Team Model


Taming Toxic Team Members

We’ve all had to work with toxic team members—bosses, peers, and subordinates. I don’t know anyone who enjoys working with such individuals, however some of us are better able to handle them than others. Let’s break this issue down into several steps: why someone might be toxic, what you can do about the situation, and some useful tools.

Toxic Warning Sign

Why Is Someone Toxic?

Human beings are complex creatures. We are blessed with a powerful and yet intricate cognitive ability which allows us to manipulate our environment to our advantage, but unfortunately this ability also allows us to ruminate and mentally travel down dark pathways, causing depression, mental instability, and other pathological behaviors. People may descend these pathways as a result of genetics (trait behavior) or traumatic experiences (state behavior).

Suppose you have a co-worker who frequently lashes out at others in meetings. Your initial reaction may likely be one of anger with a desire to push back against this individual. Now suppose I told you this person was physically and sexually abused as a child. Would your attitude shift toward compassion? Probably, although you still may not wish to have the person on your team.

Remember that many people lead very chaotic lives, whether by choice or inclination. They may desire to bring everyone down to their level. Some individuals will be toxic because they are bumbling and maybe don’t have the mental equipment to handle social situations gracefully.

This is where the concept of emotional intelligence (EQ) enters. Although many models of emotional intelligence exist, most cover the ability to become aware of one’s own and others’ emotions as well as the ability to regulate one’s emotions and influence the emotions of others. A toxic individual could have an overall low EQ and find themselves bumbling from crisis to crisis, could have an overall high EQ and intentionally leave a wake of destruction behind, or lie somewhere in between. What is important is that if you are able to determine their EQ level then you will know what to work on—intentional sabotage or bumbling incompetence.

Toxic individuals frequently get together and commiserate. They tend to feed on each other and unfortunately they can spoil an entire team if left unattended.

What You Can Do

Try to have a conversation with these folks. Sit down one-on-one and attempt to get to the deeper level of the problem. Sometimes this is not possible because the other person is unwilling to open up and let you in. Other times the individual may begin to allow you an insight into the depth of the issue. Seek clarity in understanding what is going on. Probe gently for a deeper understanding. Explain to the individual that while you may respect their position, it is not productive for the team. If possible, don’t leave with assumptions on anyone’s part.

Set boundaries and hold the team members to those boundaries. Be specific about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

Toxic individuals frequently spew their trash via e-mail because it is easier than doing so in person. Many times we will say things online or in an e-mail that we wouldn’t in person because a distance exists between us. This makes the altercation impersonal and less compassionate. Simply stop the e-mail battles and pick up the phone or walk into the individual’s office. You may also want to consider that writing an e-mail can be cathartic for some.


You have several tools at your disposal. One is to consider an individual’s behavior on a spectrum from “Yes” on one end to “Toxic” at the opposite end and “Challenging” in the middle. I think we’ve all heard the term, “A ‘yes’ man.” This type of person will say yes to whatever the team or boss wants in an effort to get ahead or get along. As a result, they contribute very little. Some leaders prefer subordinates such as this since they are malleable, submissive, and low maintenance. At the other end of the spectrum toxic individuals will push against you no matter what. They will search for ways to resist. Again, this could be for several reasons and it, too is clearly nonproductive.

As in many cases, the middle path is the most productive. An individual may challenge you, which causes you to think through an idea or problem more thoroughly. This can be very helpful, especially if the individual helps your group or organization create something better as a result. Reviewing this model with the toxic individual may be very helpful in illustrating how you view the problem.

Another tool is called the positivity ratio. Research has shown that leaders exhibiting positive behaviors at least three times as often as negative behaviors have higher performing teams. While this works only to a certain point, the concept is important to explain to a toxic worker so he or she understands the powerful effect of positivity.

Finally, a technique known as the mirroring dialog from Imago Therapy can be used to help dissipate charged energy from a toxic team member and provide a path to a more open dialog. While I don’t have space here to go into the details of the technique, I encourage you to explore this powerful tool if you are committed to adding skills to your toolkit.


If the toxic team member doesn’t want closure and keeps beating on the current topic you can certainly call them on it and ask for an explanation. Many times the individual has no desire for closure. That is the point at which you must make a decision as to whether or not you are better off with or without the individual. Sometimes you are stuck with the person. They might be a friend or relative of your boss or your boss’ boss.

