By Rich Weissman
I was listening to a piece on the news recently and it mentioned bullying in school and the workplace. It is becoming more of a recognized issue in the workplace these days and I am beginning to see some requests from clients to have some sessions on workplace bullying. But, it got me to thinking about my situations in the workplace over the years and if I have ever seen bullying. I have. In fact, I was the victim of a boss who was a bully. It happened early in my manufacturing career, some 25 plus years ago.
Let’s call him Oscar, and note that I’ve changed his name for the purposes of this piece. He was actually the best friend of one of the best managers I’ve ever had at the company and had a reportedly stellar career in the military industrial complex. He came into a growing business in a building market to provide some structure and experience to a relatively young workforce. But instead of working with them he maintained a hierarchy of command with several lieutenants who took on his persona. A collegial culture was being ripped apart, all because of Oscar.
He was a political beast who threatened those around him, unless you worked for his past employer and then you were given immunity. In fact, you were promoted to be in his inner circle, a circle who paraded about with am empowered (cocky, really) attitude that belittled anyone who was not part of Oscar’s club. “I’ll tell Oscar” was a familiar game if a supplier was late, there was a quality issue, or you needed to take a day off. And when Oscar found out he would walk into your office and stare you down. He was intimidating and knew it and his power radiated out though his gang. Oscar enjoyed getting into your head.
Up to Oscar’s addition to the management team, I had enjoyed a solid career at the company. It quickly became evident that I was not a favorite of Oscar’s and he relieved me of my management responsibilities. I was put into a ‘special projects’ role of little consequence. When I complained to the senior manager, Oscar’s friend and really a great boss, he spoke with Oscar. The result of that meeting was Oscar screaming at me and demanding my resignation, knowing that I had two babies at home. The big boss intervened but the damage had been done. I quickly found a job outside of the company.
A year later Oscar was fired and his gang moved on. The damage had been done and the company lost some decent people who were either forced out or did not want to put up with the drama. Oscar also alienated many suppliers and that was also damaging to the company. He was brought in to manage growth and he damaged the company. He was a culture killer.
But all was not lost. I learned some very valuable lessons on how to treat people. So Oscar, you actually did provide some value to me….and those I’ve managed through the years. Call me the anti-Oscar.
Endicott College Assistant Professor Rich Weissman teaches management courses for the School of Business and the Van Loan Graduate School. He is also the director of corporate education, which includes the Center for Leadership, Endicott’s management development institute. He is vice chair of the planning committee and also serves on the technology committee and the Institution Review Board. A practitioner turned educator, Weissman has more than 25 years of experience in all facets of procurement and supply chain management. He has held positions with large business units of Fortune 500 companies, medium-sized contract manufacturing companies, small venture-backed Internet startup firms, and third-party procurement, consulting and strategic sourcing firms.
Rich holds an M.S. in Management from Lesley University and a B.A. in Economics from Rutgers University. He is past president of the Purchasing Management Association of Boston and a recipient of the Harry J. Graham Memorial Award, the highest honor bestowed by the association.
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