Hostile Enviroment

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about hostile environment: After stating my objections, my supervisor made the following statement, “What the “F” did you come here for?”. I felt threatened, scared and perplexed.

Just a year ago I relocated from New Jersey for a position as a Project Leader reporting to my current supervisor with a large cosmetic company in California. Shortly after (2 months) joining, I was informed in a very inappropriate way by my Supervisor that I was now to report to a new Supervisor with much less experience than myself (24 years). I clearly proceeded to state my objection and found it to be a misrepresentation of our interview (verbally) and written agreement. After stating my objections, my supervisor made the following statement, “What the “F” did you come here for?”. I felt threatened, scared and perplexed. I immediately left his office. Since this event, I have been persecuted by him and have worked in a very hostile environment ever since. I often feel harassed by his actions towards me. Due to a whole year of putting up with his “bullying management style”, I find myself on short-term disability with severe stress. I happen to be the third employee in this position that he has bullied into leaving the company. His actions are well known throughout the department at this company but everyone fears his power. In fact it is said that upper management at this company accepts this kind of behavior from him. Upon my return I would prefer not to report to him or return to the same hostile environment. Should I seek legal assistance at this point? What are my options and/or rights? What can I do to protect myself? Thanks in advance,

Signed, Stressed Out

Dear Stressed Out:

It is your option to seek legal council. Because I am not a lawyer, I will not advise you on this. However, if you return equipped with a lawyer, you will communicate that you intend to fight for your rights. Be sure that is the message you want to send at this stage. You might achieve more by communicating that you want to work out a solution, which can only happen through collaborative dialogue. This company seems large enough to have a savvy HR/personnel department. Could you explain your interests in working, your experience and your concerns to the HR department to see if they can find a place for you other than under your former supervisor?

With your experience and sense of decency, it seems you would be in demand. Perhaps they will become more cognizant of his behavior and its consequences. However, if the company is corrupt by upper management allowing such behavior, you may not find a suitable spot for yourself in this company. I encourage you to dialogue with HR or others who are in the position to help you.

I also encourage you to dialogue civilly with your supervisor, should that become your only option, to see if your differences can be worked out. Perhaps this is over a misunderstanding. That he has less experience than you is generally not a cause to report to him. You may be more experienced and more skilled in some areas of expertise. He may be more skilled in one or more other area. I do not know this. If the occasion to talk with him arises, don’t attack him. Acknowledge the two of you started off in an awkward experience, but you want to talk with him about how both of you can work together. If he recognizes your heart and your value to help him achieve his company goals, he may well be open to this. This may reveal his true character to you. Your dialogue with HR and possibly your supervisor may give you the insight as to whether this company is for you. I wish you well. Voicing concerns for your best interests is natural and necessary. Voicing your concern for the interests of your supervisor and the workplace at large is equally necessary and benefidial. It’s what we call WEGO mindedness.

Don Gibson