Keep in mind—you will learn and grow from each of these situations. Ask yourself what the lesson is in each one, for you will likely be able to apply the lesson later on in life or teach it to someone else.


  • Toxic team members may be inherently toxic or may be so as a result of past experiences
  • Don’t engage in e-mail battles—talk on the phone or meet in person
  • Set and hold distinct boundaries
  • Explain the difference between challenging versus toxic behavior
  • Seek clarity and closure
  • Decide when you’ve had enough and it is no longer worth keeping the toxic team member

Keywords: leadership, toxic team members, EQ, emotional intelligence, mirroring dialog, boundaries


  • Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive Affect and the Complex Dynamics of Human Flourishing. American Psychologist, 60(7), 678-686.
  • Luquet, W. (2007). Short Term Couples Therapy: The Imago Model in Action. New York: Routledge.
  • Mayer, J. D., Roberts, R. D., & Barsade, S. G. (2008). Human abilities: Emotional intelligence. Annual Review of Psychology, 59(1), 507-536.
  • Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. D. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 9(3), 185-211.
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The Leadership Failure of Mohamed Morsi: Will Your Workers Revolt, Too?

The removal of Mohamed Morsi as Egypt’s President is a poignant reminder of the difficulty in satisfying the myriad demands of disparate segments of a society or organization. While Mr. Morsi was a democratically elected leader of a country, his failure can provide many lessons for those of us who work in business and non-profit organizations.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi

In a nutshell, Mr. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party put personal agendas before the common goal of repairing and building a flourishing Egyptian government and society. He failed to rebuild the Egyptian infrastructure, leaving the economy struggling with high prices for food, gasoline, and other commodities. He and others in his party grabbed power by ramming an unpopular religiously tainted constitution down the throat of the Egyptian people and appointing Islamist officials to as many posts as possible.

Eventually the Egyptian people and military had enough and took to the streets and once again violence has ensued. Let’s take a look at what lessons we can glean from this experience to help us lead our organizations.

In my experience, the best leaders put the organization first and set aside their egos and personal agendas. Jim collins does an excellent job elaborating on this in his well-researched book Good to Great. In his words, a Level 5 leader “Builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.” You could begin by keeping a journal of your daily activities and noting which activities are moving you closer to your team and organizational goals, and which activities are moving you toward personal goals. You may also find that some activities are taking you nowhere, which would be helpful to know.

The second lesson we can find is how important it is to provide an adequate infrastructure so that a team may flourish and excel—to use their talent to its fullest extent. The Egyptian economy is in shambles, which cripples all businesses from tourism to technology. Are you providing the necessary equipment and financial resources for your team? Have you asked what they need lately?

Finally, pay attention to all of the groups within your organization, whether these be types of workers, individuals at all levels in the organization, all facets of the organization such as marketing, development, production, or ethnic and gender groups. Each group will bring a somewhat unique perspective to your business and may provide a profound insight that propels you forward. One of the mantras I continue to recite is “Respect Everyone.” If we genuinely come from this attitude our team members will see it for what it is—a genuine interest and concern for each individual and group.

Bringing groups together which have widely divergent views and interests is difficult and requires a skilled leader. The key point is to continue focusing on the goals and vision of the team and organization. Use these as the focal point instead of the differences in views. Ask how the different views can help achieve the goal, thus building synergy to create exceptional solutions to problems.

In summary, I believe the lessons from the failure of Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood party are:

  • Set your personal agenda aside and focus on the greater goals of the organization and your team,
  • Provide an adequate infrastructure for your team so that they may flourish and utilize their talents to their fullest extent, and
  • Remain attentive to all groups within your organization.

Keywords: leadership development, leadership lessons, Egypt, Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood


  • Al Jazeera. (2013, July 3) Profile: Mohamed Morsi. Al Jazeera. Retrieved July 8, 2013 from
  • Collins, J. C. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap. and others don’t. New York: Collins.
  • Daragahi, B. & Saleh, H. (2013, July 5). Egypt: The second revolution. Financial Times. Retrieved July 8, 2013 from
  • Khalaf, R. (2013, July 4). Morsi’s downfall will entrench Brotherhood’s sense of victimhood. Financial Times. Retrieved July 8, 2013 from
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Leadership Means Taking a Stand in Times of Crisis

This last week I’ve observed how individuals and organizations have responded to the tragic loss of life at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. It began shortly thereafter with President Obama’s remarks on Friday, “We’ve endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years… As a country we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago, these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods and these children are our children and we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.”

