Friday, December 31, 2010

Case Study: Inside the mind of HR Professionals

As a professional speaker who has made presentations to over hundreds of HR professionals, as well as professionals in many other areas, I assert that every single “workplace bullying workshop” attendee will fall into one of three categories:

1. The “Oh my gosh!!!! Thank you!!!” Category – These are people who have been treated with disrespect and aggression at work. They approach me at the end of my presentation, often in tears, infinitely thankful that I am advocating for them and that I have given them the information they need to move forward with their situation.

2. The “Hmmmm… I’m not so sure bullying exists” Category – These are people who may have witnessed a little disrespect at work but are unsure that bullying really happens among adults or that the resulting psychological implications I identified during the presentation are really that serious. These people may be open to persuasion with more information.

3. The “People who claim they're bullied are poor performers who are upset that they’re boss is calling them out” Category – These are the attendees who speak out during my presentations, often very aggressively in fact. They are convinced bullying doesn’t exist, and blame the target for poor performance and not having thicker skin. They also insist (incorrectly of course) that bullying is already illegal and laws against bullying would encourage unnecessary litigation.

Until now, I have been unable to really articulate these three responses for readers of my blog. But recently I participated in an online forum at Workforce Management website about the topic of workplace bullying, and because I gained so much insight into the mind of my third category HR professional when it comes to this touchy subject, I thought I’d share parts of the forum discussion with you.

If you are a target of aggressive behaviors at work thinking about talking with your HR manager, this post might help you gain some understanding about how your HR manager might respond to your complaint so that you can be prepared to counter it.

As I mentioned, people in my third category - people who don't think bullying exists - were abundant in the online forum, as evidenced by these comments:
There seems to be a growing trend that every time someone’s boss yells at them it’s a workplace conflict that also suggests the boss is a bully. That may occasionally be true but more often than not, in over 30 years of workplace experience, I have observed it is an under producing or non-producing employee (that includes performance issues).”
 "Honestly, I read a lot of posts on a different forum that is open to the public and has a lot of employees posting their situations about bosses bullying employees and 99% of them are such that I can see by their posts what the issue is -- low performance, too much time off, their attitude in the postings, etc. In my 20 year career, I can honestly tell you that I have seen 1 bully boss in any organization that I have worked with. Out of hundreds.... “

“There are those that think they are bullied because the employer expects them to be at work on time consistently. Because the employer doesn't take all the excuses for missed work and productivity. Or they take exasperation and criticism as bullying.”
And after being attacked by a few of the HR professionals in the forum for asserting that bullying is a real problem:

“Suggesting bullying is legal in the US demonstrates the focus (Catherine) has. It isn't to teach people how to manage conflict in the workplace, rather, it is to exploit conflict in the workplace for (her) own profit motive. In short, (she) channel’s (her) energy to exploit a created victim instead of teaching that individual how to improve their performance and also manage everyday natural conflict.”

“I am suspecting that the poster is feeling bullied because we are not validating her perspective. We are not jumping on the bandwagon of proving how much bullying really takes place in most workplaces.”
I sought information about what these HR professionals would do if faced with a complaint by an employee who claimed his boss was bullying him. The answers were disturbing:
“I would speak with the employee about changes that often occur when bosses change.”

“I suspect that due to the friendly relationship posed by the (original poster)… there might have been some stuff that the old boss let slide, rather than confront. Or maybe it just wasn't important to the old boss but is to the new. That's the nature of different bosses and learning the new style/way, even if you don't agree with it.”

“Honestly, I would tell this employee that they should view the position as if THEY started a new job-- but with experience. If they can't handle the new (management) style, then unless they want to try to go over their boss's head (which can often be a career limiting move because SOMEONE higher above CHOSE to put this person into the manager's position and you might never be sure who was for it), I would suggest they look elsewhere for employment.”

