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  1. OwlMatt is online now

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    Posted On:
    1/07/2014 12:20pm


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    Hell yeah! Hell no!

    US Army Confronts "Toxic Leadership"

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    I first heard about this in this NPR story:
    http://www.npr.org/2014/01/06/259422776/army-takes-on-its-own-toxic-leaders?sc=tw&cc=share


    Here is the take from Army.mil:
    http://www.army.mil/article/82622/Ba...ic_leadership/

    The people running the US Army apparently believe it has a problem with "toxic leadership", which Army Doctrine Publication 6-22 defines this way:
    Toxic leadership is a combination of self-centered attitudes, motivations, and behaviors that have adverse effects on subordinates, the organization, and mission performance. This leader lacks concern for others and the climate of the organization, which leads to short- and long-term negative effects. The toxic leader operates with an inflated sense of self-worth and from acute self-interest. Toxic leaders consistently use dysfunctional behaviors to deceive, intimidate, coerce, or unfairly punish others to get what they want for themselves. The negative leader completes short-term requirements by operating at the bottom of the continuum of commitment, where followers respond to the positional power of their leader to fulfill requests. This may achieve results in the short term, but ignores the other leader competency categories of leads and develops. Prolonged use of negative leadership to influence followers undermines the followers' will, initiative, and potential and destroys unit morale.
    The two articles listed above link toxic leadership to a number of Army problems, including a general loss of morale, suicide, sexual assault, and qualified soldiers leaving the Army.

    The NPR article references a Center for Army Leadership survey which found that roughly 20 percent of soldiers reported their leaders were what researchers called toxic leaders.

    What I found particularly interesting was this bit from the Army.mil article:
    The survey contained a few surprising and alarming results. It found that toxic leaders accomplish their goals more frequently than constructive leaders, and that toxic leaders are perceived by their peers to achieve
    a higher level of leadership responsibility and move through the ranks at a quicker pace.
    This seems to suggest not only that the Army has a problem with toxic leaders, but that leaders are being rewarded for "toxic" behavior.

    Since I, personally, have no military experience, I can't say with any authority whether or not this is a story being blown out of proportion by media or not, so I'm interested to hear Bully vets' take. Is "toxic leadership" a problem in the military? If so, has it always been a problem? Both these articles seem to be implying that it's a problem that hasn't really gotten the attention it deserves until recently; do you think that is accurate?
  2. Devil is offline
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    Posted On:
    1/07/2014 1:19pm

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    This is interesting and I'd like to make a few points. Let me first say that I wasn't in the Army but I'm going to go out on a limb and assume leadership problems are probably similar across services. However, there could be Army specific issues at play so take what I say with a grain of salt.

    I left the Marine Corps after one enlistment for a lot of reasons - family, money, personal goals, etc. But leadership was one issue that impacted my decision to leave. It wasn't "toxic" leadership as described in the OP that was the problem. The problem was fucking dumbass leadership, particularly in the Staff NCO ranks. Listen to me closely here - there are some DUMB fucking Staff NCOs in the military. Dumb. As ****.

    There are dumbasses in all military ranks but I think the Staff NCO ranks are where you see the highest degree of idiocy in the military. Here's why.....officers are educated, so you're automatically not starting at zero with them. Plus there is more monetary and career incentive, both now and in the future for officers to remain in the military. There's enough of a reason for good people to stay to keep the officer ranks from going to ****.

    The lower enlisted ranks are primarily people in their first enlistment (assuming a 4 year enlistment anyway which is what you have in the Marines.) You have a complete mixed bag here. People from all walks of life. You've got some smart people. You've got some dumb people. You've got everything in between. The only thing they have in common is that they decided they wanted to join the military after highschool instead of going to college. You've got good people and bad people, but there are so many people in these ranks you can spread the **** around so it doesn't smell so bad.

    Here's where the problem occurs. Many, many, many of the good people in those lower ranks realize during their first enlistment that they can have a better life outside the military. So their enlistment ends and they get out, go to college, go to work, whatever. Many of the people who re-up don't think they can do better in the civilian world. They're absolutely right, because they're dumb as a box of rocks.

    So they stay in and they become senior enlisted men. There are a disproportionate amount of these fuckwads in the upper enlisted ranks. This makes life miserable for a huge portion of people that work for them. They have much more visibility with the men than the officers do. These guys are a giant drain on the military. Don't get me wrong. There are some top notch senior enlisted men in the military - some of the best that were just driven to stay instead of moving on. But brother, there are some morons too. Lots of them. I'm not saying there are no backstabbing leaders like the article suggests but for me that wasn't the most glaring problem.

    Moving on to another point - surveys. **** 'em. My company does surveys all the time and it's bullshit. If you give employees an opportunity to bitch they're damn sure going to take it. A lot of the whiny little cunts bitching about toxic leaders are just butthurt because their leaders put a boot in their ass instead of tolerating their bullshit. Personally, I'd view the whole discussion with skepticism.