Sandy Hook Memorial

As I heard the words my immediate thought was “gun control”—and that he’s really sticking his neck out on this one. I hoped it wasn’t just a knee-jerk reaction. And then my mind drifted to the topic of leadership, and that’s where it stuck. Good leaders take a well-reasoned stand and act to make it happen. This takes courage, an essential leadership element.

The following Tuesday Cerberus Capital Management LP, owner of the Freedom Group which made the Bushmaster rifle used by the shooter in this tragedy, announced that it will sell the group. While the motives of the sale may be many, the important point is that Cerberus is also taking a stand and moving forward. That’s leadership.

So when a time of crisis emerges remember that it’s time for you to earn your paycheck and your stripes. Ask for opinions, remain open for a while and then begin to formulate options and strategies. You don’t need to be 100% sure—that’s analysis paralysis, but once you’ve got a good feeling about the path forward lay out the steps to make it happen, including clear concise communications and go!


  • Times of crisis are when leadership is needed and desired
  • Listen, learn, determine options, then choose and take the position
  • Communicate the path and reasons behind it

Keywords: leadership, courage, communication


  • Iacocca, L. (2007). Where Have All the Leaders Gone? New York: Scribner.
  • Spreitzer, G. M., McCall, M. W., & Mahoney, J. D. (1997). Early identification of international executive potential. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(1), 6–28.
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Size Does Matter Especially for Teams and Tribes

I am frequently asked about the optimal size for a team. Like many leadership and team issues the answer is “it depends.” We can, however, look at some of the parameters regarding team size and gain a bit more awareness of the pertinent issues which will help us to develop higher performing teams.

Ache Hunting

For starters, let’s look at the earliest teams—foraging or raiding parties. Anthropologists have studied primitive tribes with an understanding that their behavior is most likely indicative of Paleolithic, that is pre-agricultural human behavior, and therefore a natural or instinctive team size.

The Dani tribes of western New Guinea gather hunting and raiding parties of 12-50 people whereas the Aché in Paraguay forage in groups of 6-42, with an average of 18. Other anthropologists have recorded local groups of about 25 people, although the group size may be limited by the availability of nearby food. On a larger scale, it is felt that full tribes, alliances, or coalitions consisted of approximately 500 individuals. To me, this feels like the largest size group one can have an immediate influence on.

Based upon research on team size, I feel that four major factors are in play:

  • Focus
  • Process losses
  • Communication
  • Diversity of viewpoints, knowledge, skills, and abilities

Small teams are able to focus well on very specific tasks. As the team’s scope or goals increase in number the team may need to increase in size. A small team requires very little infrastructure, communicates easily, is generally very flexible, and can adapt to new information quickly.

A larger team requires more structured processes, creating what we call process losses, taking time away from task work. All teams must find a comfortable balance between time spent on tasks and time spent on processes.

Think of communication channels as the wiring or nervous system for the team. As team size increases these channels and processes must be formalized to ensure all team members have access to information. Many tools are available today for the storage and sharing of team documents.

Diversity is an important factor, especially in groups requiring innovation. I’m not talking about gender and cultural diversity here, but more importantly diversity of viewpoints, knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs). At one extreme, if everyone on the team has the same KSAs, then there is no need for a team except to add more bodies to complete the same task. At the other extreme, if the KSAs and viewpoints of the team members are so radically different they may be unable to communicate and understand each other’s ideas. A balance is important here. A team should be composed of individuals who each bring some unique value to the table that may enhance or build upon others’ ideas. Some studies have shown that larger groups will generate more ideas in creative settings although there will certainly be a point at which diminishing returns begin.

As you build your team, as always, begin with your goals and determine the knowledge, skills, and abilities you will need. Then make an estimate of the number of people the tasks will require and where the people will be located. This will determine the types of communication channels you will need to put into place. Determine the stages of your project and the processes you will need, and how much time you wish to devote to agreeing on and creating the processes. Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate these decisions along the way and make adjustments as appropriate.