“If I thought it was a manager issue, I would do some extra management training, but if this were a person with education and experience, I would NOT automatically assume it was the boss's issue. But rather an issue of the employee not being able to handle the change. Change is never easy.”
Another participant then pointed out that:

“The difficult part of (this) approach… is why you are willing to make assumptions that favor the organization, but you aren't willing to make any such similar assumptions on behalf of the employee.”
To which the response from one poster was:
“I don't know many companies that choose to put inexperienced, uneducated, untrained people into management positions, but I know plenty of employees who feel like THEY should have been promoted OR that THEY know more than the new boss or that their way is the only way to do something.”
“I have seen more issues with the underlings not being able to handle the change than the manager.”
“So yes, it is my instinct to counsel the employee on how to deal with the change than to counsel the manager. Unless there is some direct evidence that it is the manager's issue.”
Clearly this HR professional would not buy it if a target of bullying were to report their manager’s behavior. The target would indeed be in the hot seat and blamed for the problem. The manager, the one exhibiting unprofessional behaviors, would be left to continue treating others with disrespect.

This group of posters, filled with my third category – people who think bullying simply doesn’t exist – was hard to persuade. Nothing I said could convince them that bullying is real. They even accused me of exploiting a fad and creating a sea of victims for my own monetary and professional benefit. But it doesn’t matter if they believe me or not; what matters if is they believe you when you report your abusive manager at work.

Ultimately, this conversation was indeed a major learning experience for me. In my years of experience I have never really gained a true understanding of why an HR professional would be so utterly resistant to the idea that bullying might actually exist in the workplace. I was enlightened by these comments:
“I was in HR when the diversity fad developed, and suddenly every fringe consultant was an expert in diversity and offering their services to help implement diversity programs. They were aggressive - if you didn't have a diversity program, then somehow your company was uncaring, insensitive, even Neanderthal in your approach to business. Diversity programs have yet to produce any measurable benefit, yet business spent huge amounts of money on it.“

“So it goes with HR fads - it seems like HR is plagued with them every 5 years or so. Some get a lot of publicity, like diversity, others don't. All fade into oblivion, some mercifully sooner rather than later.”

“HR has seen a bunch of fads. I would agree bullying is but one more.”
In addition, one poster pointed out that aggressive behaviors at work have potential liability for an employer – damages that should certainly be taken into consideration. As someone who has also made that argument, and attempted to quantify the damage a workplace bully might cause, the response was of great interest to me:
“OMG, HR professionals have been fighting this image for years. It is called the Chicken Little complex.

Legal fees are a cost of doing business for corporations. Frivolous lawsuits are a source of potential income for plaintiffs attorneys; "If they settle, even for nuisance value, I get something." The problem isn't managers. The problem is unscrupulous attorneys, consultants who embellish reality and a sub-culture that says if I sue I win regardless.

In 30+ years I have never lost a lawsuit. I've settled several for "nuisance value."
To sum all this up, HR professionals have seen an array of fads come and go. According to the participants in this forum, given the number of fads in their many years of experience, bullying just seems like one more. For this reason, it might be hard for them to take your complaint seriously.

These individuals were also not intimidated by the numbers. They weren’t buying that a lawsuit is a real threat when a report of bullying goes unaddressed. To them, a lawsuit is just the cost of doing business, and because one poster in particular had never lost a lawsuit against an employee, she was ready to go toe to toe. Lawsuits didn’t even make a dent in her perspective.

So what’s the lesson here? It is up to you, the target, the reporter of aggressive behaviors at work, to prove your case in a major way. As stated by one poster:
“Unfortunately HR and management usually do NOT have the ability to go "personal" with employees. To dig deep into the reasons and feelings and emotions. To smooth over hurt feelings. To babysit one who is feeling persecuted. At some point, it DOES need to get back to the business of running the company and working towards that goal and needs to be less about feelings and more about realistic expectations and being productive and putting personal feelings/perspectives aside."
The most important things you can do for yourself, before you file a complaint with your manager or HR manager, is to:

1. Document everything, and be sure to stick to the facts. Avoid documenting your emotions. Do not document how you felt, document the bad behavior. Focus on the bully, not on you. You are your performance already going to be under the spotlight, so don’t make your grievance about you – make it about the bully’s unprofessional behavior. HR is not in the business of making you feel good, they are in the business of helping the organization run. I hate to say it, but your feelings are irrelevant to them. The bullying manager’s unprofessional behavior is relevant to them if you can prove it’s hurting performance.

2. If possible, gather evidence from co-workers and other managers about your performance. Based on my conversation with the HR professionals in the forum, your performance is going to be called into question. If you can find a way to prove you are a top-performer, whether by emails or memos from others you work with or a stack of performance evaluations from previous managers, I think you will find that evidence useful during your conversation.