    And that's the world according to Devil.
  3. Hertzyscowicz is offline

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    Posted On:
    1/08/2014 5:28pm


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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    The survey contained a few surprising and alarming results. It found that toxic leaders accomplish their goals more frequently than constructive leaders, and that toxic leaders are perceived by their peers to achieve
    a higher level of leadership responsibility and move through the ranks at a quicker pace.
    This seems to suggest not only that the Army has a problem with toxic leaders, but that leaders are being rewarded for "toxic" behavior.
    This might be because a toxic leader can appear to be doing things by making up faults in their subordinates' performance and then loudly correcting them. So, if a toxic leader has the good sense to tread lightly when an officer is close enough to catch them, they look like they spend a lot of time working their asses off correcting their subordinates' mistakes.
  4. BKR is offline
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    Posted On:
    1/08/2014 9:28pm

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Toxic "leadership" is a problem everywhere, let alone the military. I've seen it everywhere from a Fortune 500 company to the local grocery store.
    Falling for Judo since 1980
  5. Muerteds is offline

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    Posted On:
    1/08/2014 9:50pm


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    OwlMatt, yes, Toxic Leadership is absolutely a problem in the Army. I could regale you with stories of just that, coupled with the very real problem of idiot NCOs and even idiot officers. Devil is right that most of your officers aren't complete wastes of skin, but there are a few.

    My problem was, they got concentrated in my unit. I was in The Old Guard, and couldn't figure out why I kept seeing self-serving, self-aggrandizing, abusive, and borderline moronic NCOs cycle through. I finally figured out that the Army would send problem children there in the hopes they wouldn't get anyone killed. Mostly the problem children didn't, though they did end a number of soldiers' careers early, more's the pity.

    The article got an awful lot right. I saw it happen to me, I saw it happen to others. Fortunately, the worst punishment given, being kicked out of The Old Guard, was generally the saving grace for those soldiers. The ones I'm still in contact with who later went on to other units made it clear that the leadership climate was vastly different. Matter of fact, as of recently, none of my Army buddies are in The Old Guard anymore- they all found ways to escape.

    To further this idea, my current service, the NOAA Corps certainly has or has had pockets of toxic leadership. It makes an entire ship be the place no one wants to go. Fortunately, we're small enough as a service that those sorts of things are caught eventually. Though they pop up, they are squashed within a couple of years.

    OwlMatt, yes, Toxic Leadership is absolutely a problem in the Army. I could regale you with stories of just that, coupled with the very real problem of idiot NCOs and even idiot officers. Devil is right that most of your officers aren't complete wastes of skin, but there are a few.

    My problem was, they got concentrated in my unit. I was in The Old Guard, and couldn't figure out why I kept seeing self-serving, self-aggrandizing, abusive, and borderline moronic NCOs cycle through. I finally figured out that the Army would send problem children there in the hopes they wouldn't get anyone killed. Mostly the problem children didn't, though they did end a number of soldiers' careers early, more's the pity.

    The article got an awful lot right. I saw it happen to me, I saw it happen to others. Fortunately, the worst punishment given, being kicked out of The Old Guard, was generally the saving grace for those soldiers. The ones I'm still in contact with who later went on to other units made it clear that the leadership climate was vastly different. Matter of fact, as of recently, none of my Army buddies are in The Old Guard anymore- they all found ways to escape.

    To further this idea, my current service, the NOAA Corps certainly has or has had pockets of toxic leadership. It makes an entire ship be the place no one wants to go. Fortunately, we're small enough as a service that those sorts of things are caught eventually. Though they pop up, they are squashed within a couple of years.
  6. ghost55 is online now
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    Posted On:
    1/08/2014 10:19pm


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    If you can regale us with stories, please do. Such stories are often fascinating.
  7. Muerteds is offline

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    Posted On:
    1/09/2014 8:27pm


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    Toxic Leadership and Bad Leaders

    Stories, huh? Well, some of the stuff was just plain, unadulterated, bullshit. Like my First Sergeant who kept sending a Joe to the field for 2-week duty. Why? So he could boff Joe's wife. Punishment? Lost his diamond, and shuffled sideways (in other words, he kept his paygrade, and simply went to another job). Or the multiple supply NCO's busted in a sting for hoarding equipment, then selling it to other units for personal profit. Heads rolled for that one, because it cost the Army money.

    But for sheer entertainment value, nothing compares to the ineptitude of the Sniffen-Butts regime. I can't make this **** up. LTC Sniffen was the Deputy Regimental CO, and CSM Butts was our Command Sergeant Major- the highest enlisted person in the Regiment. When he says jump, you don't stop to ask how high. And he was dumb as a sack of hammers. Unfortunately, the DCO was also just as much of a ball-washing bastard as he was inept.

