Hi Aunty B,
My husband and I opened an accounting business about four years ago. About four months ago, we partnered with an individual who we knew as a friend for a couple years and started a new firm together.
My husband and the new business partner are CPAs. Since I am not a CPA, I cannot be considered as a partner or own the business. Before we started our first day together, the new partner said he thinks of me like one of the owners and the leader.
My professional role is the manager, marketer and visionary. I planted the firm and put it together. I was happy to put in a lot of long hard hours with no pay to get it started up because I felt it was for my husband and a friend.
When we opened our doors with the new business partner, I was paid only $10 an hour; or $5 an hour being his portion. We all realise it is low considering my professional background (12 years of senior management experience and soon to have an MBA) but it was what the new partner could afford and I was alright with it since I thought it was just temporary and he is a friend (I made $50 an hour with other jobs).
Shortly after, my husband and I realised the partner did very little work in bringing value to the firm and is unreliable. We have reviewed some of his work and had to spend more time than expected correcting it. He seems incompetent in many areas or does things half way instead of finishing it; and he always have some excuse for not knowing or doing something correctly. Nevertheless, we treated him nicely and helped with the situation without complaining.
About a couple months into the business, he started becoming really difficult to work with. He has gone on a power trips; being rude, demeaning, yelling and being disrespectful to me when my husband is not in the office (although he denies it and uses the excuse that he speaks to his wife and children like this all the time). When I repeatedly told him he does not have to yell, get angry and be disrespectful, he said, “If you think I am yelling and being disrespectful, then that is your problem!”
In addition, as a manager and marketer, I have to do some work outside of the office to get more business to grow and maintain the needs of the firm. The partner said he won’t pay me for work done outside of the office, only work done physically inside the office. He scolded that my role is “his definition” of a manager, which is to answer his phone calls, serve him and his clients beverages, and assist him in doing his data entry work.
He is reluctant to understand that is not what a manager does. I help out all the time answering his phone calls etc, but he wants me to serve his personal work needs on a regular basis. He is reluctant to comprehend this even though he knows I have worked as a senior manager most of my career life and I teach college management part-time.
We have two office assistants that help him out with the duties he mentioned but he is fixated on me doing them as well. Regardless, I have to meet some potential clients outside of the office and perform marketing work in order to help the firm grow.
Therefore, he has not paid me for several weeks of work done outside of the office. I did not even get paid for the big open house event that I solely put together that took several overtime hours during weekends to prepare and hold. One day he came into my office and left a bunch of his work he wanted me to do. I asked him when he wanted it done and he replied, “Today, I want you to do it today!”
He asked me what work I needed to do today. I always make a list of everything I need to do daily so I showed him my list of 15 to 20 items. He said, “You are my employee, I am your employer! You do what I want!” He then told me to come over to his office so he can show me all the work he needed to do. I thought, isn’t this kind of childish? So I asked him why he felt the need to show this to me since I was aware that we all have a lot of work to do. He became frustrated and angry that I would even ask him that question and starting yelling things that did not make sense like, “I need money!”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. He has had several rants and emotional episodes and caused a lot of stress for both me and my husband. Luckily, my husband and I have not signed any legal forms to make this partnership official. The only item we signed together was for the responsibility to pay the office rent for three years.
We have mentioned to him the idea of splitting up and offered to reimburse him for the money he has spent on equipment, software and such. He can keep all the clients he handles and 100% of the revenue from them, and continue to share the office space since we have to pay for it anyway.
He replied that he did not want that to happen but if that was the case, he would want me to return all the money he has paid me thus far as an employee. To me, that is ludicrous but this is the kind of distorted mindset I have been dealing with. However, he said he is not willing to split up anyway.
I don’t think we are obligated to continue having him as a partner or see any reason that we should stay. I am really tired of his abuse. It may be better to get out early while we can.
Please tell me what you think and what you think our next step should be. I am in great need of your advice and need to make a decision very soon. We are supposed to have a staff meeting in a couple days.
What do I think? I think you are a victim. So first I am going to share with you what you do when a bully yells at you in the workplace, because obviously you have no idea.
The first time anyone yells at you, you give him the Aunty B. What is the Aunty B, you ask? It is the treatment for bullies that I have perfected over many years working in the publishing industry, which I can assure you is jam packed with them.
I can’t tell you how many times I have used this tactic and it has worked EVERY time.
Here is the Aunty B guide to bullies:
- When Bully yells, you give him a filthy look, lower your voice and very softly but with a steely look (practice this in the mirror) tell him that you will resume the discussion when he has stopped yelling.
- You walk off.
- Wait a few hours. Then you pounce. Watch for the signs. Maybe he is eating lunch, flicking through the newspaper, or doing up his zip up on the way back from the toilet. You strike. Wait until he is seated. Then quickly approach his desk, slap your hands down flat on his desk and at the same time lean towards him in a menacing manner. Then you yell in his face: “Don’t you ever talk to me like that again.”
- He will lean back in shock. You will then spit out in a fury some sentences and make sure you include the words bully and unprofessional several times. It doesn’t matter what you say because the Bully will be in shock but what will register in his reptilian brain are the words “bully”, “unprofessional” and “sue” – the last of which you never said but he will know where it might go.
- After a 30 second tirade, stop. Lean back and take a deep breath and then appear calm. Sit down and then tell him that you hope that is the end of it and you expect to go on working together in a “professional” way. Then raise the matter that prompted the outburst, take control and tell him what you think.
Now Millie to do this you must have a resolution in your heart that goes like this: “No one ever bullies me, ever.” This is your new mantra. So repeat it after me. “No one ever bullies me, ever.”
And guess what? If you believe this and do the Aunty B every time it happens, no one will ever bully you again.
So that leads me back to you. You have let the bully’s behaviour escalate, which gives the bully more power. Instead of seeing his behaviour objectively early on and realising you were dealing with a bully, you have cowered, which has excited the bully even further.
Now you are responding to every single action, mulling over the action and writing very long emails when you could have written me a single line. “I have the business partner from hell. Should I see a lawyer today or tomorrow?”
A lawyer will deal with this simply and easily. He will quickly do what you have not been able to do; intimidate the bully. You see all bullies are snivelling cowards underneath, and most lawyers have a bullying component to their personalities that they can draw on at will.
But don’t even think of sharing office space or anything else with The BULLY. Your sole aim is to get rid of him from your life as soon as possible.
Your Aunty B.