3. Attempt to resolve the issue yourself first. In any situation, when you have a problem, issue, or question it is important that you approach your manager with your problem, issue, or question with some idea of a solution. No manager wants to hear, “I have a problem, can you tell me what to do?” There isn’t a manager on the planet that wouldn’t prefer, “I have a problem. I have tried A and B and they haven’t worked. I was thinking about doing C and D but was hoping for your input.” This shows that you are solution oriented and able to think things all the way through on your own – and those are qualities of a top notch, high performing employee.

4. Be prepared for the conversation. Know what you want to accomplish as a result of your complaint. What is it that you want the HR manager to do for you? What exactly are you going to say? What solutions can you offer? Never go into your HR manager’s office to complain – go in there to complain and provide options.

If you’re interested, you can read the entire conversation on Workforce Week.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

eBossWatch releases its 2010 America's Worst Bosses List

eBossWatch, the leading career resource that enables people to anonymously rate their bosses, published the second annual list of America’s Worst Bosses. The 2010 worst bosses include a judge, two famous actors, several doctors, a police chief, a university dean, and a US Congressman.

eBossWatch assembled a panel of workplace experts who selected and ranked the worst bosses from across the country. The eBossWatch panel of workplace experts includes:

■Linnda Durre, Ph.D., psychotherapist, business consultant, corporate trainer, national speaker, columnist, and author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace

■Kevin Kennemer, board member of the Oklahoma Business Ethics Consortium and founder of The People Group

■Catherine Mattice, trainer, consultant, workplace bullying subject matter expert and founder of Civility Partners

■Erica Pinsky, workplace consultant and author of Road to Respect: Path to Profit

■Marilyn Veincentotzs, organizational consultant, speaker, advocate, and author of How Organizations Empower Bully Bosses

Here are a few of the managers who made the 2010 list of America’s Worst Bosses:

■Leigh Voltmer, True North Domestic Violence Shelter

■The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against True North, accusing its then-Executive Director Leigh Voltmer of sexually harassing a number of employees and then retaliating against two female co-directors who complained to the president on behalf of the employees. True North provides shelter for women who have been victims of domestic violence.

■Skip Sand, Michaels Stores

■A jury ordered Michaels Stores Inc. to pay a former employee $8.1 million for being harassed and fired by Skip Sand while she was undergoing chemotherapy after having been diagnosed with breast cancer. The jury found that Michaels violated the employee’s rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, the Florida Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

■Justin Murdock, Castle & Cooke

■Billionaire Dole heir Justin Murdock is being sued for sexual harassment by a former employee at the Dole Food Co. subsidiary, Castle & Cooke. The employee claims that Murdock subjected her to continuous derogatory and vulgar comments about women and that his “harassment was coupled with death threats and threats of termination.”

■Don Gough, Mayor, City of Lynwood

■Lynwood Mayor Don Gough was accused of subjecting five female top-level City Hall employees to an “intolerable” work environment. An internal investigation was launched after Gough’s former executive assistant complained about a hostile work environment where she was berated and belittled by Gough.

■Craig Littlejohn, Department of the Interior

■A judge ruled against the Department of the Interior in an employment discrimination lawsuit and found that Craig Littlejohn called African American subordinates “monkeys” and discriminated against black employees.

Asher Adelman, founder of eBossWatch, said, “It is shocking to think that people have had to endure such extreme cases of workplace bullying in order to bring home a paycheck. Hopefully, the America’s Worst Bosses list will help demonstrate the importance for managers to cultivate a positive, healthy, and productive work environment for their employees.”

The entire 2010 list of America’s Worst Bosses is located at

Nevada State Education Association Pamphlet on Bullying

Effective July 1, 2010, the education system in Nevada is putting up a fight against bullying and cyber-bullying by any administrator, teacher or staff member. The terms bullying and cyber-bullying were only recently added to Nevada Statute NRS 388.135, which previously only referenced harassment and intimidation.

According to the resulting pamphlet put out by the Nevada State Education Association:

"We are all familiar with accounts of bullying involving students. There are tragic stories of students being bullied to the point of taking their own lives. But bullying can and does happen among adults, and it can have a devastating effect on employee morale, work productivity, and even the health and well being of employees."

Below is an additional excerpt from the pamphlet, and you can download the whole thing by clicking here.

What is workplace bullying?

