Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A bad weed

There is a lot of bad behavior in the fashion industry. It seems everyone I talk to has or had an experience with at least one monster in the workplace. I define a monster as someone who makes the workday miserable with their diminishing behaviors, manipulations, obnoxious attitude, and torturous conversations. For clarification, I will give you a couple examples. I had a boss once who insisted on beginning her meetings with her direct reports at 5pm. That wouldn’t be a big deal if the meetings lasted an hour or two, but they lasted for over four hours. It also wouldn’t have been a big deal if we were busy all day or if it happened once in a while. I have no problem working a 70 hour week if there is a reason. For example, if there is a staffing issue or a new project or just plain old crunch time, I am happy to eat all three meals at work and have a few sleepless nights. These nightly meetings were happening because that was when my boss wanted to work. She would insist that we work those same hours. At another company, the president called a group of direct reports drunk from Hong Kong to tell them they were all worthless stupid idiots. He was yelling at the group over speaker phone. These are just two quick examples I can think of off the top of my head. If I sit for a minute more, I could keep going.

Coworkers, underlings and bosses alike will defer to this one person because of their talent, knowledge or long-standing role in the company. I have seen it first hand and it never ceases to shock me. What would be the reason that a manager would keep someone on the team who is clearly behaving badly? In my experience, there are a couple reasons managers or companies will tolerate this bad behavior.

Unparalleled Skills- The company or manager has the belief that only this person can do the job. Management thinks this person has a talent or knowledge that would be impossible to replace.

Culture Defining- The company or manager has a belief that it will anger a higher up if this person is ‘defied’. This person has usually worked at the company for a number of years and has a close relationship with a founder, president or CEO.

No Idea- The manager sees a very different person than the monster you see. S/he has a different set of behaviors with those that ‘matter’.

In my experience, the monster will continue to get away with his/her bad behavior until enough people make noise or several people leave the company as a result of monster interactions. I have also seen monsters survive in companies for many years despite the company having this awareness. Note to managers dealing with a monster: not once have I seen a company crumble when the bad weed is plucked out.

What can you do if you are working with a monster? What behavior will you tolerate from them? How does management feel about that person? How do you know that the company is aware of what you and your colleagues may see? How can you bring awareness to the monster’s behavior while staying positive and keeping your job? How have you dealt with monster behavior in the past?

I would be very interested to hear your comments so we can learn through your monster stories. I will revisit this topic on a future date once I have some great comments!

Learn more about the fashion industry from Career Coach Kate Kibler at

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