  • Natural team size ranges from about six to 50
  • Small teams are likely required to focus on very specific tasks
  • Determine the knowledge, skills, and abilities required, and then the number of team members
  • Allow the team to create the communication channels they feel are needed
  • Become aware of the amount of time spent on team processes vs. task and adjust as appropriate

Keywords: leadership, I/O psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, team size, team diversity, communication, process


  • Bales, R. F. (1953). The equilibrium process in small groups. In T. Parson, R. F. Bales, & E. A. Shils (Eds.), Working Papers in the Theory of Action (pp. 111-161). Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
  • Birdsell, J. B. (1968). Some predictions for the Pleistocene based on equilibrium systems among recent hunter-gatherers. In R. B. Lee & I. DeVore (Eds.), Man the Hunter. New York: Aldine.
  • Dennis, A. R., & Wixom, B. H. (2002). Investigating the Moderators of the Group Support Systems Use with Meta-Analysis. Journal of Management Information Systems, 18(3), 235–257.
  • Gallupe, R. B., Dennis, A. R., Cooper, W. H., Valacich, J. S., Bastianutti, L. M., & Nunamaker, J. F., Jr. (1992). Electronic brainstorming and group size. Academy of Management Journal, 35(2), 350-369.
  • Heider, K. G. (1970). The Dugum Dani. New York: Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.
  • Hill, K., Hawkes, K., Hurtado, A. M., & Kaplan, H. (1984). Seasonal variance in the diet of Ache hunter-gatherers in eastern Paraguay. Human Ecology, 12(2), 101-135.
  • Hülsheger, U. R., Anderson, N., & Salgado, J. F. (2009). Team-level predictors of innovation at work: A comprehensive meta-analysis spanning three decades of research. Journal of Applied Pscyhology, 94(5), 1128-1145.
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Evaluating Performance: The Confounding Role of External Factors

As a leader in a business organization we are often required to assess the performance of team members. When a someone has not performed up to our expectations one or more factors may be at play. An easy response may be to believe that the individual is not up to the task, but it may also be a case where external, or situational factors are creating headwinds too large to overcome. Perhaps the team member is in a role that is not a good match for his or her knowledge and skills, or that the task is ill-defined.

I find the issue of external factors to be the most difficult to resolve. Let’s look at a few examples. Suppose you were Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, and had to deal with a broken map application in the new iOS release. The data for the application was purchased from several companies and apparently the way it was used or integrated caused some problems. In this case—to us—it seems pretty clear that outside factors were not part of the problem. The individual in charge of the application should have had control of the data, application development, and integration of the multiple data sets. However, suppose this individual was told that the application would be released no matter what shape it was in. Now that’s another story and would point to an external factor as a major contributor to the problem.

Let’s look at another issue, this time a more contentious one—that of the leadership of President Barack Obama during the severe financial downturn beginning in 2008 and continuing until the present day. In this case the opinions vary widely. Some individuals maintain that the President and his fiscal policies have prolonged the suffering and slowed the recovery, while others claim that he has done the best he can with the situation—that it is bigger than he and the Federal Reserve can easily fix. While some people want to replace the President in this election due to poor performance, others feel he couldn’t have done any better than he already has with these profound external factors and needs to remain in office.

A Job Performance Model

Now I’d like to look at what the research says, beginning with the definitions.

  • Behaviors are the actions, positive and negative, that people exhibit.
  • Situational factors are forces not under the individual’s control which may positively or negatively impact the individual’s results.
  • Results are the states or conditions which changed because of the individual’s behaviors and that were helped or hindered by situational factors.
  • Organizational value is the worth associated with results or individual behaviors.
  • Performance is the expected value an organization would receive from an individual’s behavior.

Take the example of a salesman for an auto parts supplier who I’ll call Walter. In 2007 about 16 million automobiles were sold in the US. Walter calls on all the US auto manufacturers and beats his quota month after month. Based on results we would consider him to be a high performer. Fast forward two years to 2009. Less than 11 million cars are sold in the year. Walter doesn’t hit quota one month—his sales are down considerably. Based on his results we could argue that Walter’s performance has taken a nose dive.

In this case, though, it’s quite easy to see the moderating effect of the situational factors. Of course it’s not usually so easy to see and that’s when you get to earn your paycheck.

Using our model of job performance let’s turn back to President Obama. Some would argue that his behaviors have been poor and therefore his job performance is poor. Others will argue that his behaviors have been on the mark but that the situational constraints are so significant that what we have is the best one could expect. I won’t jump into that fray, though.

