The Bully Boss and Hostility Archives

Being Bully-Boss’ed? – The 57 Signs . . . Is It Happening to You?

Published on July 17th, 2018 by Alan L. Sklover

 
“I find in most circumstances people leave bosses,
not companies.”

– John Rampton

ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Over the past two years, Nike has terminated five senior executives for being bully bosses – four men and one woman. One of those terminated had been identified as the probable next CEO. A rising tide of bullying at Nike resulted, too, in the CEO calling a “town hall” meeting of all 35,000 Nike employees, at which the CEO apologized for letting it get so out of control, and promised not to let it happen again.

From recent press accounts and a rising number of lawsuits, the incidence of bully bossing seems to be on the rise. It may be that so many managers feel under so much pressure to do so much with so little. It may be a reflection of a seemingly rising incivility throughout society. No matter the cause, workplace bullying seems to have become more common, and is a widely discussed phenomenon.

While employees bear the brunt of workplace bullying, employers are coming to recognize that they are victims of bully bossing, too, as it results in depressed morale, increased law suits, significant distraction, loss of valuable human talent and diminished retention of key employees. Oh, it also poses real risk to very significant reputational damage to brand, which is perhaps the “Achilles heel” of every organization, especially those with great investment into brand development and management.

And, too, it seems “something big” may also be changing: “I’ve been bully boss’ed” is, to many, the new “me-too movement.”

If you think how you are being treated by your own manager may constitute bully bossing, this list of the “57 Signs” may help you in two ways: First, it represents something of a “checklist of abuses” against which you can measure your own treatment so you can draw your own conclusions. Second, if you do conclude that you are, indeed, dealing with a workplace bully boss, this list may assist you in addressing the problem by identifying to Management, HR and even the bully boss, himself or herself, with specificity, the elements of the problem.

LESSON TO LEARN: Two questions often arise in workplace bullying situations:

The first question is: “Do I have just a very tough boss, or has he/she crossed the line to represent a true ‘bully boss?’”

The second question is: “If I am being bully-bossed, how can I address that subject, with the most effective manner and yet, if possible, avoid retaliation?”

Well, as I often tell my clients, “Specificity yields credibility.” By being able to identify what is going on, you can help yourself answer both of those questions. Specificity is necessary to identify a problem – like a blood test or x-ray does for a physician. And, too, specificity may indicate to the physician where to apply the medicine or other treatment, how long it should be applied, and what are the indications of improvement? Well, the same holds true for any problem, including bullying at work: the more specific, the more effective will likely be the diagnosis and treatment.

The list below helps you understand whether you are, indeed, being bullied. It can also help you spot the many ways in which workplace bullying often shows itself. While it is not entirely exhaustive, it does contain most of what we all mean by workplace bullying. And, too, it can assist in your standing up to it.

One thing to keep in mind: bully bossing does not need to be intentional. In fact, many bully bosses are not even vaguely aware of what they do. As they have done it so many times before, without being called out on it, they think it is “normal” managing, which it is not.

This is why it is being said, more and more, “Bully Bossed is the new MeToo Movement.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO: To help make a conclusion about whether you are being bully bossed, and to also help you report it to others, here is a list of 57 signs of bully bossing. Of course, associated issues should be considered, including (a) how often the activity takes place, (b) its intensity, (c) its effects on you, (d) how long it has been taking place, and (e) whether it has continued after you have taken reasonable steps to stop it.
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Your Complaint Labeled “Baseless”? Consider an “Investigation Push Back Letter”

Published on July 25th, 2017 by Alan L. Sklover

 
“ To err is human.
To blame it on someone else shows management potential.”

– Unknown

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: Gary, 44, was a staff writer for an online entertainment industry blogsite. Most of his writing in recent years was about trends in subscriptions to live streaming music. His special expertise was in data collection and analysis to spot trends, and he was widely known as an expert in that area.

Gary’s analysis of live-streaming subscriptions lead him to the firm conclusion that certain of the largest live streaming music companies – indeed, the largest ones in the music industry – were losing more and more subscription customers to their smaller, more focused, and nimble competitors. When he wrote a significant article about this trend, his editor refused to publish it, claiming that it was replete with illogical assumptions on Gary’s part. This had never happened to Gary before in his 20 or so years as an entertainment industry writer.

