Guide To Kicking B*tt In The Workplace

In the struggle to combat workplace bullying it’s important to admit that we worker bees aren’t always perfect.  Weak managers can quickly lose the respect of their team only to watch them spiral hopelessly out of control and even mob up on their leader.   In the interesting Businessweek article below,  Jeff Schmitt tells bosses how to “kick ass” without being psychologically abusive:

A guide to reading your employees the riot act: Time to lay down the law? Some points to consider before you do

[Article by Jeff Schmitt, 10/13/2011 Bloomberg Businessweek/ msnbc.com]

“If I go down, you’re all going down with me.”

Our manager had finally crossed the line with this comment. She had delivered fire-and-brimstone speeches before. But this was different. Suddenly, she wasn’t Vince Lombardi Light, looking to get back to basics. Instead she had degenerated into a narcissistic despot who’d stoop to using us as human shields. She was passing the buck and covering herself. She may have considered it motivation. We saw it as a meltdown.

At some point, every manager must unload a kick-in-the-ass speech. Even the best teams get cocky and careless; they forget what’s important and what got them there. But here’s a reality check: If you have to deliver “The Speech,” you’re probably failing as a manager. Before you let loose with the grand oration, maybe you need a wake-up call. Sure, there’s truth in the adage about tearing people down to build them back up. But getting your team back on track requires more than threats and cursing. Want to really get their attention? Read the following recommendations.

1. Consider if The Speech is merited
Sure, you’re disappointed with performance. Before you go Knute Rockne, consider if the situation warrants an explosion … or coaching. Are you nearing a tipping point where financials or expectations dictate an intervention? Is there a broader motif, such as slow service, that could spill into critical areas such ascustomer retention? Should this diatribe be public and include everyone or could it be handled privately with certain members? Most important, what do you want to achieve? Bottom line: Weigh the offense against your options and the desired response.

2. Come with a plan
You’re probably tempted to graphically challenge their commitment and competence. But you’ll only look clumsy if you ad-lib The Speech. You want your team squirming, stomachs sinking, minds racing. That requires strategy: a bolo-punch opening, unassailable arguments, and a call to action that echoes for weeks. Even more, it demands rehearsing to get tone, pace, posture, and gestures just right. Fact is, you only get one or two speeches before your team tunes you out. Make this one count.

3. Don’t fly off the handle
A loose cannon. That’s how you’ll be labeled if you can’t control your emotions. They’ll snicker and lampoon you to everyone within earshot. Your anger, however genuine, must be calibrated for effect. Before you venture into the lion’s den, step back, breathe, and relax. Remember, an icy resolve often commands more attention than a rant. A pause can be as lethal as a pejorative.

4. Prep them
Surprise! Surprise! No, your speech shouldn’t come as a shock. In fact, it should hark back to previous fireside chats, where you focused on listening and understanding. Back then, you expected that your coaching would establish how important the task at hand was. But the time for such niceties has passed. A hands-on approach is needed. They can’t say they didn’t see it coming.

5. Cite specific examples
The Speech is no time for generalizations. Be specific: What actions and underlying sentiments are creating tensions and why are they unproductive and inappropriate? How has it affected customers and other departments? Of course, outline how these shenanigans have hit the radar of those above you — and what consequences will follow if they continue.

6. Keep it short
Your job is to shake them up and leave a lasting impression. The less said, the better. Let their imaginations run wild; it’ll keep your message on top. Don’t go off on tangents or pile on, either. It will only dilute your message. Cut quickly and deeply, then move on.

7. Set expectations
You’ve identified the problem. Now what? Start by leaving no ambiguity with the takeaways. Specify exactly what you expect, along with when and how. Don’t forget to spell out the repercussions for failing to meet these expectations. Hammer home that the time for second chances has long passed.

8. Monitor your own behavior
Their eyes will probably glaze over during your speech. Why? They’ve been mirroring your behavior. Is it any wonder you haven’t been getting through? Address it in your speech. Accept some blame and summarize how you’ll change. Then hold yourself as accountable as you hold your team for the result.

9. Rebuild bridges
You go to battle with the people you have, not necessarily the ones you want. Afterward, your team will make excuses and entertain mutiny. That’s why you need to quickly reel them back. Reach out, one by one, to tutor, praise, and motivate. You’ve shared what needed to be said. Now convey through action that there are no hard feelings. Don’t let them confuse you with the message.

10. Follow up
You’ve thrown down the gauntlet. But the weeks following The Speech will ultimately determine its success. That’s why you need to stay on the issue. Address it in interactions and meetings and constantly collect results. And when the time is right, celebrate. You may have devised the plan, but your team will ultimately win the battle.

Should Steve Jobs “management style” continue?

Here’s a dilemma for those of us concerned about workplace bullies: Steve Jobs.  One of the arguments for ‘zero tolerance’ and proposed legislation is that no one is irreplaceable.   The public response to Jobs’ death heralding him as this generation’s Edison also praised him for his ability to utilize team work and it’s hard to imagine anyone waiting in the wings who could have had such a global impact.  But, stories about his true ‘management style ‘ have been public for years.  So the real question is, does Steve Jobs fall under the definition of a workplace bully?   Would legislation, like the bill proposed by the Workplace Bullying Institute currently pending in several States, have crippled Jobs’ ability to be a visionary of historic proportions?  How do we take academic and legislative definitions and apply them to real workplace relationships?  These are questions that all of us involved in lobbying for legislation need to wrestle with.

