Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

Bullying boss has to be put in his place

The Life: A new boss who intimidates his staff by shouting at them publicly needs to be told where the line is drawn.

I have a new boss at work who thinks the only way to handle the staff is to shout at them. He will take the staff member into the glass office and shout for up to half an hour at a time in full view of the rest of the office. This happens on a daily basis and is quite unsettling for people who have worked in the company for several years. As his deputy, I feel it is my duty to confront the issue, but should I tackle it? EC, Dubai

Dear EC, I would like to know which "emotional dictionary" you use? The use of the word "unsettling" in the same sentence as "shouting at someone for half an hour in front of others" (glass wall or no glass wall) does not compute to me. Personally, I would use the words "rude, arrogant and downright insensitive", and, oh, maybe even "control freak".

We are all human, both managers and employees, and hence we will all make mistakes - yes, shocking but true, even managers make mistakes. With the term "human" comes other responsibilities such as human rights, a level of respect for self and others and common courtesy, none of which are being displayed here.

While you are his deputy, you are also the leader of those poor souls who are sitting targets, awaiting their turn in the hot seat - perhaps even you see yourself there soon. Those people depend on you and are watching to see your response - do remember they won't continue to care about what you know if they feel you don't care.

If you are in a multilayered organisation with someone above this new boss, why not use that resource to assist with this situation. If not, the bad news is that you are on your own here, and need to take a choice by asking questions such as these:

What are the priorities for this work environment, past or future?

How does this new manager's behaviour reinforce these priorities?

If this behaviour is accepted and plays a role in reinforcing fear and shame, your first choice is whether you want to be a part of that yourself. If this behaviour is not acceptable as it is negatively affecting the environment and performance levels, then it's time to act - and I say that with a caveat.

This guy is clearly disconnected, attempting to transfer his insecurities and fears on to others. This is not what I would call a safe environment to attempt a rational conversation. Addressing this guy will bring a certain amount of risk with it, and almost anything may happen. A safe environment will ensure any interaction will be at the very least taken on board, even if differences of opinions exist.

When and if choosing to act, I would firstly attempt to see the world through his eyes. Perhaps he has no idea of his effect on the office as he works in such control and isolation, and any insight into his world would help to mould my response to him. He's certainly one that needs a customised approach. By not acting, I would unfortunately be communicating loudly that this behaviour is acceptable.

Do you feel like you are between a rock and a hard place right now? I would, but remember, when the going gets tough, all we have left is our values. When we cease to serve them, we cease to serve ourselves. How much do you deserve this in your life?

The real question remains: What price do you place on this risk - your health, your reputation and your dignity?

Doctor's prescription

No one can take away your dignity unless you allow it.


Debbie Nicol, the managing director of the Dubai-based business en motion, is a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture. Email her at debbie.nicol@businessenmotion.com for the Workplace Doctor's advice on your challenges, whether as an employee, a manager or a colleague

Updated: May 22, 2013 04:00 AM



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