There is no single definition of bullying. NRS 388.122 defines “bullying” to mean:

A willful act or course of conduct on the part of one or more pupils which is not authorized by law and which exposes a pupil repeatedly and over time to one or more negative actions which is highly offensive to a reasonable person and is intended to cause and actually causes the pupil to suffer harm or serious emotional distress.

“Cyber-Bullying” is defined as “bullying through the use of electronic communication.” NRS 388.123.

Researchers studying the phenomenon of workplace bullying cite certain common characteristics.

Catherine Mattice and Karen Garman define it as “systematic aggressive communication, manipulation of work, and acts aimed at humiliating or degrading one or more individuals that create an unhealthy and unprofessional power imbalance between bully and target...” Gary and Ruth Namie define workplace bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment, verbal abuse, or conduct which is threatening, humiliating, intimidating, or sabotage that interferes with work or some combination of the three.”

Five Tips for Ringing In a Civil 2011

This year my newsletters have addressed corporate policies, training programs, culture changes, and many other conventional ways you can address bullying behavior at work. As you know, however, if the decision makers in your organization are not on board with building a positive workplace, then policies and training programs will be difficult to implement.

So here are five things you can do to help keep things civil around the office without asking your boss for an entire corporate culture makeover.

1. Be the change you want to see. I know; it's cliché. But fact is we don't pay much attention to our own communication most of the time, and of course it's easy to point fingers and argue that others aren't being very nice. Awareness is half of the battle - once you start being more cognizant of your behavior and communication it becomes easier to change it. We call this self-monitoring. If you are a high self-monitor, then you probably pay close attention to your communication and adjust it as needed for the situation. If you are a low self-monitor then you probably don’t pay much attention to your communication, and you likely are treating others disrespectfully without even realizing it. Make it a goal to become a high self-monitor.

2. Stand up for others. One of the reasons I became so interested in bullying and incivility at work was the fact that they are a social phenomenon - it's never about just the bully. Bullying and other uncivilized behaviors happen at work because other people allow them to (yes that means you). If you witness someone getting berated consistently during staff meetings, for example, the chances of you or anyone else standing up for them is slim to none. Researchers call this the bystander effect, and the reason it exists is that others are afraid of being targeted next.

Forget all that. When you see a person being mistreated at work, stand up for them. Plain and simple. Something like, "Hey John the meeting will be more productive if we all try to stay calm here. I know this is a stressful project but we need to work together" should suffice. The more often you do that, the more often others will too. You and all of your peers are stronger, collectively, than one bullying person. You have much more power to end the bullying as a group, and if you band together, you will be successful in doing so.

3. Dish out two compliments a day. In today’s economy and the resulting stress it’s easy to get frustrated with others when you feel like they aren’t performing or when they make mistakes. But, that’s not helping build a more civil work environment. Of course it is important to correct mistakes or make process improvements – but it’s also important to tell people when they do things right – even the little things. And you don’t have to be anyone’s boss to pass out praise.

If you happen to be walking through the reception area and overhear the receptionist handling a call with a positive attitude, then compliment him or her on it. If you see a co-worker wiping down the counters in the break room, then say thank you. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it could make a huge difference in that person’s day, and they just might turn around and compliment someone else… even a customer!

4. Rally for your community. Volunteering provides a multitude of psychological and physical benefits. It brings a heightened sense of well-being, relief from insomnia, a stronger immune system… and it helps build confidence and self-esteem as a result of the appreciation we feel from those people we help. Take Cami Walker for example. At 35 she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and only after focusing on giving to the people around her did the pain she was feeling start to ease. Since then she’s written a book and started a movement of giving. Her website is

In addition to the personal benefits you will feel for giving your time to help others, certainly when your department volunteers to help the community together, the benefits of team building are eminent. So check out Charity Navigator and Volunteers of America to find a volunteering opportunity right for you and your team. Invite everyone to participate (even the uncivil ones). You’ll definitely notice a positive change in the way you interact with each other at work as a result of everyone feeling better about themselves and about each other.