To truly assess your team member’s performance stay in touch with their activities and ask what tasks they are working on and the processes they are using. Observe their interactions with others to determine how they are helping or hindering team performance. Do they seem to have the knowledge they need to perform their job, and if not do they seek input from others? Are they able to utilize their knowledge and skills to create value? Do they show commitment to the tasks at hand? Ask about external factors and their effect on the output they are generating.

Your ability to assess a team member’s performance and utilize them in the most effective manner can have a huge impact on your overall team performance. If you remain diligent and committed to this effort you will reap significant rewards.


  • Results are a function of individual behaviors and situational, or external factors
  • Job performance is a function of individual behaviors
  • External factors can radically enhance or hinder an individual’s results

Keywords: leadership, job performance, job evaluation, appraisal, situational factors, situational constraints, behaviors


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An Open Letter: The Choice is Yours

I’ve gotten a few questions over the week on last week’s blog post and how to bring traumatic issues to closure and move forward. As I was driving one afternoon I began to imagine myself as a plant manager for a Japanese owned factory in China. Some of these factories have been shuttered due to the protests over the Diaoyudao islands in the East China Sea.

Senkaku Islands

The relationship between Japan and China has many dark moments. Most recently, between 1931 and 1945 Japan carried out barbarous attacks in China. While one could argue that several generations have passed since then, the trauma and losses are not easily forgotten.

I drafted a statement and have worked with Nancy Wiser of Wiser Strategies who advises clients on how to handle crises, to craft a message that would help in such a time of crisis. Here is the statement I would make…

“We understand the concern the citizens of China have over the islands between Japan and China and we understand the history between our two countries. We regret what our ancestors have done in China and unfortunately there is nothing that can be done about the past except to acknowledge it and express our regret for it.

“Beyond that, there is nothing you can do about that, there is nothing I can do about it. We can only move forward.

“We respect all of you as citizens of China and citizens of the world. We would like to continue to work with you. We would like to move forward. We would like to put the past behind us.

“You and I cannot control what our governments do. While we can vote and express ourselves peacefully in the streets as you have done, we cannot absolutely control our governments.

“I would like us to focus on moving forward. What can we do in this city today, at this factory to move forward? You can make a choice, we in our company can make a choice. Do you wish to prosper together? We are in business together. We have a factory here and would like for all of us to prosper.

“Every day that we are closed you lose money and we lose money. If you would like to work together to move forward, to create jobs, to help build a lifestyle that you would like and that we would like, then let us figure out how to work together peacefully.

“In this moment the choice is yours. Again, we respect each and every one of you as citizens of the world. We ask that you come together with us to build a prosperous business. The choice is yours and we sincerely hope that you will choose to move forward with us. Thank you.”

Keywords: leadership, trauma, grief, protests, riots, Senkaku islands, Diaoyudao islands

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Films, and islands, and drones! Oh my! Leading amid chaos

Over the last week protests and riots have erupted in a swath across the globe from Tunisia to China. The two flash points have been the display of an Arabic version of a trailer for the movie Innocence of Muslims and the sale of the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.

Senkaku Islands

The Innocence of Muslims is an overdubbed, poorly crafted film which sadly portrays the prophet Muhammad as a fool, a fake, and a womanizer. While individuals in the western world may find the film repugnant, they also understand the value of freedom of expression. Those of us raised in a culture where freedom of expression is appreciated can easily shrug off such poor attempts at inciting strong religious emotions.

However, in cultures where the Muslim faith is regarded more seriously—and freedom of expression is not necessarily so highly valued, at least on religious topics—it may be felt that protests are in order. Unfortunately, for individuals waiting for an excuse to protest and riot, faster than a speeding drone, they’ll be on the bandwagon.

The Senkaku islands (Diaoyudao in Chinese) have been in dispute between China and Japan ever since oil was discovered in 1968 under their surrounding seas. The government of Japan recently purchased the islands from a private Japanese family and this action has inflamed both the Chinese government and citizens. Two factors are likely in play, the desire for the oil resources and a continued resentment against the Japanese for the atrocities committed in China between 1931 and 1945.

