Bullies and Jerks at Work

We have a well-connected manager who goes through assistants like water--they often leave in tears. Here's the problem. He's a big revenue producer and has a close relationship with senior management. Any suggestions on how we handle this? The assistants were all highly qualified and we can't keep replacing them on a monthly basis.


  • 4 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Hi Barbie:

    I saw this article and thought it might help you . . .

    Teach Your Company's Big Shots to Behave

    It is a quiet epidemic.
    CEOs, CFOs, executives, and many other "big shots" in organizations don't follow the rules, and, when they misbehave, there is seldom any personal repercussion. So says Stephen M. Paskoff, president of Employment Learning Innovations, Inc.
    Speaking at SHRM's Annual Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C., Paskoff said that such big shot misbehavior undermines organizational values and creates legal risks for both the individual and the organization. Big shot misbehavior also has a devastating effect on employee morale, and often results in retention issues.
    Many big shots seem to turn a deaf ear to "constructive criticism" from HR and their well-meaning peers. So, how can HR combat big shot misbeavior effectively? Paskoff offered the following advice:

    Big shots don't "get it" because they believe that they are exempt from the rules and standards of the organization. Those rules, they believe, are for everyone else, but not for them.
    Big shots need to understand that their conduct is unprofessional, that it can cause personal harm and professional risk, and that there will be consequences for their behavior.
    When communicating with big shots, link their behavior to the organization's bottom line. Question Authority
    When addressing a big shot's poor behavior, Paskoff advocates the "ask, don't tell" philosophy -- in other words, don't tell them how to behave, simply ask them questions that make them think about their behavior and the repercussions.
    Paskoff offered the following responses to specific big shot objections and justifications for their poor behavior and the questions an HR person could ask to combat them:

    Big shot objection #1: "I've always done it this way" -- ask "What other aspects of your job are the same as they were 10 years ago?"
    Big shot objection #2: "I'm under a lot of stress" -- ask "Are you saying that your stress levels justify breaking our organization's policies and the law?"
    Big shot objection #3: "You are interfering with my academic freedom" -- ask "What does violating our organization's standards have to do with academic freedom?"
    Big shot objection #4: "Others are just as bad" -- ask "In what other ways do you violate our rules because others do?"
    Big shot objection #5: I don't have time to handle it that way." -- ask "How much time do you have in the next few months to prepare for a deposition and trial?" Preventing and Detecting Big Shot Misbehavior
    When preventing big shot misbehavior it is critical to know what allies you need and whether your organization is willing to link its organizational values to behavioral standards, Paskoff said. For example, if your organization's values state that individuals will be respected, does the organization actively prohibit and address incidents of bullying, harassment, and unethical and unprofessional conduct? If not, then preventing such behavior at the top of the management chain will be impossible, Paskoff said. In addition, organizations should plan who communicates standards governing behavior and specifically what the consequences of poor behavior are -- loss of job perks, personal risk, etc.
    In order to prevent misbehavior by big shots, Paskoff also suggested making the case for big shot behavior control. Present the pros of big shots (new clients, revenue generation and prestige) against the cons of their misbehavior (poor morale, brand damage, retention issues and legal risks). In addition, try using "real world" examples of the fallout from tolerating bad behavior -- recent news stories of large monetary penalties and jail sentences for bad execs get everyones' attention.
    When setting up systems for detecting bad big shot behavior, employers need systems in place to discover the behavior before the damage, Paskoff said. Use of complaint systems, formal and informal, as well as establishing credibility for issues of concern and a commitment to balance resolution will help make an employer's detection program more effective.
    Finally, when dealing with a report of big shot misbehavior, don't forget to investigate the complaint thoroughly, said Paskoff. If you get your facts wrong, the big shot will stop listening and any chance of correcting their behavior is lost.
  • Have you read the latest business best seller about this problem? You won't believe the book title: "The No A**holes Rule" (edited for posting purposes). The author says employers should figure out how much bullies are costing them in terms of morale problems and lower productivity--and then demand that they change their behavior or they'll get booted out. Recruiting assistants for the manager you describe is probably costing your organization a small fortune!
  • Hi Catbert--I haven't read the book yet but I love the title and I've seen lots written about it. Maybe I should read it!
  • FYI, some courts are starting to recognize "bullying" cases as a real legal claim. In EEOC v. National Education Association, the Ninth Circuit said that a bully's behavior may be sexual harassment if the treatment of women differed from the treatment of men. If all of the assistants were of one gender, it could actually become a legal problem and not just a retention or morale problem.
Sign In or Register to comment.