5. Play the Best-Self Game. Kim Cameron, author of Positive Leadership: Strategies for Extraordinary Performance, suggests this activity to get the positive communication flowing and the self-esteem growing. During your next meeting, ask everyone to write down two nice things about their co-workers on separate sheets of scratch paper. At the end of the meeting, each person walks away with a list of traits others appreciate in them, an understanding of their own strengths, and a set of thank you’s for those times they stepped up and went the extra mile.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bullying by the boss is common but hard to fix, by Laura Petrecca, USA Today

The Hooters restaurant chain likes to play up its "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined" slogan. But what more than 15 million TV viewers saw on Feb. 14 went beyond unrefined.

A Hooters franchise manager insisted that servers clasp their hands behind their backs and gobble up a serving of cooked beans face-first. Whoever cleaned her plate the quickest would get to leave early.

That scene was shown on the CBS reality show Undercover Boss. Later in the episode, Coby Brooks — the Hooters CEO who went undercover to evaluate workers — reprimands the manager for being inappropriate.

"There are lines that you don't cross," Brooks said.

Yet, many bosses don't follow that stance. In offices nationwide, managers belittle, isolate, intimidate and sabotage employees.

One in three adults has experienced workplace bullying, according to surveys conducted earlier this year by research firm Zogby International for the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI). Nearly three-fourths of bullying is from the top down, according to a 2007 study.

Some tyrannical managers scream and send out scathing e-mails. But often, an oppressor uses a more subtle — and easily covered — collection of behaviors. These actions could include purposely leaving a worker out of communications so they can't do their job well, mocking someone during meetings and spreading malicious gossip about their target, says Catherine Mattice, a workplace consultant who specializes in this issue.

The acts may seem trivial, but as they build up over time, the ramifications can be monumental.

Bullied workers often feel anxious and depressed, can't sleep and are at increased risk for ailments such as hypertension. Some employees feel so overwhelmed, they just can't see a way out. "Sometimes, unfortunately, suicide is the result," Mattice says.

Tough to diagnose

On an academic level, workplace bullying has become a popular research topic, says Stanford Engineering School management professor and Good Boss, Bad Boss author Robert Sutton. But on a broader scale, there is still much to be learned about this topic.

"Workplace bullying is kind of this new concept; it's like sexual harassment before Anita Hill," Mattice says. "One of the biggest problems is that it is under the radar."

A big issue is that bullying is difficult to define. Is a demanding boss a bully or a perfectionist? Is a manager who says inappropriate things malicious or just tactless? "That's one of the difficult things to grapple with," says Joseph O'Keefe, a senior counsel at law firm Proskauer. "When does it rise above just being a mean boss and reach the level of bullying?"

As a general guideline, bullying occurs when a manager has an ongoing pattern of intimidating or demeaning behavior that can affect an employee's health.

"We've all had bosses who are rough around the edges, and sometimes you just have to deal with it," says Tom Davenport, a senior consultant at human resources consultancy Towers Watson. "But it's one thing to have an assertive boss, and it's another to have one that makes you feel sick — psychologically, physically and emotionally sick."

Since bullying is such an amorphous act, department managers and human resource executives often have to examine claims of it on an individual basis. Officials at the University of Virginia had to undertake this task earlier this year.

On July 30, Kevin Morrissey, managing editor at the University of Virginia literary magazine Virginia Quarterly Review, shot himself. Morrissey's sister, Maria Morrissey, says that after his death, she learned that her brother was treated harshly by VQR editor Ted Genoways.

Genoways' attorney, Lloyd Snook, says the editor was not a bully to Morrissey or anyone else in the office.

Following Morrissey's death, the university commissioned an audit of the magazine's finances and management practices. The Oct. 20 report says that while Genoways' ability to supervise his staff in accordance with university policies "is questionable," complaints against him didn't raise any red flags.

"There were reports through the years of the editor not being courteous or respectful with some contributors and colleagues, as well as problems with certain employees, but none ever seemed to rise to the level of a serious, ongoing concern," the report said.

In a formal response to the audit, Snook said that Genoways "has never been told of any specific complaint that any of his staff has had. There was never any personnel action taken against Ted."

Even with the release of the internal report, there are still many questions swirling — and not many publically known answers — about the situation at VQR.

Failing to take action

Yet, even when there are obvious concerns about a boss poisoning an office environment, often little is done. Reasons this is tough to diagnose and cure:

•Victims keep quiet. Many workers are embarrassed at being bullied, so they don't report the persecution to human resources. In addition, many targets are afraid that if they complain, there will be retribution.

