Bad Behavior by a Manager Can Illuminate Your Future Path

When your new manager shows his true side, it can be a gift

This article appears in print in the November 2019 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

Q: I’ve been working at a company for many years. Our new chief executive officer has implemented a lot of changes, and one of them is specifically in my area. I felt he was making a huge mistake on a particular change and told him. He got mad and sent an email to the entire team about me and my opinions that weren’t flattering at all. What should I do?

Dear Humiliated:
Sometimes new leaders bring a lot of ego with them when they are hired to do a specific job, especially if they were brought in to implement changes that you may not be privy to. I’m not saying your CEO has an out-of-control ego, or that he doesn’t take feedback well (or maybe I am) but I can’t imagine what compelled him to fire off an email to the entire team talking about you specifically. I can only assume that he was asked to bring his expertise to the role and decided to send a message to everyone to get in the boat.

Two things come to mind. One is that you likely feel like you deserve an apology for the public flogging. I agree. He was wrong. The other is that you have been there a long time, and the changes he wants to make and the way he intends to lead the team don’t work for you. If it was an honest error of judgment, he should come to that conclusion and offer you an apology. Most of us have an inner voice and know when we’ve stepped across a line. If he doesn’t, then he is being transparent about who he really is, and that can be a gift. As the saying goes, “A duck is a duck.” If you don’t know what that means, you can look up “Duck Test” on the internet. Now you get to take the next step and decide if you want to join in or get out of the boat.

Q: A fellow co-worker watches everyone in our office to see if we are following work rules to a tee. He isolates himself in his car until it is time to clock in or sits by himself. He only talks to one person and complains about the rest of us. He frequently calls the corporate hotline instead of discussing his issues with our local manager. He is rude and backbiting. Everyone is very cordial with each other and we all tip toe around Mr. Perfect. How do I handle a person like this?

Dear Tip Toeing:
He does not sound perfect to me. A rude or negative person on the team who is watching you and prone to escalation needs to be actively managed. I assume you and your co-workers are not only cordial, but professional and follow company policies, which should remove you from the equation. It doesn’t sound like your manager is involved. Typically, if a hotline is used, you would see management or HR involved and investigating his complaints, which would flush out the issues.

I would call the hotline and express your concerns. If you find the hotline is simply a place to log complaints, but the company doesn’t do anything about them, you have a different problem. But if you feel supported and start to see them engaged, this should resolve itself one way or another. Not only should his behavior, which is causing you and others to tiptoe around him, be addressed by management, but you should not have a co-worker watching you and making you feel uncomfortable. Steer clear and keep focused on your job. Showing up on time and doing good work without causing or adding to existing drama is all you can control. 

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