Sutton reiterates the costs of tolerating abusive behavior in the workplace and poses three strategies to keep the workplace a jerk-free zone:
Of course, jerks aren’t always easy to see:
If you are a manager and hear reports that someone on your staff is behaving abusively, don’t assume that because the person never blows up at you that the abuisve behavior doesn’t exist. Investigate, get more data, and let the alleged abuser know that you are paying attention. Consider brining up the issue in a one-on-one meeting, saying “Some people feel that you abuse them. What can you tell me about that?”
Sutton poses this two-part test to assess wether some one is abusive (Feb 2004 issue of HBR):
“After talking to the alleged asshole, do people consistently feel oppressed and belittled by the person, and, especially, do they feel dramatically worse about themselves?
Does the person consistently direct his or her venom at people seen as powerless and rarely, if ever, at people who are powerful?”
I’ll end by quoting another eminent expert 🙂
“Verbal abuse is never acceptable. People who cannot manage themselves should not manage others. No ifs, ands, or buts. No excuses. End of discussion.”