So let’s bring this back into the world of leadership we live in every day. I find an analog for these global events to be situations where the entire team or organization is working from a morale deficit. These may be situations where massive layoffs or a traumatic incident has taken place. In such cases there are three things you can do—allow a period of grief and bring closure to the past, motivate the team toward the common goal, and keep the focus moving forward.

As humans we find it comforting to acknowledge our grief and to apply ritual to bring closure to unfortunate events. All cultures I know of, including primitive cultures, perform a ritual for the loss of a tribe or family member. And so it should be for your situation. Acknowledge the loss, discuss it and decide what you need to do to put it to rest. Then move on.

Focusing on a common goal can work to motivate the team as well as bring the focus away from internal pain. The parallel to this is the way savvy and despotic leaders of countries have used the ploy of attacking an outside enemy in order to deflect the spotlight. Working toward the common goal is a motivational tool all leaders should utilize.

Lastly, the universe is a forward-moving energy which never slows or ceases. Feel that energy and use your creativity to make it palpable to all team members. Work to get them on the bus and for the bus to move relentlessly forward.

There is no time to wallow in the past. Moments may arise where we as leaders must encourage a team member or two to make a decision—remain stuck in the past or move forward with the team. In my view it’s an easy decision. Let’s hop on the bus and get moving!


  • Acknowledge the loss or trauma and bring it to closure
  • Focus on the common goal
  • Keep the energy and focus on moving forward

Keywords: leadership, trauma, grief, protests, riots, Innocence of Muslims, Senkaku islands, Diaoyudao islands, ritual, energy

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Political Conventions and the Integrity Gap

I’ve been following the political conventions from a distance and one issue stood out for me—integrity. It seems that we hold our politicians to a much lower standard of integrity than we do leaders in the business world. My guess is that since almost all of the politicians lie, spin facts, or make outlandish unjustifiable claims we become numb to this subterfuge.

Donkey and Elephant

I’m going to refrain from going into the details of the transgressions from both parties because the fact-checking sites perform a good service for us in this regard. I would like to analyze this situation in the context of how these incidents would appear coming from a business leader.

For me the situation is comparable to a new business leader showing up for an introductory speech with his new team assembled before him and claiming that a project he led had a return on investment (ROI) of 100% in six months when in reality the performance was a sub-par 5% in one year. This leader may continue to blame the closing of an R&D facility to his ousted predecessor when in reality it was due to the ineptitude of an even earlier administrator.

Now imagine yourself sitting among your peers in this audience, questioning the integrity of your new leader. Lapses such as this fall into what we call in the Industrial and Organizational Psychology industry as “bad bosses.” This is one of the few areas where we haven’t created a fancy term for something quite ordinary.

Research has shown that the percentage of bad bosses out there may be in excess of 50%. Furthermore, research shows that an individual’s relationship with their boss is one of the most significant reasons for leaving a job or staying.

I feel that integrity has two components—honesty and matching words with actions. Honesty is easier to maintain than dishonesty. Once you cross that line you soon find you will need to remember what you said. Otherwise you will likely be caught in the inconsistency. Matching your (honest) words with action sends a clear message that you intend for your team members to act according to their words as well. In essence you should develop yourself as a good role model.

A propensity toward unethical behavior is generally detected by team members. It’s like fear, they can practically smell it. Further, research has shown that team members who view their boss as unethical have lower job satisfaction, and we know well that this drives turnover.

So it’s not hard to make the leap that bad bosses drive turnover. Integrity is key.

You may want to do a little introspection and review your recent behaviors. Is your integrity impeccable? Are your actions matching your words?


  • Business leaders are held to a higher standard of integrity than political leaders
  • Let honesty govern your thoughts and words
  • Behave consistently with your words

Keywords: leadership, integrity, ethics, politics, politicians


  • Hogan, R. J. (2008, April). Leadership is a Hygiene Factor. In R. B. Kaiser (Chair), Unconventional thinking about leadership. Symposium conducted at the meeting of Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology Conference 2008, San Francisco, CA.
  • Hogan, R. J., & Kaiser, R. B. (2005). What we know about leadership. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 169-180.
  • Kaiser, R., & Hogan, R. (2010). How to (and how not to) assess the integrity of managers. Consulting Psychology Journal, 62(4), 216-234.
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    Bad News Brings New Information

    Over the past several months I have had the opportunity to observe individual’s behavior when I have told them that I was unable to do something for them or chose not to purchase their product or service. The responses have ranged from quiet anger to ignoring me to an attitude that continues to engage with me in hopes that we will be able to work together in the future.


