Recently, I was working with a woman (who I will call Karen). She asked me to assist her with a situation regarding a man that she had worked with for years. He was recently promoted to director of a division and Karen was given the position of deputy director.
She contacted me and wanted assistance on how to cope with the situation, as he had become a “tyrant” in the months following his promotion. Having successfully helped people address a variety of workplace performance issues, I knew that I was up for the challenge.
Karen explained that he yells at staff, curses when he communicates, and challenges staff to explain to him “what they do all day.” Karen said that most of the employees are excellent workers who have been employed at the organization for many years. She shared that he likes to tell the staff that he is searching online job sites to “try and get people into the organization who can really do great things.” This leaves the staff fearful and worried about their job security, despite years of loyal service and favorable performance reviews.
Karen said that her boss got very angry at her recently over something minor. He started yelling and cursing at her, which he had reportedly never done. She told him that she was ending the conversation and leaving his office. He yelled some more and demanded that she return. She was firm with him and said that she’d come back when she was ready.
She eventually returned to her boss’s office and he was much calmer. “He didn’t apologize, but he was able to talk with me in a respectful tone,” Karen explained. She shared that she has talked to him several times, but that his behavior hasn’t changed at all. She said that the other staff look to her to manage him, given that she is deputy director of the division and has known him for so long.
Karen and I spend time discussing how to manage the stress both for herself and the other employees in the department. We also discussed documentation of date, time, place, and the content of the incidents. I explained that, Karen and the other employees in the department should document carefully and work collectively to make a case that this director should be counseled by someone who is part of the executive branch.
Karen wanted to know what to do if none of those steps work. I told her that it was important to go through the process outlined above and that we would determine what to do next, if nothing changed with this director.
Kay Gimmestad, LCSW-C is a business coach and clinician in New York City with 20 years of experience working in the profit and not for profit sectors of Human Resources, Health and Human Services. She has built a reputation for being highly skilled in facilitating behavior change while working with employees, both individually and in groups, on matters relating to performance management, substance abuse, crisis intervention, and stress/wellness.