Separately, two colleagues approached Gary in confidence, and shared with him that the blogsite’s editor had admitted to them that she declined to post his article because she was afraid of backlash – in the form of less advertising – from the larger streaming services, who were the blogsite’s “bread and butter.” They even shared an email in which the editor claimed to have been pressured to do so by the blogsite’s owners.

Gary then submitted to Human Resources a formal complaint of breach of his contract provision that forbade editorial decisions being made on financial considerations, and also that this was a breach of ethics and company policy. A two-week “investigation” by the blog site’s outside lawyers concluded only that “We did not find that anything improper has taken place,” despite the emails, the witnesses, and the circumstances that clearly showed otherwise.

Only after Gary brought the situation to the attention of the company’s CEO and Board of Directors did real progress toward addressing the problem begin to take shape.

LESSON TO LEARN: The most important lesson my mother taught me is that, “Without accountability, you really can’t expect responsibility.” Let’s face it: if failure to pay your taxes was not illegal, and no one checked whether or not you did, would you really do so? (As a lawyer, I must advise you that you need not answer that.)

Let’s all simply accept the reality that the same thing happens at work: many managers will not do the “right thing” if no one will hold them accountable for their failures to do so. And that is why they often hire “investigators,” not to determine the truth but to protect themselves from it.

Over my 35 years as an advocate for employees, many times I’ve helped clients file claims or complaints with their employers’ HR department, compliance department, and legal department of wrongful behavior against them by means of (a) discrimination, (b) harassment, (c) hostility, (d) retaliation, (e) dishonesty, (f) fraud (especially regarding Performance Improvement Plans), (g) threats of violence, and other misconduct by their managers or colleagues. In past years, some of those investigations found that the complaints were fully justified; other times, it was concluded that there was no basis for the complaint. The reasons given for not finding a basis for the complaint were often shared, and included (i) a misunderstanding of what was said or done, (ii) the alleged “offense” was only a very minor transgression, and (ii) the alleged “offense” may have taken place, but it was done in error, that is, without wrongful intention.

Increasingly, however, employers’ investigators – whether Human Resources, in-house Legal Staff, Employee Relations, or external investigators, such as law firms – never, ever seem to find any wrongdoing. It’s as if we now live and work in a “world of angels.”

That is because “investigators” are almost always tasked not with determining the truth, but rather with three specific objectives, namely, to:

    1. Gauge Risk: To gauge the amount of risk posed by the complaining employee and his or her complaint, to both senior management, personally, and the organization or company;

    2. Diminish Risk: To frustrate the employee’s efforts to exercise his or her legal rights, determine the truth, protect themselves, and hold the “guilty” persons accountable for their wrongdoing, misconduct or negligence; and

    3. Divert Accountability: To ensure that no one – and most of all members of senior management – are not held accountable for wrongdoing, what we call brought into the “zone of accountability.” Said a bit differently, making sure that “the buck” does not stop on anyone’s desk.

And, it is close to never these days that investigators are willing to share the reasons “nothing wrong was found,” because that, itself, would raise a risk. This is so even when they are presented with such strong evidence of wrongdoing as, for examples, (a) incriminating emails, (b) damaging documents, (c) credible witnesses, (d) damning circumstances, and even (e) admissions of wrongdoing.

Sound a bit paranoid? Well, consider that Wells Fargo Bank internal and external investigators “investigated” internal wrongdoing for five years and fired over 5,000 of their branch personnel for opening up non-existent accounts, but found not a single thing wrong, in error, or even questionable about the conduct of senior management who both (a) directed, coordinated and collected bonuses of tens of millions of dollars as a result, and (b) were not even criticized, until Congress had open hearings about it and exposed this gross dishonesty and rank hypocrisy.

