Don't Be a Bully Boss

IMGCAP(1)]Bullying isn't just a concern for schools these days—it's a major issue for businesses of all kinds, and especially for CPA firms struggling to attract and retain staff.

With firms desperate to develop their next generation of leadership, partners can ill afford to spend time and money carefully selecting new staff, training them and having them develop relationships with clients, only to see the employees leave the firm because they were bullied by their bosses.

Bullies are not new. So, where did all those bullies go when they grew up? Many of them became our bosses at work. Most bully bosses don’t recognize themselves as such. They think that they have to act the way they do because “that is the only way to get the job done.” Are you one of those bully bosses?

The horror stories of bully bosses could fill volumes because this type of management style is so prevalent. A bully boss leads by force, criticism, micromanagement and threats. They control the income of those who work for them and so they do not see the need to temper themselves. They do whatever they want to get what they want—usually within the bounds of legality, but not always.

If you are a boss and want to make sure that you are not limiting your success and the success of your organization, consider the following questions:

Do I…

1. See my staff look at their shoes when I ask for input?

2. Notice that my employees are anxious when I enter the room?

3. Find that employees avoid me or act guarded around me?

4. See fear or apprehension in the faces of my staff when I speak to them?

5. Glare at employees or avoid contact so they know that I am their boss and not their friend?

6. Lose my temper and use profanity frequently?

7. Get upset when employees ask questions?

8. Get offended if staff don’t think my ideas are the best?

9. Withhold praise so that my employees don’t ask for something in return?

10. Yell at employees in front of their peers so everyone knows that I am in control?

11. Create a work environment that emphasizes the jobs I give the staff above everything else in their lives?

12. Withhold information because employees don’t need to know why they are doing what I ask?

13. Allow contention in my staff to sort out the weakest employees?

14. Avoid training costs if I am getting what I need now?

15. Micromanage because my staff are too dumb to figure it out on their own?

16. Take credit for successes, but blame others for failures?

17. Manipulate or coerce my employees because it is more efficient than trying to persuade them?

18. Avoid helping staff since “no good deed goes unpunished?”

19. Listen to others in order to exploit the weakness of their comments and form a scathing retort?

20. Bend the truth to make it appear that others’ performance is subpar?

If any of these apply to you, stop it! If many of these apply to you, you might be more financially successful than your employees, but you are incompetent at being a true leader—you are a bully boss.

You must re-evaluate your management style and become a more persuasive leader, or you and your firm will continue to pay a heavy financial and emotional price.

Roger C. Allred, CPA, is a management consultant, professional trainer, and a former CFO, COO and CEO. He is also the author of “The Family Business: Power Tools for Survival, Success and Succession" (Berkley Books, 1997). For more information, visit

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