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What Price Neurotic Managers?


Kurt K. Motamedi, PhD
Kurt K. Motamedi, PhD

Managers are critical resources for national and global economic and social prosperity. They play a significant role in setting direction, executing strategies, and creating success. Their styles, along with their other competencies, impact the productivity and well-being of their employees, peers, superiors, and consequently firms.


Our observations lead us to categorize four managerial styles at work:

  • Type I: Champion, produces great business success and aspires and maintains high levels of morale and well-being.
  • Type II: Driver, produces business success, but inflict human costs and lower well-being.
  • Type III: Lenient, produces questionable results with high, but short-lived morale.
  • Type IV: Negligent, neither provides great business results nor satisfied employees

Table 1

Of course, we all prefer Type I managers—the champions who accomplish heroic tasks while maintaining high morale and well-being of people.

In our research, we have found that Type I managers tend to be both professionally and interpersonally competent. They understand their jobs, help set direction for their teams, know how to get results, involve others in appropriate deliberations, and inspire ordinary people to achieve outstanding results. They achieve without alienating. They are people developers. People working with them enjoy high self-efficacy in a high achieving, inclusive learning, and developmental climate.

In Jim Collins’ Good to Great, his Level 5 leader is an example of the champion. They have humility, vitality, and strive to achieve greatness. They are not credit seekers, but readily give others the credit. These managers tend to intrinsically enjoy their work and like people, rather than keeping themselves separate, aloof or dominant.

Type II, III, and IV managers often feel uneasy and exude anxiety. Our research and observations lead us to think that these managerial styles suffer from a variety and measures of deep-rooted neuroses. Neuroses are psychological and stylistic patterns of feeling and being that are anxious, uneasy, fretful, dominant, passive, unattentive, or restlessly watchful. Such stylistic patterns are rooted in one’s up bringing and reflect one’s childhood and early life relationships with adult care givers and the world. These patterns are aspects of a manager’s personality structure and psychological make up.

In a recent GBR article, I identified seven neurotic styles: Explosive, Implosive, Abrasive, Narcissistic, Apprehensive, Compulsive, and Impulsive. When neurotic styles go unchecked they impact people and organizations. Over time, they skew cultures, norms, and conduct of subordinates, peers, and bosses to become unhealthy and self-defeating. For example, in the workplace facts may be distorted or denied, information not made available, communication becomes indirect, and people learn to act disingenuous.

Often, neurotic management styles of key managers dominate the organization’s culture and norms. People and organizational processes become taxed with gossips, private complaints, and expressions of frustration and anger. People are berated, dismissed, or left to their own without direction (as in Type IV). When trapped in a neurotic culture, feelings of insecurity become pervasive. People feel emotionally abused and abandoned. Rampant grumbling and overt and covert expressions of dissatisfaction lower morale, destroy creativity, and deaden innovation. The jobs that do get done well do not spark with much enthusiasm or excitement.

Neurotic managers perpetuate an emotionally unsafe environment of confusion and unpredictability. People are emotionally burdened and feel hassled. Symptoms are taken as problems. Decisions are delayed and often based on distorted information and perceptions. Irritations and sulking prevent open dialogue.

Organizations dominated by neurotic bosses experience high transaction costs.

What price is your organization paying for neurotic managers?



Related in the Graziadio Business Report

Seven Neurotic Styles of Management by Kurt Motamedi, PhD

Emotional Dynamism: Playing the Music of Leadership by Terri Egan, PhD, and Ann E. Feyerherm, PhD

Use Emotional Intelligence to Cope in Tough Times by Mark Mallinger, PhD, and Jeff Banks, PhD

Using Conflict to Your Advantage by Teri C. Tompkins, PhD, and Kathryn S. Rogers, PhD





Author of the article
Kurt Motamedi, PhD, Professor of Strategy and Leadership
Kurt Motamedi, PhD, Professor of Strategy and Leadership
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