    My company was at Fort Lee, being OpFor (Bad guys... i.e. bitches) for the Rangers. We had quite a bit of training lead-up time before the "games", and so we were working on high-intensity MOUT (how to kill everything that moves in a city). CSM Butts wanted in on a round of the training, in which we were assaulting "bad guys" in some Army Corps of Engineer constructed buildings using "simunitions". Paintballs on crack, if you will.

    So, they put him in the second team, as rearguard. The idea is simple, first team crosses the road, stacks outside the door, blows up what's inside with a grenade, clears the room, and signals the second team up. Second team then enters and they leapfrog room-to-room, shooting anything that moves that's not your own team. That's called foreshadowing, kiddos.

    First team is in, and signals to the second team to cross the road and stack up to enter. CSM Butts has gone all the way from being the anchor man, supposed to watch danger areas (like roads) for flanking maneuvers, to sprinting to the front of the stack. The Joes didn't want to argue with him, but then he asked for a grenade simulator.

    The conversation was ludicrous: "Uh, Seargeant Major, those are our guys in there."

    "Just give me the grenade!"

    The grenade simulator (like a big firecracker, harmless unless you're holding it when it goes off) is handed off, and tossed by our intrepid hero into the room. The CSM immediately enters after the bang with his weapon firing, expertly tagging everyone in the room. In the back. Because they were his team, facing forwards pulling security on the next door.

    "Sergeant Major, you just killed all of first team."

    "Yeah, well, that's not how we do it in the 82nd!"

    Truer words, never spoken. The man is a moron. How did the DCO compare? Well, aside from not being able to properly operate the flameless heater for an MRE (seriously, how can you not figure it out? It has a picture, and says, "Lean against a rock, or something" so Private Snuffy can't whine, "B-bb-but Sergeant, I don't have a rock!") he was a toxic leader.

    He came down to meet one of the platoons that had just finished a bivouac after a live fire exercise. I was there the night before these guys, and it was a suck night. It was cold. We had to pull lots of security. Not a fart sack (sleeping bag) or ground pad to be had, so we sucked it up with poncho liners in three-man positions fighting over who got to be Lucky Pierre. The next night, the temperature dropped ten or twenty degrees. It was worse. Those poor bastards had a relatively **** night. As they milled about eating some cold MREs for chow (NCOs loved to state how easy it would be for an enemy to smell the hydrogen from a flameless heater from preternatural distances), the DCO came down the hill with his PFC driver in tow. The PFC driver was carrying a mermite. What could be in this box of mystery? Coffee? Hot donuts? What largesse was about to be bestowed by the benevolent LTC Sniffen? Sing his praises upon high, he cared about the men!

    LTC Sniffen then sat down on a handy log, opened the mermite, and removed his piping hot breakfast and coffee. He ate his piping hot breakfast and coffee while letting the platoon know that it was just training, and they should count themselves lucky to be out in the cold and sucky woods of Virginia, that they deserved some real training, and to be grateful for this chance. Then he packed up the remainder of his food, and marched off back to the hummer, PFC lugging the mermite in tow.

    Ladies and gentlemen, the Sniffen/Butts regime went on to a great many shenanigans in their time, but this typifies the type of inept and toxic leadership I was subjected to on a regular basis. They will go down in my mind as the leaders I'd most like to see reduced to Wal Mart greeter somewhere.
  8. Muerteds is offline

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    Posted On:
    1/09/2014 8:56pm


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    Toxic and Crackhead leaders

    In the last post, I gave you some examples of the higher-level Commissioned Officers and NCOs I had in my regiment. Let's dial down the knob a bit, and look a little closer to home. Let's check out some platoon-level asshattery:

    As I covered before, Fort Lee was pretty much a ****-show. Stuck out there for two or three weeks, it was mercifully short, but the hit parade kept on coming. We had taken a bus down, and the morning after our late arrival and rack-out, we got jumped up bright and early for a whiz quiz. Pee in the cup for a meat-gazer, and see how many of you boys have been bad before you went to the field. Again, this is called foreshadowing.

    My platoon was doing some assault plan, whereby we were to do some psuedo-air assault on a lovely little Corps of Engineers village. It was actually super cool. Being a super-leg, I didn't have any sort of air assault or airborne training. And riding in a Blackhawk sure beat the **** out of marching. We spent the day practicing our dismount from a helicopter, moving to the town, then what we would assault. The next day, we assaulted via the helicopter, which was fun. Then we marched, which continued to suck. Then we did the assault versus another platoon in our company. The battle plan went to **** when the other platoon stuck a private in a cubby-hole who wouldn't "die" to MILES gear. MILES gear is a fancy-pants laser tag system. Blank round gets fired, laser beam goes out.

