Q: I was interviewed and recommended for hire by a regional manager I was to replace. He was transferred to manage another region. I am high-energy, innovative, organized and efficient in all my positions. Once I started this job, I got to work analyzing the processes in place and the types of clients the company wanted, and I began my own system for expansion. I have received accolades from top management.
Regional managers meet regularly to discuss goals and potential problems. The manager who recommended me for the position became jealous of my achievements and began lashing out at me in every conversation and meeting. I am capable of handling verbal attacks, but I was demoralized and embarrassed when he opened up with this anger in front of others. Colleagues have asked me why I don’t complain, but I think it would reflect poorly on me. I’ve nicely asked him to not say things about me in front of others, and I’ve tried being silent and ignoring him. Nothing helps. I don’t want to backstab the person who was the reason for me being hired. What can I do?
A: Continue to achieve as much as possible as a regional manager. You can’t change someone’s behavior, but you also don’t want to respond negatively, which will incite more of it. Be assured others know his uncontrollable temper is his character flaw, not yours. Don’t give power to his ranting by responding with defensive remarks or justification. If his outbursts are during a meeting with others, wait until he quiets down, and continue with your agenda. If a verbal attack occurs in private, tell him you will talk to him when he is feeling better and then walk away. The contributing factors to his rage could be neurological, psychological or personal, so it’s not up to you analyze possible causes for his behavior. You are there to manage a region.
Another option is to file a formal complaint report to the human resources department, but doing so will disrupt all the effort you have put into your success thus far. A formal charge will lead into a long and stressful process, so the pros and cons must be carefully weighed with a legal professional before taking action. No lawsuit is easy, so your immediate goal is to rise above the situation. Since others have witnessed his abusive outbursts, news of his behavior will probably leak or be reported to human resources.
If you’re called in to discuss the matter, report only what you’ve experienced, explaining you’ve remained silent because you haven’t wanted to engage him in a contest of criticisms. Tell the head of human resources that you are not qualified to analyze the reasons for his behavior, but you’ve always been grateful for his recommendation, cordial to him in every encounter and meeting, and willing to share information that might be helpful to his region. It’s up to upper management how he is reprimanded, if at all.
They may ask you to directly report further incidents to management so they have a written record of the situation. The human resources department should appreciate your using a high level of emotional intelligence to deal with the issue, and they should thank you for not letting it affect your work. Your goal is to remain blameless.
It’s never pleasant to work with someone who exhibits unstable emotional behavior, and you may need to exercise great constraint at work so as to not let it drag you down. You may even need to exercise to release the negativity when you get home each day, but ultimately, the current situation should be temporary. Others reporting it to management should work in your favor. The company can handle the problem without you being the complainer, and you can continue on a positive career path.
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