Dear Aunty B,
I employ a manager who has a very forceful personality. If a staff member gets on the wrong side of her, she acts very coolly to that person. She has high expectations and can get quite critical of people’s weaknesses.
My concern is that one particular staff member has resigned and claimed that the manager is a bully. She says she was left out of meetings, left off group emails and frozen out. She says the final straw was a lunch where she was the only member of her team that was not invited to go.
She is not taking any action, but says I should have noticed what was going on. She claims it was a personality clash. The manager says she was trying to get the woman to perform better.
I concede that the manager can be a bit of a bitch. However most of the staff love her as she is very clever, inspiring, and has a wicked sense of humor.
But does that mean she is a bully?
I am afraid your manager is a bitch and a bully. She is certainly not behaving in a professional manner and you should jump in now before she does any more damage.
People who manage using these techniques do long term damage to the fabric of your workforce. It is a passive aggressive type of managing that avoids direct contact. Often these people have been bullied themselves and are cowardly by nature – even though it doesn’t appear so.
Psychologists who deal with workplace stress point out to me that often it is women who do the “freeze-out” type of bullying. Men tend to bully in a different way through being aggressive and inappropriate.
If your manager has a problem with someone’s performance, she should sit them down, run through the things they are good at, and address the key problem areas with ideas and a timeline for improvement.
If the performance doesn’t improve, then the staff member should be let go in a dignified manner and assisted if possible to find other work to which they are better suited.
I suggest you call in the manager and explain to her that her passive-aggressive techniques are out of line and a form of bullying. Tell her she has one complaint against her which has been filed and that you don’t want another one. Run through all the positive ways she contributes to the office and offer her some management training.
Your Aunty B
This article was first published in August 2008. Aunty B is on holidays sailing the South Pacific and sipping piña coladas, but she will be back soon with fresh advice for your business.