Counterproductive LeadershipMarch 7, 2022
This article address counterproductive leadership in the Army. This term is defined by AR 600-100, paragraph 1-11 and ADP 6-22, paragraphs 8-45 to 8-50. It has a very broad definition. According to AR 600-100, paragraph 1-11d, it is the following:
"Counterproductive leadership can take different forms, from incompetence to abusiveness, all of which have detrimental impacts on individuals, the unit, and the accomplishment of the mission. Counterproductive leadership behaviors can span a range of behaviors to include bullying, distorting information, refusing to listen to subordinates, abusing authority, retaliating, blaming others, poor self-control (loses temper), withholding encouragement, dishonesty, unfairness, unjustness, showing little or no respect, talking down to others, behaving erratically, and taking credit for others' work."
Many think that toxic leadership is the same as counterproductive leadership. However, according to AR 600-100, paragraph 1-11d: "To be classified as toxic, the counterproductive behaviors must be recurrent and have a deleterious impact on the organization's performance or welfare of subordinates. An exacerbating factor may be if the behaviors demonstrate selfish reasons such as elevating one's own status, grabbing power, or otherwise obtaining personal gain..." Essentially, toxic leadership is counterproductive leadership that is recurrent and damages the mission and/or welfare of Soldiers.
Obviously, these definitions are very broad, and they are designed that way on purpose. If the Army continues in the direction it is headed, all leaders will find themselves accused of counterproductive leadership at some point in their career. The typical process will be explained in the paragraphs that follow.
Typically, these investigations begin when a Soldier, or Soldiers, make a complaint. This complaint could be done in a formal manner, such as an EO complaint, or an informal manner, such as an open-door meeting or an email. Additionally, sometimes an investigation into counterproductive leadership can be initiated after comments made during a command climate survey are reviewed by a higher commander.
Once the decision has been made, Commanders will appoint a 15-6 investigation, explained more at this link. The investigating officer must out-rank the individual accused of being a counterproductive leader. Typically, investigating officers will gather a large number of statements from many different Soldiers. The investigating officer will also approach the subject of the investigation and confront them with specific questions regarding what other Soldiers have reported. It is advisable for any subject of a counterproductive leadership investigation to consult an experienced military defense lawyer before agreeing to sit-down with any investigating officer.
Once the investigating officer has completed his/her findings, certain individuals are given the opportunity to rebut them (Field Grade Officers). 15-6 investigation rebuttals are explained more at this link. If the subject is not a field grade officer, he/she is not entitled to rebut the findings of the investigating officer. In such cases, the first chance that the subject will get to review the investigation, and what everyone has alleged, will be when they are responding to an adverse action.
If an adverse finding is made against an individual regarding counterproductive leadership, it is likely that an adverse action will result. This could include a letter of concern, a GOMOR, a referred OER, a referred NCOER, and/or an Article 15. Furthermore, the Command may initiate elimination (Officers) or separation (Enlisted). Even if the local Command doesn't initiate separation and/or elimination, enlisted Soldiers/NCOs should be aware of the Army QMP Board, if any adverse information is filed in their AMHRR.
Anyone who is accused of counterproductive leadership should be immediately concerned and recognize that they are fighting to keep their career. A proper defense against any allegation of counterproductive leadership starts with making smart, and informed, decisions during the investigation and continues with making appropriate and thorough responses to any adverse action that may result. Any Officer or NCO accused of counterproductive leadership should immediately consult a military lawyer. It is likely that the JAGs available (TDS or Legal Assistance) will not provide the time and attention needed to successfully defend yourself. Those accused have the option to hire a Civilian lawyer to assist.
This article was written by Attorney Matthew Barry.