    At this point, three of the guys in my squad have assaulted (one at a time) through one window of a building my team was supposed to hold. All of them are "dead", and the little private won't budge. Do we leave the building? Put another smoke grenade inside? Find, for the love of crap, the other window? Nope, sergeant orders me in the window.

    "Sergeant, let me go in the other window. We reconned this building- I can go around him and kill him."

    "**** you! Get your ass in that window, or I'll beat your ass! You're insubordinate!"

    So, I spent the battle "dead" with half our squad gone to one fucknut in the cubby hole who wouldn't "die" to a **** ton of grenade simulators we tossed at him. Of course, we didn't meet our objective. We were slaughtered. Our platoon leader (a second lieutenant) was pissed.

    At this point, it's important to note that after this exercise, we were to get a bit of a lollipop. The helicopter guys needed flight time with weight, and all the platoons were supposed to get to do an hour ride or so after their exercise. But my lieutenant "found" an ammunition box of blank ammunition in the woods on our way into town. He said that obviously, someone from our platoon had ditched it the previous day to lighten the load. Never mind this training area was heavily used. Never mind no one was light on ammunition. Nope, he stood to the side with our NCOs and joked about how badly he was fucking us up while they smoked us for an hour. No helicopter ride for us, just grass drills and being **** on after an already long-ass day. Prick.

    Fort Lee can bite my shiny metal ass. :) Now let's go to Fort AP Hill....
  9. Muerteds is offline

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    Posted On:
    1/09/2014 9:21pm


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    Crackhead Chris

    Fort Lee was a one-time thing. Fort AP Hill was a recurring nightmare beaver-pond of suck. Let's fast-forward a couple of months from Fort Lee's fun and excitement to Platoon Exevals at AP Hill. Basically, let's get all you guys out of the shiny starched uniforms, and see how you perform your infantry jobs.

    There we are, slogging through a field of grass over our heads, taking the infamous "lieutenant shortcut". Remember, you can't spell lost without LT. I'm behind my team leader, a Sergeant we'll call Crackhead Chris. I'm in front of my squad leader, a Staff Sergeant you will remember from the town assault at Fort Lee. Well, the squad leader is about 5' 3". I don't know how he made it into the Old Guard. And we came to this ditch with a high bank. The guy in front would get help up from the guy in front of him, then turn and help his buddy behind him. Then he would move forward a little to give the next guy room, etc. It's a simple process, yes? Slow, but quiet and effective.

    Crackhead Chris had delusions of being high-speed and low drag. All this turning and waiting bullshit wasn't about to slow him down. He gives me a much-needed hand up (I've got the SAW), and turns to move forward. It took me two tries to heft my squad leader up, because the SAW is heavy, and overbalanced me. But, up he came. As I shuffle forward, I realize no one is in front of me anymore. The grass is high, so visibility is a couple feet at most, but as I keep moving, I'm realizing there's no rustling, no nothing. 3/4 of the platoon has moved on. I relay that to the squad leader who alternately bitches at me for noise, and then for "losing" the platoon. Losing? Man, I did what everyone else did, except they left.

    After some amount of time pushing ahead, quiet radio comms, and a couple of flashes with the IR light on night vision goggles, we locate the rest of the platoon a good 100 yards ahead. They had made it past the grass, into the woodline. Once we linked up, Crackhead Chris jumped my ass for "letting him tell the platoon to move out". When I not-so-politely asked him what the **** he was thinking, I got jumped by the squad leader. Of course, my response of "You can't be serious" got another squad leader also jumping my ass. Yep. I got the wrath of three NCOs because a dickhead sergeant didn't have the good sense to wait for the whole fucking platoon.

    Now, some of you may have noticed that foreshadowing comment in my last post. Do not despair; I didn't forget: Crackhead Chris was gone a week after those Exevals. Turns out, someone liked to do all the drugs before he went to the field. Our little urine party revealed that uppers were a favorite pastime for Crackhead Chris, which isn't conducive to Army life.

    I'll do more fun stories later. But for now, that's enough to bring down your estimation of humanity a notch or two.
  10. BKR is offline
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    Posted On:
    1/10/2014 1:03pm

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    Hell yeah! Hell no!
    Quote Originally Posted by BKR View Post
    Toxic "leadership" is a problem everywhere, let alone the military. I've seen it everywhere from a Fortune 500 company to the local grocery store.
    One common form of toxic leadership I see a lot is "mutual managment CYA".

    One manager covers for another when the other screws up. Manager A has low people skills, gets complained about by employees to the overall boss. Is told "well, she is just learning her job, so be patient".

    **** that, show some leadership and train that bitch. Let her know being a **** to her underlings isn't acceptable behavior, and coach her on how to deal with her charges effectively.

    Don't take a cig break every hour on the hour for 10-15 minutes with your favorite and then bitch about someone being 1 minute late from lunch.

    You get the idea.
    Falling for Judo since 1980

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