“Apple CEO Steve Jobs is known for his obsessive attention to detail and iron-fisted management style. He is often accused of making his subordinates cry and firing employees arbitrarily. But Jobs’ subordinates remain loyal. Several deputies–even those who have left the company–say they’ve never done better work. As one Apple employee told journalist John Martellaro, “His autocracy is balanced by his famous charisma–he can make the task of designing a power supply feel like a mission from God.” [Forbes 2009 ]

This week a New York Times article, “Defending Life’s Work With Words of a Tyrant,” begins with a story of grade school bullying.  If you do a Google search on the term “workplace-bullying” you’ll find most reporters LOVE to start with phrases like: bullying moves out of the playground and into the board room.  The New York Times is no exception:

The first time Steve Jobs ever bullied anyone was in the third grade. He and some pals “basically destroyed” the teacher, he once said.

For the next half-century, Mr. Jobs never let up. He chewed out subordinates and partners who failed to deliver, trashed competitors who did not measure up and told know-it-all pundits to take a hike. He had a vision of greatness that he wielded to reshape the computer, telephone and entertainment industries, and he would brook no compromise.

Maybe it is only the despair people feel about the stagnating American economy, but the announcement of the death of the Apple co-founder Wednesday seemed to mark the end of something: in an era of limits, Mr. Jobs was the last great tyrant.

Why do employees put up with it?

Most definitions of workplace bullying refer to a repeated pattern that includes actions like verbal abuse and humiliation that take place over time.  But, while the NYTimes article seems to confirm this pattern, why do employees put up with it? And more importantly, if they do buy in, is it still fair to call it bullying?

There are numerous articles that link narcissism to bully bosses.   Back in 2006, Forbes noted how difficult it was to work for visionary CEOs like Jobs in an article titled, The Narcissistic CEO.

The desire to change the system is a defining element of narcissism. And while it can be inspirational to work for someone like that, interacting with a narcissist CEO can be torture. Don’t expect praise. Get used to hearing the word “I.” And be able to take lots of harshly worded criticism.

Jobs talked openly with Forbes  about his management style and the work culture he was creating:

“When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else.”

A players hire A+ players

Surveys and workplace bullying pundits say that bosses bully because they have low self-esteem and feel inferior to their employees.   But, according to Guy Kawaski, Jobs certainly didn’t fall into this category:

Actually, Steve believed that A players hire A players—that is people who are as good as they are. I refined this slightly—my theory is that A players hire people even better than themselves. It’s clear, though, that B players hire C players so they can feel superior to them, and C players hire D players. If you start hiring B players, expect what Steve called “the bozo explosion” to happen in your organization.

Jobs own take on his demanding reputation:

“My job is to not be easy on people. My job is to make them better. My job is to pull things together from different parts of the company and clear the ways and get the resources for the key projects. And to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better, coming up with more aggressive visions of how it could be.” [CNN]

Should this ‘Leadership Legacy’ really continue?

Hopefully Jobs replacement will have greater empathy towards employees both here and abroad.  Considering the pride Jobs reportedly took in controlling each detail of the product he created, his apparent disregard toward the suicides and horrendous working conditions in factories in China that create the iPhone is deeply disturbing.  Back in 2009 the Harvard Business Review probably summed up his legacy as a leader best:

…Humility is not part of the Steve Jobs leadership repertoire — and that’s worked out fine for him. But humility has become a crucial part of the job description for leaders who aren’t Steve Jobs. So marvel at his products, applaud his feel for design, wonder at his capacity to cast such a large shadow over so many industries — and, by all means, pray for his speedy recovery and long health.  But don’t think you’ll do better as a leader by acting more like Apple’s leader. Trust the art, not the artist. [Harvard Business Review 2009]

RIP Steve Jobs!

This article was written on a MAC and published to iPads & iPhones everywhere.  

Workplace Bullying Happens in HR Too!

Video testimony of a woman who says she left her job in Human Resources because her boss bullied her and her health deteriorated. She now regrets that prior to her own experience an employee had come to her for help but she didn’t understand how devastating workplace bullying can be.

Joint Commission, Nurses and Bullying

Yesterday I put out a request for input into the expansion and development for our website and what we should focus on and include.  A member of the nursing profession asked that we discuss nurses with seniority who bully younger nurses.  A few minutes later I came upon this article, DO NURSES STILL “EAT THEIR YOUNG, ”  written by Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN.  She argues that it’s no longer just newbies that are impacted and has gone so far as to encompass the entire hospital staff.

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Workplace Bullying is not a “silent epidemic” anymore…

I began working on a documentary about workplace bullying in 2007. At that time it was next to impossible to “pitch” my project because no one had a clue what I was talking about.  Since then things have definitely changed.  A simple google search of “workplace bullying” will bring up tons of hits.  Add to that “psychological harassment” “toxic workplace” “hostile workplace” and it’s obvious that we’ve finally made it to water cooler conversations.  The downside is that most of the coverage is shallow and simplistic and doesn’t really dig deeply into what we need to understand to really combat this issue proactively in our offices.   I’m currently developing a new website that will go beyond my current work at NoJobIsWorthThis.com    Feel free to leave a message here, on our Facebook group site, or shoot me an email if you have suggestions for what you’d like to see.  Lots more discussion about this to come…  [bullyinworkplace@yahoo.com]