scheme. A good cutthroat manager will figure out how to get more production out of his worker for a lesser cost. Favorite tactics include assigning projects on Friday afternoons due Monday morning, calling early morning meetings before regular work hours “so as not to interfere with production,” and encouraging unreported overtime. Make employees buy tools and supplies out of their own funds. Figure a way to underpay employee expenses. Dock them for any time off. Make them surrender their frequent flyer miles.
8. Foster workplace competition. Cutthroat competition means every worker is on their own, for themselves. Managers set one worker against another, look out for number one. Only the fittest survive. Helping a fellow worker is a sign of weakness and will hurt you in the end.
9. Managers aren’t teachers. A cutthroat manager delegates. The rest is up to the employee they better solve their own problems on their own time, and deliver results. There are no impossible tasks, just people who can’t measure up.
10. Use the stick and the carrot. Cutthroat managers believe in the classic “theory x” of management. Use the stick of discipline, frequently, publicly. Humiliate employees into submission. Cajole them for less than perfect. Expect the unattainable. Hold out the carrot (rewards) but always at a distance that makes their achievement reserved for only the truly extraordinary. Berate any employee who fails to meet expectations.
Are any of these 10 symptoms in your workplace? Cutthroat management style is like a cancer. It grows slowly, and over time it establishes itself as part of the culture, and then it slowly, inevitably sucks the life out of a business as it grows in intensity. The result is an increasingly hostile work environment, populated by bullying managers, harassed and intimidated employees, and a bleak atmosphere. This dysfunctional environment usually leads to the ultimate death of the business.