Angry Business Man Pointing Finger

Horrible, No Good Bosses — The True Cost of Poor Leadership Blog #1: You’re Fired

5 min. read

Master of Project Academy’s 8-part series Horrible, No Good Bosses: The True Cost of Poor Leadership was created to address the most common ways poor leadership results in flat/declining revenues and increased expenses. In this series, we will explore the topics of Communication, Networking, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Discipline, Teamwork, Adaptability, Conflict Resolution, Empathy, Positivity, Decisiveness, and Persuasion.

Recently, a colleague shared a story with me about a meeting she had attended that same day. Their team was dealing with a missed deadline and their CEO had joined them to discuss the plan for bringing the project back into compliance. During the meeting, the CEO had become irate and abusive with the attendees. After telling a director to “shut up” and describing the team as “useless,” he ended the call with the directive that everyone was “working tonight until the work gets completed, and if you don’t like it, you can get out and not come back.”

Why a leader should not behave this way?

There are dozens of reasons why this CEO’s behavior was inappropriate but let’s focus on the primary two business reasons a leader should NOT behave this way: it’s ineffective and it costs the company a lot of money. Starting with ineffectiveness, yelling, and threatening employees will not motivate them into providing their best work. Quite the opposite occurs.

In a Harvard Business Review article written by Maren Gube and Debra Sabatini Hennelly¹, they identify 3 I’s necessary for building resilient, effective teams:

  • Integrity – ethical leadership
  • Innovative – fearless, collaborative creativity
  • Inclusion – authentic respect and belonging

It’s easy to assess that the Horrible Boss who was yelling at employees and threatening their jobs was missing opportunities to provide employees with ethical and inclusive leadership, thereby cheating the organization out of the benefits it could receive from employees who feel safe enough to be innovative, collaborative, and creative. The feeling of inclusion is bound to be absent, or significantly lacking, in such an environment since employees likely left that meeting not feeling they had been respected.

In environments where employees do not feel as if these 3 I’s are present, will they have the motivation to put their best work forward? Will they really bring their best creativity and innovation to help the company produce high-quality products and services? It’s highly unlikely that the answer to either of these questions is “yes.” This Horrible Boss just created a dynamic that could result in subpar products and services which causes customers to go elsewhere.

Business people in a meeting

Which skills leaders should possess?

Many leaders have arrived at their positions with no specific leadership training and, therefore, mimic the behaviors of the leaders they have worked with throughout their careers. Along the way, they may have picked up some really bad habits. Being exceptional in your individual contributor position does NOT fully prepare you for leading the team that does that work. Leaders MUST possess relational skills to lead their teams most effectively. In early 2022, Pew Research² conducted a study with more than 9,000 participants and some of the data were remarkable.

2022 Pew Research Study

  • 18 – 24% of participants had quit a job in 2021 (18% – middle income, 24% – lower income)
  • 57% of people who quit named one driving reason as “feeling disrespected at work”

What would be the long-lasting effects of bad leadership?

It’s possible to force employees into compliance like our CEO did in this case, but the long-lasting effects are very costly. Unhappy employees look for opportunities elsewhere and the best talent can quickly find those opportunities. What does employee turnover cost an employer? That’s a difficult question to answer because of the many departments and elements of an organization that are impacted by employees leaving. There are advertising and recruiting costs, testing, and interviewing costs, travel and reference check costs, relocation costs, and many more. The opportunities missed while the position remains vacant can be felt in lost sales, project stagnation, and poor quality. These are all difficult to quantify but estimates of the cost to replace a worker range from 33% to 200%³’⁴, depending on the type and level of the position. Even at the lower end of that estimate, the financial impact of turnover is high.

Why Leadership Training is so important?

In an environment where employees have options, employers must find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors and ensure that they are providing recruits with reasons for wanting to join them. People want to join organizations with strong leadership. Providing all leaders, from team leads to CEOs, with the training and education needed to prepare them for effective leadership, is an integral part of every employer’s Employee Value Proposition.

Business meeting with four people

What is a servant leader?

Instead of using power based on the leader’s position or by invoking fear in their subordinates, a better way to lead teams is through servant leadership. Servant leaders are able to apply their emotional intelligence knowledge and skills in a practical manner with their teams. They believe their upmost responsibility is to serve the team. They do this by:

  • Providing psychologically safe environments
  • Exhibiting humility, courage, and insight
  • Providing support to their teams, as opposed to control
  • Providing opportunities for their teams to learn and grow

Easy, right? Of course not. True effective leadership is challenging, but there is good news! With education and training, all leaders can improve. These improvements can have incredible impacts on employee engagement and satisfaction, as well as an organization’s bottom line.

In our next Horrible Bosses, No Good Bosses Blog, “The Need for Autonomy,” we will begin to address specific steps that can be taken to improve your or your team’s leadership skills.

For more information on providing your leaders with Master of Project Academy’s Leadership Program, where your leaders will get instructive and hands-on training through interactive exercises, case studies, templates, and techniques that can be customized to your organization’s specific needs, click HERE.


  1. Resilient Organizations Make Psychological Safety a Strategic Priority
  2. The Great Resignation: Why workers say they quit jobs in 2021
  3. The True Costs of Employee Turnover
  4. Avoidable turnover costing employers big

Sandra WorleyWritten by: Sandra Worley

Sandra Worley has over 25 years’ experience in project management and leadership positions and holds PMP, ScrumMaster, Scrum Product Owner, Six Sigma Green Belt and Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certifications. Her project management experience spans many industries and disciplines, including IT software and hardware, as well as construction.