Who Bears the Cost of Poor Leadership?

March 11, 2022
  • Bob Chapman
  • Bob Chapman
    CEO & Chairman of Barry-Wehmiller

We often say, “The way we lead impacts the way people live.”

Coming out of a pandemic and a shift in the workforce now called “The Great Resignation,” there is more and more evidence supporting that statement.

For instance, the headline of a recent St. Louis Business Journal article read, “There's a cost to keeping bad bosses around — and it's rising.”

Here are some statistics the article offers around that proposition:

  • 35% of Americans say they have left a job they otherwise loved because of a boss they didn’t like.
  • 9% of workers admit they are currently looking for a new job because they dislike their boss.
  • It would take a lot to convince a worker to stay at a job they loved if they disliked their boss. About 25% said there was no amount of money a company could offer them to get them to stay in that situation, while about 22% would stay for 25% more pay. About 19% would stay for double the pay, according to the survey.
  • The 2022 Workplace Belonging Study by Ipsos shows almost half of Americans are thinking about leaving their current jobs. Those who are considering the switch are less likely to feel a sense of belonging in the workplace. And workers largely agree that a sense of belonging leads to higher productivity at work.
  • Productivity from people who don’t quit goes down when they have a bad boss because they are not going to do extra work for someone they don’t like.
  • Data from the Society of Human Resource Management found that employers often have to spend the equivalent of six to nine months of an employee's salary on finding and training their replacement.
  • The recruitment and retention firm Built In said it cost about $1,500 per worker to replace an hourly employee, about 100% to 150% of someone’s salary for technical positions and up to 213% of someone's salary for C-suite positions.

For a long time in my speeches, I’ve quoted statistics that say 65% of people would rather see their boss fired than get a pay raise and 58% of people say they trust a stranger more than their boss. And there is a 20% increase in heart attacks on Monday mornings!

None of this surprising. As I have shared for a while, we are experiencing leadership malpractice which has created a poverty of dignity in the world. It has significantly impacted the health and family life of those in the workplace. Some statistics would imply that changing jobs will only take you to another place of stress.

“Between April and September 2021, more than 24 million American employees left their jobs, an all-time record,” according to MIT.

And here’s what they say are the main causes of this “Great Resignation”:

"A toxic corporate culture is by far the strongest predictor of industry-adjusted attrition and is 10 times more important than compensation in predicting turnover."


"Failure to recognize performance… The issue is not compensation below market rates, but rather recognition — both informal and financial — that is not linked to effort and results."

So, according to research by MIT, the Great Resignation is primarily driven by a toxic culture that fails to properly recognize their people. Recognition and celebration are a key aspect of Barry-Wehmiller’s leadership development program which focuses on shining a light in the organization and look for the goodness and holding it up for other to appreciate.

But here is the greater cost of poor leadership than just the dollars and cents of recruiting and training. From a recent article by NextGov: “Nearly 7 in 10 working Americans feel burned out with little distinction between work and life, and a majority (58%) believe their job is their main source of mental health challenges.”

The way we lead impacts the way people live.

It is much more devastating to me to think of the affect poor leadership has had on the lives of the people within an organization than the amount of money they spend on hiring, training and medical costs.

How many marriages have ended due to poor leadership in the workplace?

How has poor leadership in the workplace affected the way parents treat their children?

How has poor leadership in the workplace contributed to anxiety and depression in the world?

We all bear the cost of poor leadership.

Leaders, when we walk through the door each morning, we should be aware that the way we lead will have a significant impact on the health and family life of those we have in our span of care. Leadership is the stewardship of the lives entrusted to you with the vision of sending people home each night knowing that who they are and what they do matters.

As a leader, we need to realize that every single person within our span of care is someone’s precious child, with hopes and dreams for a future through which they can realize their full potential. They are a person, cared for just like I would care for my own child and deserving to receive that care from others.

As leaders, we should listen with empathy, the most powerful act of caring. Listening is the most important thing we, as humans, can do for one another. It shows empathy, it shows you care and, most importantly, it shows the person you are listening to that they matter. When done with the intent to not merely get the information you need but rather to meet the needs of the other person and hear how he or she is feeling, listening allows us to connect and better understand each other.

Leaders, look for the goodness in people and recognize and celebrate it daily. We’re all familiar with this sentiment: “I got 10 things right and never heard a word and got one thing wrong and I got my ass chewed out.” Traditional management teaches us to look for the errors or exceptions, to look for opportunities to improve. We all have a need to be recognized -- not only at work, but at home. As a leader, you should take every opportunity to celebrate the lives in your span of care in thoughtful, timely and proportional ways!

These things aren’t revolutionary. These things aren’t grandiose. They’re just asking leaders to care. To see the people within their span of care as human beings and treat them with respect and honor their dignity. This is how we move from “management” to leadership.

Unfortunately, our educational institutions don’t teach human leadership skills, they teach academic skills to get good grades, to get into good schools and to make money which people assume will create happiness! It doesn’t!

Maybe the Great Resignation is the Human Revolution I’ve called for in response to poor leadership. But it is clearer than ever that the real cost is much greater than dollars and cents.

Your leadership can be the difference maker in moving forward as a society and creating a better world. 


Related Posts

Need help in applying principles of Truly Human Leadership in your organization? Chapman & Co. Leadership Institute is Barry-Wehmiller's leadership consulting firm that partners with other companies to create strategic visions, engage employees, improve corporate culture and develop outstanding leaders through leadership training, assessments and workshops.

Find out more at ccoleadership.com