The ultimate issue is this: “Who is investigating the investigators?” The “secret” to truly resolving this dilemma is to make “someone in authority” accountable for what has taken place, and that “someone in authority” is almost always your employer’s senior-most management. When they are brought into the “Zone of Accountability,” you have significantly more leverage, which can be put to significantly better effect.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: These are the several steps you should consider taking in order to get past, over and beyond such “blindness to wrongdoing” on the part of “investigators” of any complaint you file at work:
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New Manager? – Big Risks Ahead! Eight Signs to Watch Out For

Published on April 19th, 2017 by Alan L. Sklover

 
“The paranoid person is never entirely mistaken.”

– Sigmund Freud

ACTUAL CASE HISTORIES: Quite frankly, there are so many actual case histories of “New Manager Risk” that I could write an entire book on the subject. A large part of my law practice over these past 35 years has been devoted to severance, and I have identified five or six situations where we can almost expect our client to lose his or her job. Putting aside for the moment the “large-scale downsizing” category, the “New Manager” category is one of the most common “one-off,” or individual, job loss situations.

I often describe “New Manager Risk” this way: (1) new captain takes over the ship, (2) new captain is eager to show how much improvement she can bring about, (3) he thinks his best path to improvement is the hiring of a “new crew,” (4) she thinks that people she has known from other teams she has worked with will be very loyal, as well, and (5) one by one, the “old crew” are convinced, coaxed or coerced to “walk the plank.”

Sound familiar? I’d be surprised if it didn’t.

While I am confident everyone has seen or experienced this very scenario, I am absolutely certain that everyone will, sooner or later, come across it, themselves. Hopefully, when it happens, it will not happen to you.

LESSON TO LEARN: The lesson to learn here is quite simple: if you are assigned to a new manager, or a new manager is assigned to you, you need to be at least a touch extra vigilant, and consider taking extra steps to do all you can to keep your job. So, the first step is enhanced vigilance, the subject of this newsletter.

***Note that in coming weeks, we will write another newsletter about steps you can take to counteract “New Manager Risk” in order to keep your job. It will be entitled “New Manager? – Addressing the New Risks.” In the meantime, consider what events and circumstances you should look out for, as explained below.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are eight things you can be on the lookout for if either you are assigned to a new manager, or a new manager is assigned to you:
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Should I Report THIS to HR? – 11 Pro’s and Con’s

Published on October 18th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“The pessimist is disappointed by the direction of the wind.
The optimist is certain it will change.
The realist adjusts the sails.”

– Unknown

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: This really happened to me on the first day of my second job as an associate attorney:

I was wearing a new suit and a favorite tie that day, but because it was warm and my shirt collar was a bit tight, I undid my top shirt button and pushed my tie up to keep my collar near-closed.

A meeting had been called by the firm’s senior partner to introduce me and two other new attorneys to the legal staff. There were perhaps thirty attorneys sitting in a large conference room. I had been interviewed by the senior partner six weeks earlier, and he had been quite gracious, warm and engaging. He told me something like “Alan, you are clearly the person we want and need for this job.”

When the senior partner arrived, he sat at the head of the large, shiny, wooden conference room table, and began the meeting. Each of the three of us who were on our first day were asked to come forward to be introduced. When I was called, I stood up, walked to the head of the conference room table, stood next to the senior partner, and smiled.

Without saying a word the senior partner moved closes to me, grabbed my neck with his right hand, buttoned my collar with one hand – scraping it deeply as he did – and said, “We button our top buttons here.” As he did so, one of his finger nails scratched my neck quite deeply. He then went on to introduce me. The rest of the day I worked with several small blood stains on my collar and tie. I decided then and there, on that first day, to seek another job at another firm, which I secured about a month later.

Should I have gone to HR to complain? I didn’t do so, thinking only to myself, “Just find a new job and get the heck out of here,” which is what I did within six weeks or so. Though it was many years ago, and standards of conduct have changed, even then it was an unusual departure from commonly recognized standards of acceptable workplace conduct. At least I think so.

LESSON TO LEARN: So many people come to me after an “unusual event” or “bad treatment” at work with the question, “Should I report this to Human Resources?” It is always a hard call to make. Why? Because there are always so many significant “pro’s and con’s” in doing so, or not doing so.