    Observe Your Team Member’s Behavior

    You may have had similar experiences when you have had to give a team member bad news. Their reaction tells you a lot about their personal beliefs, maturity, and ability to work through problems. Suppose you have a team leader position open and two candidates for the job. You discuss the position with the two individuals, give it some consideration and make your choice. Once you deliver the bad news to the person who is passed over for the job, observe their behavior. Do they handle it appropriately and ask about future possibilities or get upset over sour grapes? If it is the latter, then you probably made a good choice and will want to reconsider making a similar future offer. If it is the former then you know you’ve got someone with a clear head and positive attitude.

    I have found that almost uniformly managers procrastinate in confronting difficult situations or delivering bad news. I often counsel them to look beyond the discussion to the positive aspects the outcome will bring. In addition, you can look at them as situations in which you will learn more about your team members. I’ve also found that, sadistically, some leaders will invent bad news to test an individual’s response and loyalty.

    Your Behavior When you Receive Bad News

    Similarly, what is your behavior when you receive bad news? Do you try to find a positive element and continue to move forward? Most likely your boss is observing your behavior as well.

    While inside you may be angry or struggling with disappointment, learn to cultivate a positive attitude that all situations—positive and negative—bring learning. There is something positive in every situation and it is our job to figure out what it is.


    • Observe your team member’s behavior in response to bad news
    • Assess the values and beliefs behind the response
    • Cultivate a positive learning attitude as a part of your response to bad news

    Keywords: leadership, resilience, positive attitude, behavior observation


    • Carver, C. S. (1998). Resilience and thriving: Issues, models, and linkages. Journal of Social Issues, 54(2), 245-266.
    • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: HarperCollins.
    • Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56(3), 218-226.
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    Are You Collaborating or Colliding?

    Many Americans are weary of the partisan politics and unwillingness for each side to work together to solve critical problems in the United States. This week I’d like to highlight the value of collaboration with a project in Kentucky and challenge you to look for ways you can collaborate that will create innovative projects that you might not otherwise embark upon.

    Research Triangle Park Headquarters

    Lexington and Louisville are the largest cities in Kentucky and in many ways have been bitter rivals, whether it is basketball, business, or horses. However, last year the mayors of Lexington and Louisville, Jim Gray and Greg Fischer, developed an outline for a joint economic development effort, called Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement (BEAM). This endeavor is meant to put a spotlight on the corridor between Lexington and Louisville as a center for advanced manufacturing—the adoption of cutting edge manufacturing processes to produce innovative or technologically complex products.

    Putting this focus on the region, this collaboration, will spark worldwide economic development interest in the area. It will also create a culture that will promote education and a strong work ethic as well as attract and retain top talent. For an example of how this might play out we can look at the North Carolina Research Triangle area. In the mid-1950s North Carolina was home to furniture manufacturing, textiles, and tobacco production. Concerned about the loss of bright and talented young people to other areas, a few visionary and influential individuals in the state gathered and began to work on the concept of a research park in the Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh region. As they say, the rest is history. Research Triangle Park (RTP), a 7,000 acre region nestled in the center of those cities, now employs over 40,000 people.

    My challenge to you is to look beyond your daily span of activities. Are there groups within your organization from whom you have shied away from who could provide a synergy with which you can create new products, distribution channels, marketing and sales efforts, or new target markets? Are there other organizations you could partner with to create new offerings or open up new channels or geographic regions?

    Collaboration is key. As you harness the power of more individuals working toward a common goal you can build something much greater than you would have been able to build on your own and all will benefit. Those unwilling to collaborate are looking out for their own self-interests and may one day find themselves stranded on an island.


    • Look for groups within or outside your organization with whom you can partner with to create new products, offerings, distribution channels, target markets, etc.
    • Develop a compelling vision and goals for the outcome of this effort
    • Work together to achieve the goals, taking the temperature of each party along the way

    Keywords: leadership, collaboration


    • (2012, Summer). First Person: Lexington and Louisville Mayors Form a Strategic Economic Development Partnership. Area Development. Retrieved from
    • Link, A. N., & Scott, J. T. (2003). The growth of Research Triangle Park. Small Business Economics, 20(2), 167-175.
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