Does good leadership prevent mobbing in the institution?

Interview with Jolita Vveinhardt

Main theme: Leadership


Recently, there has been quite a lot of discussion in Lithuania about mobbing in healthcare institutions. Long-standing traditions of mobbing in the medical system, the formation of inappropriate climate in the entire healthcare system are discussed. In such context, we turn our attention to managers of institutions.

What does the manager of the institution “need” in order to be a leader too?

Just to be a human. With shortcomings and advantages. Not a superman. The superman cannot improve. A self-critical leader will always look for what he has not done. Look for where he has made a mistake. Poor psychological climate and mobbing always signal leadership mistakes. This is an axiom. There is a lot to be said about the leader’s qualities and which of them are needed, but the first step is to recognize one’s shortcomings, imperfection. Then, a positive emotional climate can be sought. As to mobbing, on the one hand, the good news is that we are talking about it more openly. On the other hand, I sympathize with managers because often the manager already fears to demand more strictly or make necessary decisions. That should not be the case. Some employees manipulate the term mobbing to cover up their responsibilities, others use it to refer to any unpleasant experiences in employment relationships. The distinction between those things requires training.

It is sometimes said that the manager should not be empathic, allegedly this improves making unpopular decisions. What do you think about this?

First, research shows that successful leaders differ from less successful ones by more developed empathy. Its absence makes it difficult to maintain healthy relationships with subordinates and communicate effectively. If employees feel being valued, understood, if their needs are considered, usually they reciprocate. They trust and are more dedicated. This is important when it comes to making necessary though unpleasant decisions. If a surgeon is cutting a gangrenous leg, that does not mean that he is completely indifferent to the patient, right? Contrary to what is sometimes thought, empathy helps to perceive the consequences of the decision, to prepare people, and to help them cope with inevitable changes. Trust in the manager is of major importance in this case. Besides, if the manager lacks empathy, he will give prominence to himself and devalue employees, will not love the organization, will not be dedicated to it and its people. Such organization will remain in mediocrity, despite the manager’s professional competencies. Undoubtedly, this is a great and necessary feature.

Poor psychological climate and mobbing always signal leadership mistakes. Image by Wix.
Poor psychological climate and mobbing always signal leadership mistakes. Image by Wix.

What happens in the institution whose manager is not a leader?

Being a leader does not guarantee that mobbing will be avoided because it is also important what kind of leader you are. There must be sufficient control in the organization, which cannot be guaranteed by, for example, laissez-faire style. In general, passive style provokes ambiguity in employee roles and role conflicts, causes numerous stressful situations that are a favourable medium to mobbing. Lack of tools, information, time to complete tasks, clear instructions, control leads to ignoring conflicts or postponing their decisions, intimidation of subordinates – all of it also negatively affects their interpersonal relationships. Sooner or later, an explosion will occur. I see still another problem: often the institution managers’ position is taken by excellent professionals in their field, but they lack managerial knowledge and abilities to organize processes. This can be acquired. There are managers who understand this and often it is sufficient to introduce low-cost reorganisations. Lack of some distinctive, strongly expressed leadership traits does not hinder to create a safe, employable environment if you know well what you are doing. Maybe the organization without a bright leader will not achieve amazing results, at least it will be safe to work in it, it will not suffer financial and image losses guaranteed by mobbing.

What could the ideal manager-leader of the institution that is “unfavourable to mobbing” be like? What are the main tasks of the manager – leader – of the institution in shaping the atmosphere in the institution and creating the environment that is intolerant of mobbing and favourable for employees?

I avoid the word ‘ideal’. This is never the case in life. We strive for perfection, ideality, but we still die imperfect. Of course, that does not mean that we do not have to look for ways to become better employees, managers. Various studies show that leadership style surely pertains to the quality of employees’ interpersonal relationships, conflicts. At least two types of leaders who are more successful in creating the environment unfavourable for mobbing are distinguished. These are transformational and transactional. There is no unanimous agreement which is “better” here. Both have advantages and disadvantages. In any case, it is important how successfully they manage to create a positive moral atmosphere, reduce overall stress levels, uncertainty, role conflicts, and ensure process monitoring. Predators hide in turbid water. The more transparent the water, the less it is muddied by the manager himself, the safer the employees feel. □