Tech & Work

Can a CEO's terrible people skills affect company success?

In the recent past, a number of CEOs have made headlines by being let go from their jobs due to atrocious people handling skills. How does that lack of skills translate to the bottom line?

What do these people have in common?

  • Julie Roehm
  • Robert Nardelli
  • Steve Heyer
  • Harry Stonecipher

They were all C-level executives at high-profile companies who lost their jobs due to interpersonal incompetence (aka "no people skills").

(Julie Roehm was fired from Wal-Mart; Robert Nardelli was forced out of Home Depot; Steve Heyer was let go from Coca-Cola; and Harry Stonecipher lost his job at Boeing.)

In his Forbes blog last week, Dale Buss quotes Bob Eichinger, CEO of Lominger International, as saying such people are "promoted into their jobs for their business smarts, and they fail because of weaknesses in their people smarts."

Well, no kidding.

As I think we've all learned from Donald Trump, many highly successful people rise to the top because they have some kind of genius for business. And many stay at the top in spite of a pronounced lack of interpersonal skills. As long as they're making money, the stakeholders can overlook the trickle-down problems that affect the worker bees.

Until, that is, those trickle-down problems become so severe that they start to affect profits.

I shudder to think how bad things have to get for shareholders to tie in an executive's interpersonal skills with a shrinking profit margin, but I'm encouraged by the fact that sometimes the connection is indeed recognized.

So let's dish. Have you ever been a witness to someone's downfall due to atrocious people skills? Or maybe you, yourself, were sent on your way because of an Attila-like demeanor. Share your story.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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