Bullying bosses are common but how about a hostile, abusive employee? Barbara has a bad attitude: she's difficult, hypersensitive and harasses co-workers and even her supervisor. If anyone disagrees with her or gives her feedback, she gets hurt feelings, claims she's a victim of harassment and pitches a temper tantrum. She cries, yells, stomps off to her office and slams the door. She fumes and gives the loud silent treatment. The insensitive offender must grovel in public in order to be forgiven. Her clique also badmouths the perpetrator. Barbara has done this for years. The result: a hostile workplace; low morale and poor productivity; high sick leave, absenteeism and 33% turnover per year. Barbara's bullying sets the tone in the office. Some people suck up to her by being nasty to people she doesn't like. Other people gossip, backstab and become grumpy. Second-guessing, mind-reading and vendettas spread. No one wants to come to work. Everyone wastes time looking over their shoulders and focusing on the melodrama and tension Barbara causes. It's a workplace soap opera.
Claire has been a conflict avoidant manager for 20 years. She wants to be liked. She has explained the problem to Barbara. She's tried to improve Barbara's bad attitude and to educate her on the effects of her abusive behavior. But Barbara feels righteous. She feels wronged, abused and harassed. She claims that she's a victim. She turns her attacks on Claire for being negative and critical, and lowering her morale.
Do you think Claire simply needs to explain things better to Barbara? What skills do you think Claire needs?
Suppose you were Claire's new manager. What would you do with Claire and Barbara?
Since Claire's conflict avoidance, and Barbara and her clique were entrenched, it took months of coaching and consulting implementation to turn the department around. But by the next year, they were winning awards for team performance and customer service.