•Intervention can take time. Morrissey and other staffers complained to UVA officials about workplace strife. Mediation was to take place, says UVA spokeswoman Carol Woods, but Kevin's sister, Maria, says the school didn't have a thorough or timely response. The UVA audit says its personnel satisfied "institutional policies and procedures." While there were notices of problems at VQR, the report says there were "no specific allegations of bullying or harassment prior to July 30th."

•Discipline can be subjective. Even though Undercover Boss is an entertainment-focused reality show, blogs were filled with intense criticism for Hooters CEO Brooks after he didn't fire the manager who made the waitresses eat without their hands.

That manager resigned earlier this year "to pursue other interests," says Hooters spokeswoman Alexis Aleshire. She said the company couldn't comment further on that specific situation, but e-mailed this statement: "Hooters has a longstanding and highly effective policy protecting employees from all harassment. Hooters of America and (the) Texas Wings (franchise) are confident the incident portrayed on Undercover Boss is in no way representative of conduct within the Hooters system."

•Legal recourse isn't clear-cut. Existing federal laws focus on the harassment/discrimination of those in a protected class, such as race, religion, national origin, age or disability. Since 2003, 18 states have proposed a "healthy workplace bill" that holds an employer accountable for an abusive environment, but none has become law.

•Witnesses are scared to come forward. About one in seven workers said they've seen workplace bullying but haven't been a target themselves, the WBI says. But many observers keep quiet. "A lot of time, bystanders see bullying, but they won't stand up," Mattice says. "They don't want to attract attention."

•Savvy bosses work the system. Manipulative managers often know how to play the game so they're not caught. "They kiss up and kick down," Sutton says.

Who gets picked on by whom

Workplace bullying can take many forms. While it's often a boss targeting employees, workers have picked on peers — and even their supervisors.

Slightly more than 60% of bullies are men, and 58% of targets are women, according to WBI. When a woman is the aggressor, she often picks on her own gender: Women target other women in 80% of cases. Men are more apt to target men.

Bullying can take place in any work environment, but Mattice says it tends to be more prevalent in hierarchical industries such as manufacturing, health care and education.
Crummy bosses are frequently more tolerated in organizations that focus on reaching sales goals, Davenport says.

"In a results-driven environment, managers may say 'Tom really is a jerk, but he certainly produces the numbers,' " he says.

Further complicating things: Most bullies don't realize — or at least, admit — that they're the bad guy. Fewer than 1% of people say they bully others at work, according to the WBI.

"We, as human beings, have self-awareness issues," Sutton says.

While maniacal managers may not realize how their behavior affects other employees, one place where they could see the difference is in the bottom line. Bullied employees will often take more sick days, steal supplies and use work hours to look for other jobs.

"They'll take longer breaks, and they'll be less likely to help others," Sutton says.

Beaten-down employees also don't perform as well on duties that take mental wherewithal. Research subjects have been less creative in simple puzzle-solving tasks after someone has been nasty to them, Sutton says.

But even as studies show that abusive managers can harm profits, bullying continues to rise at some firms.
One issue: Productivity-producing carrots, such as raises and bonuses, have been taken away as companies cut costs. Many mangers have turned to using sticks.

"With the economy the way it is, (supervisors) are more stressed out, and they are more likely to become more aggressive at work," Mattice says.

Those on the receiving end have their own issues due to the economic maelstrom.

"Anyone who is being bullied feels trapped, because where are they going to go?" she says. "They feel stuck there until the economy gets better."

Read the article on USA Today here:

Survival strategies for workers with bosses who are bullies, by Laura Petrecca, USA Today

Bosses often get a bad rap — mainly because they are just that: the boss.

These are the folks who scrutinize vacation day requests, ask for client reports to be revised and tell employees the company decided against 2010 raises. So naturally they will be closely scrutinized — and criticized — by workers, simply because they have such a large impact on their life.

"Bosses pack a wallop, especially on their direct reports," says Robert Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss.

However, there are many supportive, compassionate managers out there, Sutton says. "Most of us think our bosses are OK."

But for the folks toiling under a lousy manager, the daily stress can be severe. Some ways to deal with a bad boss:

•Have a heart-to-heart. "Perhaps your boss is one of those people who aren't aware of how they come across," Sutton says. It could be worth it to have a "gentle confrontation" with the manager in hopes of evoking a behavior change.