In a perfect world, any kind of misconduct should be reported to those whose job it is to deal with such issues. But, we don’t live in a perfect world. No matter what anyone tells you, what you say to your Human Resources representative will be shared with others, quite possibly the person whose misconduct you are reporting, or his/her managers, or even friends. Though retaliation in the workplace is almost always prohibited by company policies, and often by the law, retaliation in one form or another is so common that you can almost count on it rearing its ugly head in one form or another.

Pro’s: On the one hand, if you report misconduct to Human Resources, there is a good chance the misconduct will be halted, at least in the short term. Chances are pretty good that, at the least, a warning will be given to the person in question, formal or informal. Doing so also gives you certain legal rights, and future credibility if needed in the future. No one can ever say “If it was such a problem, why didn’t you report it?”

Reporting misconduct to Human Resources gives HR the legal obligation to at least look into the report. And, if the misconduct is repeated or gets worse, your employer will have legal liability to you, which they would not have if you failed to make a report. I can’t tell you how many times I have told clients: “It would have been helpful if you had objected to this, or even reported it, in an email.”

Con’s: On the other hand, if you report an incident to Human Resources, the fact that you did so will undoubtedly become known to the person whose conduct you reported or complained of, because Human Resources must communicate with them as part of its investigation. Never, ever, ever think that you can say to Human Resources, “I am reporting this to you, but I want you to keep it confidential.” That is like telling the police the name of a person who you know committed a robbery, and asking them to promise not to speak with that person.

Additionally, reporting an event of misconduct can pour cold water on an otherwise productive relation, either with the person who engaged in misconduct, and perhaps, too, his or her friends. And, too, if someone makes a lot of complaints to Human Resources, their complaints start to lose credibility after a while. Those viewed to be “constant complainers” generally don’t go far or last long.

Why’s and Why Not’s: It is sad, but undeniable: filing a report, complaint or objection with Human Resources can be a risky thing to do. Should it be? Never. But it can be, that is for sure. And doing so when not truly needed may diminish your ability to do so in another circumstance when it is truly needed. Would you believe a complaint from an employee if he or she made a new complaint, about a new person, each and every day, for a year? Of course not. Judicious use of your ability to go to HR is a must.

One thing must be borne in mind: Human Resources representatives are NOT to be presumed to be “on your side.” Their very job description is clear that they are always “on management’s side,” which might or might not be, depending on the facts and circumstances, “on your side,” too. Human Resources representatives are surely not your “friend,” or your mom, or your lawyer, or any kind of “company police officer.” Their job is not to bring about fairness or to protect employees but, as it says in their title, to “manage human resources.”

So, there are “pro’s and “con’s” in both reporting and not reporting an incident to HR.

The truly best answer to the question “Should I report this to HR?” is “Maybe, depending on the outcome of a careful and thoughtful consideration and weighing of the “pro’s and con’s” with a strong emphasis on the word “careful.”

In reading this newsletter, please bear in mind that nothing at all in this newsletter is meant to suggest that you should not take steps that are needed to protect yourself, or that you should ignore any company requirements that you look the other way when you observe impropriety. Rather, we seek to help you make the best decision regarding whether or not to report, object or complain.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are eleven considerations to weigh before deciding your own course of action if an incident of misconduct or impropriety takes place either toward you, or in some way involving you, at work:
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Self-Help Action Plan 1: “Totally Frazzled from Work? Here’s What You Can Do”

Published on December 9th, 2015 by Alan L. Sklover

New!!

SkloverWorkingWisdom™ – Self-Help Action Plan 1

“Totally Frazzled from Work?
Here’s What You Can Do”

A Plan for Addressing Extreme Exhaustion
and Possible Need for Time Off

© 2015 Alan L. Sklover


Employees often report that their job duties – and the way they are being treated at work – have been made them feel exhausted, drained, frustrated, bullied, confused and near debilitated. They report feeling hopeless, anxious, depressed, and unable to work, sleep, eat or think straight. If this describes you, you probably need to do something about it. It is for people in this situation that we have prepared this Self-Help Plan of Action 1, entitled “Totally Frazzled from Work? Here’s What You Can Do.”


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Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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