Question:

Our CEO just hired a new operations manager.

To call “Paula” blunt is to sugar-coat what she does. She walks through the office dishing out insults “so that everyone knows what’s correct procedure and what isn’t.” This morning Paula stood over one of my co-workers and loudly proclaimed that “Jane” was doing a procedure exactly wrong and apparently had forgotten the guidelines laid down the prior week. She brags that this is “transparency.”

Paula’s actions humiliate my co-workers and embarrass me and others who watch it. None of us like it, but everyone else is too cowed to say anything. Paula suggests the rest of us announce each other’s mistakes too, so that we can all “learn.” Three of us are job searching.

I’d like to tell our CEO what’s going on, but he seems to like the flavor of her Kool-Aid, and I’m scared about what might happen if Paula retaliates. I need my job. I and don’t want to get fired before I find a new job.

Answer: 

Effective leaders and managers praise in public and discipline in private. What you describe appears to be a strategy for asserting dominance.

You’re right, however, to be cautious. When you take on an intimidator, they often attack back.

While it’s not fair, your best strategy may be to find a new job. If you stay, you’ll either want to confront Paula or you’ll feel sick to your stomach that you’re letting treat you and others with toxic humiliation.

In the meantime, document the worst instances you see by recording what you hear on your smartphone. You can then play them for your CEO either while you remain working in this company or after you leave.

If he hears for himself, the recording might inspire him to fix what’s going on. Even if he values straight-talk, what you describe goes beyond bluntness to attack therapy.

Alternatively, you can leave a copy of this article on his desk after you secure a new job.

Subscribing to the blog is easy

If you’d like to get 3 to 5 posts a week delivered to your inbox (and NO spam), just add your email address below. (I’ll never sell it.) I’m glad you’ve joined this vibrant blog. Thank you!

6 thoughts on “Operations Manager Rules By Intimidation

  1. Hard to say how the CEO would react. Perhaps this person did not show this behavior when he hired her, and he is good with what he thinks she is. However, bringing info to him about her behavior may or may not backfire depending on the kind of person he is. I would be worried not only about this operations manager retaliating but the CEO as well. I would just bail out and leave behind any evidence I have on the way out the door.

  2. It may be that the CEO hired Paula BECAUSE of her methods not in spite of them. She sounds like an ideal hachette woman and maybe that’s exactly what he wants. In which case, getting out now would be the most productive strategy, whether or not you reveal why you’re leaving to the CEO.

  3. This is a bad situation and your comments reflect and respect that. I agree, finding a new job is a good idea. Your ideas about recording the conversations when the “blunt” a**h*** socio&&& boss berates and humiliates workers and playing them for the CEO in your exit interview and leaving a copy of this article on his/her desk when you leave for that new job are good ones. Consequences need to happen for this kind of pathological bosses (and sometimes they are peer coworkers–they need consequences as well).

  4. Susan, thanks for your great comments on several posts. You always insightful things to say and I know that several of the blog guests, and I, appreciate them:)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.