•Get help. "It's like a bully on the playground," says Tom Davenport, co-author of Manager Redefined. "At some point you have to go tell the teacher."

Employees should keep a detailed diary of a boss' bad behaviors and then bring up those specific instances when lodging a complaint.

"Don't talk about the way you feel. Don't say 'I'm hurt,' " says workplace consultant Catherine Mattice. Instead give very specific examples of how the boss crossed the line.

•Zone out. With some effort — be it meditation, therapy or another method — some folks are able to leave their work troubles at the office. "Learn the fine art of emotional detachment," Sutton says. "Try not to let it touch your soul."

•Update the résumé. "Start planning your escape," Sutton says. Sure, the economy may not be the best for job seekers, but those who put feelers out now will have a head start when the hiring freeze thaws.

Read the article on USA Today here:

Monday, December 13, 2010 Is your boss a bully, or just a tough cookie?

Careers on
By By Eve Tahmincioglu, contibutor

Victoria Ring had a bully boss when she was working as a paralegal at a bankruptcy law firm in Ohio early in her career.

“I would be interviewing one of our clients who was in debt and he would stand outside to door listening to us,” she recalled. “As soon as I opened the door he would shout, “Why did you go and screw everything up?’ right in front of the client. I would feel like the lowest level person in the world.”
Despite the abuse, the tyrannical manager turned out to be one of the best bosses she’s ever had.

“He was extremely brilliant and knew every loophole in the law,” she explained. And he helped foster her passion for bankruptcy law, taught her to hone her craft and even helped her get a job in an Ohio bankruptcy court because people in the legal community knew if she could work for that boss she could work for anyone.

Ring, who launched her own business (Colorado Bankruptcy Training) this year in Colorado Springs, only lasted about nine months with the bully boss, leaving after he had a fist fight in the office with his brother who was also a partner at the law firm. But looking back, she said, the manager was pivotal in her career trajectory.

With all the negative press bullies are getting lately, it’s hard to believe that anyone can actually benefit from having to deal with one as their boss. But sometimes it’s the hardest-to-deal-with managers who turn out to teach you the most, and they may actually help you climb the ladder of success.
The question is, how do you know if your tough boss actually has some redeeming qualities and isn’t just a bully?

“The line between tough boss and bully boss is not clear for most people — bosses and employees alike,” said Judith Glaser author of “The DNA Of Leadership.” Making the distinction, she added, is even harder when times are tough and the pressure is on to perform.

“When people are interviewed about the boss who impacted them most,” she continued, “it was generally someone who was both candid and caring, someone who pushed them to succeed or achieve. So understanding where the line is between bully and effective leadership is vital.”

While most of us want to be treated fairly and with respect at all times, many of us see the benefits of having tough guy or gal as a boss.

In a study by Adecco Staffing U.S., employees were asked whom they deemed the best boss among a host of famous people. While touchy feely Oprah and soft-spoken President Obama topped the list, No. 3 was Donald Trump of “you’re fired” Apprentice fame. But Martha Stewart, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sarah Palin — all three tough cookies — weren’t far behind.

“Power and success are very attractive qualities,” said Tracy Whitaker, director of the Center for Workforce Studies & Social Work Practice, National Association of Social Workers, who has researched workplace bullying. “People see Donald Trump and they see success, but people have to understand that tough and demanding is different than unreasonable and arbitrary.”

Employees want to be mentored by the best and challenged and pushed to excel, she continued, but you don’t want to be confused, disrespected and humiliated at work.

While she acknowledges that some workers can take some abuse and find the good in a dysfunctional worker-manager relationship, others may see their self esteem and confidence suffer as a result. Feeling those things, she added, isn’t worth it for yourself or your career in the end, even if the boss was an expert at her or his profession.

But you may benefit from getting a bit of a tougher skin.

Catherine Mattice, president of Civility Partners, a consulting firm that specializes in eliminating workplace bullying, said employees can learn from a bully boss, but not if they allow themselves to feel persecuted.

“Unfortunately many people will take on a victim mentality and find themselves feeling that they have no options,” she said. “They will not learn from the experience. Those that choose to take the situation on as a challenge will find they are capable of overcoming, and will learn to become more assertive, more positive, and more able to take on the world.”

The key is figuring out whether your boss is just tough, or just a useless big meanie.

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