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Has Sir Alan Sugar got it right?

A new series of The Apprentice has been put back on our screens this week and Sir Alan Sugar has got people talking about effective management styles.

“I’ve read all your CVs and on paper you all look good,” began Sir Alan Sugar, on greeting a group of new apprentices, “but so does fish and chips”. Later, just in case he had been too welcoming, he said: “If you survive here, I promise you this, as sure as I’ve got a hole in my bloody a**e, when it’s down to two of you, people that are nice about you now, will not be.”

Scientists claimed yesterday that it was possible that Sir Alan’s approach is not the best way to motivate staff. A study in the journal ‘Work and Stress’ has found that verbal abuse from bosses is more likely to make staff lazy and inefficient. About 268 employees were quizzed by researchers from San Francisco State University about how often their supervisors tried to “ridicule them” or “put them down”. The researchers found that staff with the most unpleasant bosses were likely to take extended lunch breaks, ridicule their superiors behind their backs and engage in “counterproductive work behaviour”.

The study is bad news for Gordon Ramsay, the celebrity chef who routinely swears at his staff. He has justified his style, saying: “Swearing is industry language. For as long as we’re alive it’s not going to change. You’ve got to be boisterous to get results.” This attitude was also similar to the one used by celebrity chef, Marco Pierre White, who, as a result of which was faced with a ‘mass walkout’ by ‘frustrated’ staff who were fed up with White’s allegedly ‘bossy’ management style.

Professor Kevin Eschleman, the study author, disagreed. “A lot of supervisors believe this could be an effective way to lead,” he said, “but I don’t think that’s the case for a lot of people.”

With various management styles taking hold of effective working practices, it is important for employers to make sure that they, along with their managers, practice a suitable working style that is not seen as bullying or harassing staff. What we witness on some reality TV programs is often far from what is acceptable behaviour from managers.

Employees suffering from bullying or harassment may resign and claim constructive dismissal, with potentially unlimited compensation if unlawful discrimination is involved. Employers unable to show a robustly enforced and communicated policy on bullying and harassment are likely to be particularly vulnerable. Many employers fail to appreciate that their duty of care extends to controlling the behaviour of contractors, suppliers and customers, not just their own managers and staff.

If a bullying, harassment, victimisation or discrimination-related dispute is apparent (or an incident reported) please contact us straight away.

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