Success in business may have an obvious link to quality products and services. But what about the link between quality bosses and employees’ engagement and productivity? Indeed it’s clear bad bosses erode performance and engagement.

More than half of employees see the connection between bosses with a reputation for being demanding, overbearing, and mean, and the resulting negative impact on work-life balance, according to Workfront’s  Work-Life Report. Furthermore, poor work-life balance is costly. Some 68% of employees reported poor morale, and over 40% reported employee burnout, high turnover, and poor productivity.

Similarly, TINYPulse’s Employee Engagement and Organizational Culture Report found that 49% of employees are not satisfied with their direct supervisor. Only 21% of employees said they feel strongly valued at work.

Great leaders pay attention

Great leaders – those who inspire top performance AND genuine team member engagement – pay attention to both productivity and employee engagement, every day.

Why? Because a work environment that treats team members with trust, dignity, and respect in every interaction boosts engagement, service, and results.

The biggest influence on employee engagement? Jim Clifton, the Chairman of Gallup, says it’s the quality of your leaders. In his 2013 post, Millions of Bad Managers are Killing America’s Growth, Clifton states that an estimated seven million lousy managers are “not properly developing or worse, are outright depressing . . . millions of US employees.”

These studies – and many more – underscore the significant impact that the quality of your leaders have on team member engagement, service, and results.

Companies tolerate bad behaviour

It isn’t likely that companies intentionally hire bad bosses. Nonetheless, it seems that companies tolerate bad behaviour from bosses far too frequently.

Any instance of bad behaviour – be it yelling, cursing, demeaning, etc. – erodes trust, dignity, and respect. Why would companies allow these interactions? In my interviews with senior leaders, they frequently report bad behaviour – but they discount the negative impact. “Oh,” they’ll say, “everybody knows that’s just how Bob is.” Or they might tell me how Bob’s team “always comes through at the end of the quarter.” Or they’ll say, “Bob doesn’t know any better.”

Or those senior leaders say, “I’ve tried, but nothing works. I don’t know what else to do.”

These are difficult conversations if your company has never formalized how people need to treat each other at work. If the only targets you set are performance standards, then people – bosses and team members – often behave badly to deliver those results.

Craft a constitution

The best way to move forward is to craft an organizational constitution. This is a formal statement of your company’s servant purpose, values and behaviours, strategies, and goals.

In order to create expectations of your leaders about how they are to manage their team members and what performance standards are required, the formalization of these values is necessary. You must define desired values in observable, tangible, behavioural terms.
If, for example, you have a “respect” value and one of your behaviours is “I treat everyone in a civil manner at all times,” you can observe, monitor, and measure the degree to which leaders actually do treat others civilly. When they do, praise and encourage them. If they don’t, redirect them promptly.

If they continue to treat people badly, lovingly help them out of your organization. The quality of workplace interactions is too important to leave it in the hands of mean leaders.

Don’t let bad bosses erode team member performance and engagement. Demand civil treatment and model it, in every interaction.

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration.

He writes books and articles and records podcasts.

In his free time, he’s a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.