leadership, life lessons, management, motivation, training, work life

Schadenfreude? In This Economy?

Funny how I think I’m going to write about one thing, and end up going in another direction entirely.  Upon further reflection, if you knew how I drive this is probably not so surprising at all.  I adamantly believe that whatever direction I’m heading is north, think I’m going over underpasses and have been known to turn a map upside down when navigating a return trip from wherever.  I get lost a lot, though I’m perfectly comfortable asking for directions.  But, I digress….

A very dear friend of mine quit her job on Friday.  She enjoys a successful career, working at the senior levels of management.  On Friday she reached a limit that no one should have to push, so she packed up her office, provided her resignation and walked out the door.  I’m not going to spend too much time extolling my friend’s impressive qualifications and talents – her success is evident in the tenure, promotions and stellar reputation she has earned.  Besides, this isn’t a paean to her (though she deserves one), this is a cautionary tale.

Why’d she resign?  Because her boss – a V.P. who should have known better – was a bully.  This woman focused her energies on making other people feel really lousy.  For months she badgered, verbally lashed and demeaned her direct report – a senior manager.  Do I believe the karma truck is going to roll up this person’s driveway?  Oh yeah..I do.  It’s already in ‘drive’, for she can’t fill the vacancies she has, and now has one more opening in a critical space.  My hunch is that ultimately she will be ‘outed’ and invited to leave.  One has to have pretty strong ego needs to diminish the people you most need to build up – the ones who have your back and are carrying a  heavy workload on your behalf.  Greater is the pity that she will undoubtedly be packaged out with an impressive amount of money.

I don’t need to remind any of you about the potential legal implications of such behavior.  That’s a discussion for another day.  Apparently the V.P. enjoys this reputation she has earned and savours the unhappiness and unease that she engenders in others.  The sad irony is that she was vetted after joining the organization and people began wondering why such a hire was made.  What makes this even worse in my mind is that in the male-dominated environment where they both worked, this woman found her key to the executive washroom by belittling the efforts of another woman.  The examples of the daily exchanges, meetings and unrelenting personal criticisms could fill a very long tome describing various types of professional hell.

At the end of the day, my friend is fortunate.  She isn’t shackled by golden handcuffs and isn’t beholden to anyone.  She is taking some well-deserved time to restore, and ultimately wherever she goes, she’ll hit it out of the park.  This organization, however?  It’s too large to fold because of one really bad apple in its highest ranks (or two or three), and it would be naive to think so.  But the cost of irresponsible vetting, questionable accountability at the top and a weak professional value system will be high.  Whether it is realized in turnover, legal claims or diminished productivity – the impact of self-centered oversight is profound, expensive and long-lasting.  It’s too bad there isn’t a Hippocratic oath for supervisors at every level – “first, do no harm”.  It’s too bad that in some organizations, a person can thrive while fomenting unhappiness among those for whom she’s responsible, and climb the ladder in her Laboutins by stepping on toes and heads instead of the proper rungs.