Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about verbally abusive boss:
I am a medical professional and have been at my present job for 22 years, and as department supervisor for 18 of them. I work in a large medical practice with over 150 employees. Although the practice is quite large, it is still somewhat of a Mom & pop run business.One physician is the sole owner of the practice. He recently appointed his son as the practice manager. He has a liberal arts bachelor’s degree that took him 10 years to obtain. On the financial end, he has done a lot of good things by having good people backing him. From the personnel standpoint he has no HR experience. He is verbally abusive to anyone he contacts by email; he uses name-calling, threats, insults and punishes people constantly. I have several instances when I have been the victim of his emails. When approached face to face he sings an entirely different tune.
No one in the practice has been unhappy with my performance prior to his appointment. I have recently resigned as department supervisor because of his actions. Do I have any legal recourse of action against him? Thanks in advance for your advice.
Signed, Any Recourse
Dear Any Recourse:
Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. It sounds as though the new manager has made things very unpleasant! However, it doesn’t appear that you would have any legal recourse, unless the emails or conversations contained illegal statements about protected classes: Race, gender, age, etc. Civil recourse doesn’t appear likely because you have not been harmed specifically.
You quit your supervisor’s position on your own but have retained your job–and you don’t indicate any physical or emotional treatment that has been required. Attorney’s who specialize in labor law are often willing to give a free phone consultation, so you may want to consider that. But I do not believe this rises to any degree of damage that would justify a lawsuit. I could be mistaken though, since I don’t have all of the details you’d be able to provide an attorney.
You have a boss who is mean and verbally abusive–but you will likely have to tackle the problem on your own. This is especially important for you to do, given your tenure there. Why not make copies and write a letter to the physician for whom you have shown loyalty for many years? Tell him that he is going to lose a very good staff if he allows this to continue. Point out your history and how things have changed since the new manager has taken over. Avoid making it “your son” but keep it business-like about “Mr. So and So” or “Jim” or whatever title is used. Also consider, the next time the manager speaks or writes to you in an insulting way, telling him civilly and calmly, but definitely, that you do not want to be treated like that again and you are going to speak to the owner as soon as possible about it. Or, if you have a personnel officer who hires for the company, let that person know of your concerns and go to them the very next time it occurs. Don’t wait one more minute than necessary–make it seem like an emergent situation that must be handled immediately. That’s the way to get people’s attention. What about the other employees? Would they support you in your efforts?
You say that prior to this no one has complained about your work. That gave me the impression that the manager is not happy with your performance–which may not bode well for you anyway. Would removing you have some benefit financially for the business? Action to your detriment in that case would certainly warrant a call to an attorney to protect your employment and retirement rights. Be aware that if you have had performance or behavioral issues the manager can prove, that will weaken your stance somewhat. Have any information you can use for mitigation ready to show. Document everything you have. Save every piece of paper.
Gather your prior evaluations or anything else that shows you were thought well of previously. Make a note of those who have heard him speak insultingly–whether to you or anyone else, so you can establish a pattern of abusive behavior. Then, use it in the way you think best, given the organizational structure. If you have friends in the office encourage them to do the same thing. I normally would never advise that kind of approach, but this person doesn’t sound as though he has a good heart and simply doesn’t know how to communicate well. It sounds as though he is egotistical and thinks he has protected status for anything he does. He may.
But his father didn’t work hard to build up a practice only to lose it over this type of thing. As long as the person who holds the purse strings and has the most invested, doesn’t know what’s going on, things will never improve. That’s why I think that person has to be informed–and the sooner for you, the better. I hope these thoughts will trigger your own thinking about developing a plan of action. If you wish, please keep us informed of what occurs.
Tina Lewis Rowe