At What Level of the Career Ladder do Some People Find it Acceptable to Treat People Like s***?
26th October 2011 by Rachel Willis
I’ve seen a man in his 40’s brought to tears by his boss, watched many Business Mangers shaking with panic and even witnessed an MD of a multinational company throw a plate full of food across a roomful of people in a feat of anger.
Unfortunately, I have found myself witnessing these scenes while working on Live Events and Conferences over the last 10 years or so and have often wondered at what level of the career ladder do some people find it acceptable to treat people like s***? It always amazes me how some “high level” people in business think it’s acceptable to treat colleagues and suppliers in this way, and what frustrates me even more is the fact that 99% of the time they get away with it! In my experience, the majority of these incidents occur with people they see as being “beneath” them and these people often struggle to find the courage or methods of challenging their bosses about their behaviour.
What is wrong with these people who make others feel so terrible at work? Were they the bully in the playground who have now taken this mentality into the workplace? Or, were they the bullied and now they have power they are determined to use (abuse) it?
Whatever it is, making other people in an organisation feel frightened or threatened in their place of work is a terrible side effect of bad boss behaviour. No matter the size or diversity of the organisation and its work, everyone is on the same team and I find it amazing how little team spirit is shown within some of the companies I have worked in over the last few years. I guess it might be something that is harder to maintain as a business grows, but so many large companies get it right, so it must be more to do with the personnel in these organisations.
I’m sure there are many reasons why some people behave as badly as they do, but one in particular springs to mind. These people (and I’m aware there are some amazing, wonderful, bosses out there, and I will mention them in another post) are surrounded by people who manage nearly every aspect of their daily lives. Their Business Manager keeps their businesses on track, the Communication Manager manages what they say and write, PA’s manage their diaries and book their transport and Drivers take them to wherever they need to be on request. On top of this they tend to be surrounded by an extended group of people who generally say ‘yes’ to their every word (normally through fear of being sacked or shouted at!). Most of the badly behaved leaders I have come across in corporate life have all of these people around them, but in my opinion are missing a “Reality Manager”.
I think some Bosses really, really need a Reality Manger. Someone who can quite clearly, without any repercussions, insults or thrown plates, say “NO”!
No, you can’t always have your own way, no you can’t get a C Class Mercedes to that meeting when the train station is a minute away, no you can’t turn up late to rehearsals, no, it’s not your god given right and no, you definitely can’t keep treating everyone like s***!
It’s easy for me to say these things as I work for my own company and don’t have to deal with a dreadful boss, but I’ve had my fair share of unpleasant experiences when it comes to being treated badly by those who deem themselves more important than me. Here’s how I’ve dealt with it in the past;
1. After receiving nothing but negative feedback during a technical rehearsal for a live show I turned to the boss and said ‘We’re all here, working late, for you. All these people are working hard for you. Now, you can either join this team or you can go it alone’ (Silence: the trick once you’ve delivered a line like this is to never speak next, ever, and let them make the first move!)
2. After being shouted at by a particularly angry client and feeling like they were imposing on my personal space, once they’d finished their tirade I simply took a big step back. Then I said ‘I’ll talk to you about this once you’ve calmed down and apologised.’ (Then I stood my ground and continued to look him in the eye. He felt immediately uncomfortable as he noticed the room of people watching and slowly began to back down.)
At the end of the day work is just work, it’s not life or death, and no one should dread it because they work for someone who treats them (and makes them feel) like s***! Life is about living and it’s definitely too short to spend the best years of your working life slaving away for someone who erodes your confidence and doesn’t recognise the great work you do for them and their organisation.
Some people will never be happy, ever! And that’s an affliction they have to live with.
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