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Dear Workforce How Do We Restrain a Bully Senior Manager

How do we coach a bully senior manager? One of our senior managers is a very smart man who over the years has contributed a lot to the growth of our firm. He is, however, a bully—and fully aware of it. He understands how being unable to control his emotions and bad behaviors hurts his colleagues, as well as his friends and family, yet he is not to willing to change for fear of “losing face” with colleagues. He is considered the “king of the firm” and no one seems willing to try and coach him.
October 28, 2009
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Dear Cowering:
 
This requires a two-pronged approach that involves your top executives and the dysfunctional, aggressive senior manager.
Engage the CEO
Before confronting the manager, make sure your CEO will back the intervention, both strategically and legally. Do not meet with the manager unless the CEO also is present. (It also might be necessary to have your legal counsel be part of the intervention team.)
Even though this manager has contributed greatly to your firm's success, this question also must be asked: How many people have left your company, or perform at less than optimal levels, because of his chronic angst?
Confront the bully: assessment and intervention
Remember this for objectivity: Adults who become bullies often were bullied or abused during childhood. It evolves as a defense mechanism. Unfortunately, the behavior works if it goes unchallenged.
I don't buy the manager's fear of “losing face” with colleagues. This assumes he has some genuine concern about his relationship with colleagues. I suspect he has bought into his own self-centered image—namely that “the king” doesn't make changes for anyone. Perhaps on some level he is afraid of not having the capacity to mature and grow personally or professionally. In that case, a deeper sense of inadequacy may be revealed.
Intervene
a) Stroke the ego and reframe the behavior
When detailing examples of his bullying behavior—physical or otherwise—it is important to also acknowledge his positive contributions to the firm. He may not believe he can channel his aggression without being stifled. However, he needs to learn to be dominant without being domineering, as ultimately such behavior puts his own career and the company in jeopardy. Does he really feel proud of himself when pushing around people who are not his equal in size, synapses or status?
b) Provide learning options
For this individual, change won't happen from one “constructive confrontation,” from reading a self-help book, or even from typical management methods. Suggest that he voluntarily avail himself of confidential executive coaching/anger management courses (off site) for two to three months, at the firm's expense. If this is turned down, it may be necessary to mandate he take such classes.
c) Group intervention
There may need to be a group intervention before this senior manager opens up to the above approaches. Such an intervention might include you, the CEO and any colleagues he sees as “near equals”—and, perhaps, even people he has particularly aggrieved, professionally or personally. Have a professional consultant facilitate the intervention.
This is a challenging undertaking, so make clear to upper management that outside expertise likely will be needed to get the process moving. Getting this valued manager to drop his bullying ways will be good for your firm in the long run.
SOURCE: Mark Gorkin, “The Stress Doc,” Washington, October 9, 2009
LEARN MORE: Distinguishing a bully from an earnest but troubled supervisor is not always easy to do.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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