I have worked in the automotive business for three years now and I love it more than I could ever explain. The fast pace and ever-changing dynamics make every day that I work more and more interesting as I go along. One of the things that I find most interesting in the car business is the sheer amount of turnover seen every year. The industry average is a whopping 67% turnover rate every year (Employee turnover costs dealers billions). This turnover rate can be chalked up to long hours, commission-based sales, or a plethora of other things, but in all reality, I think it all comes down to leadership.
For the first few years of my career I worked under a General Manager, who I will call Jim. Jim was a leader who ruled with an iron fist. Each employee, including myself, walked on egg shells constantly trying not to make mistakes. Should we have the misfortune of making a mistake, you would be berated, called stupid, and sworn at, no matter how simple the mistake. Jim was an all-around bully, that was nearly impossible to be in the same room with. In his long tenure he had made several enemies through his abusive antics and subjective firings.
In the Harvard Business Review, Sherry Moss talks about “bully bosses” and their impact on the teams they lead. Moss states, “in organizations where bullying occurs, employees may arrive late, intentionally slow down the work itself, or not follow the boss’s instructions. […] Not surprisingly, bullying also increases turnover” (Why Some Bosses Bully Their Best Employees). So, based on all of this, it would be logical to anticipate the Jim had a high level of turnover and a toxic work environment, but that wasn’t the case. Jim maintained most of his employees for long tenures, and maintained less than a 30% turnover ratio, over 30% lower than the industry average. It also appeared at most times that the loyalty was to Jim, not to the company we worked for.
Jim was recently fired, and I received many phone calls from people that just didn’t know how to feel. Several of us joked that we might have Stockholm Syndrome from the years of abuse, because we all felt a sadness and a guilt with his dismissal. All of this to say, how can we really know what traits make the best bosses? Jim’s years of abuse seemed to only draw employees closer to him. How could Jim retain his best employees through his abuse, when all the research shows that he should have the highest rate of turnover? I’m not sure what the answer is, but Jim’s leadership shows that leadership is not a black and white personality, and that leadership is something that is not easily nailed down. Research cannot answer every question, you will always find the anomaly, like Jim.
Moss, S. (2016, June 07). Why Some Bosses Bully Their Best Employees. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/06/why-some-bosses-bully-their-best-employees
Wilson, A. (2017, January 20). Employee turnover costs dealers billions. Retrieved from https://www.autonews.com/article/20170123/RETAIL06/301239850/employee-turnover-costs-dealers-billions