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Posts Tagged ‘work behavior’

Bullied, Literally, To Death

In behavior, business, culture, Media, men, US on August 24, 2010 at 1:09 pm
at least i'm not a bully
Image by *nimil* via Flickr

Here’s a story to chill your blood — a boss whose bullying drove an employee to suicide:

The suicide of the managing editor at an Ellies-winning literary magazine late last month has sparked an investigation into alleged bullying by its editor — and is putting the publication’s long-term future in serious doubt.

Kevin Morrissey, the 52-year-old managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, took his own life on July 30. According to his family and several VQR staffers, in the weeks leading up to his death, Morrissey (pictured, right) had been subjected to bullying by his boss, 38-year-old editor-in-chief Ted Genoways (pictured, left).

“It was a toxic environment for Kevin,” VQR Web editor Waldo Jaquith told NBC News. “Ted’s treatment of Kevin during the last few weeks of his life was just egregious.”

And Genoways’ treatment of Kevin on the day of his death appeared to push Morrissey over the edge.

Shortly before 10 a.m. on July 30, Genoways sent an e-mail to Morrissey “accusing him of jeopardizing the life of a writer,” according to one account reported by The Hook, a local newsweekly. At 11:30 a.m., Morrissey called 911 to report a shooting near a coal tower in Charlottesville, Virginia. When police arrived, they found Morrissey dead, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

None of this surprises me at all. I’ve met some of the most toxic, brutal people in my life in journalism — all of them in positions of power:

The female trade magazine editor who routinely shouted abuse at everyone, even across a room filled with cubicles. Including curses.

The trade magazine publisher who spent his days, earning $150,000 in 1996, writing freelance articles for his magazines’ competitor. The one who stood in my office, shrieking at me like a five-year-old.

The newspaper photo editor, notorious in our city for his behavior, who shouted at me: “Your simple questions are the most complicated I’ve heard in 30 years.”

No point continuing.

If you have never been bullied at work, thank your god(s.) If you have, you know what an utter hell it is.

Not everyone who is bullied will choose to kill themself. But those who live are deeply scarred by it, their self-confidence shattered. It’s not something you quickly or easily shrug off. In a recession, who will quit even the most vicious of workplaces?

We all live in a bully culture. “You’re fired!”, sneered publicly, is the tagline of a popular television show. “Wipeout” shows people slipping, sliding and falling off an obstacle course.

It has to stop. It never will.

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Performance Reviews? Gen Y Craves Them — Not The Rest Of Us

In behavior, business, Money, US on July 26, 2010 at 1:08 pm
Library report card--5th grade

Image by rochelle, et. al. via Flickr

Who actually likes performance reviews?

Gen Y, turns out:

Ms. Reder agrees that employees are usually thirsty for feedback. She has observed that those new to the work force want it most.

“One thing that’s very consistent when we look at generation Y is that they are constantly looking for feedback,” she says. “They want training and development, and performance reviews facilitate that. Employers need to understand this is a need, not a want.”

I’m definitely not Gen Y and have had a formal performance review only twice in my life, both In my $11/hour retail job.

Yup, that’s it. Never at the major daily newspapers where I worked, or the national magazines. Feedback? As if. Mostly snide criticism, sometimes shouted, and, on a few rare occasions, an attaboy from a boss.

In my retail job — the one where I folded T-shirts and swept the floor and earned no commission — their review evaluated 20 categories of behavior and skill, ranking us from a 1 (you suck) to a 5 (you rock.) The highest I got was a 4, once. I knew what I was really good at, and there was no category for it on the form.

I did discover in one of these meetings, and it was valuable feedback, that my managers, most of whom were decades younger than I, found me intimidating and therefore difficult to manage. I told my boss to tell them to boss me as much as they felt necessary. And they did. (Not much, luckily.)

Another manager, at a short-lived start-up, pointed out that I am extremely decisive, a good thing and a useful skill. But that, very true, I don’t suffer fools gladly and won’t tolerate whiners. Not great for someone who, then, was managing younger workers.

But PRs are one-way: “Here’s what we think of you”, typically with little to no interest in hearing that — perhaps — the way you’re behaving at work, certainly when less than optimal, may also reflect the workstyles and budgets of your employer. I got dinged on one retail review for not paying close enough attention to potential shoplifters; this after the number of associates on the floor was so severely cut back we could barely get our jobs done as it was.

I think many of us try our best, but if your manager, as one of mine did, simply refuses to speak to you, it’s not going to create a terrific work environment.

Some think performance reviews need to be killed, now. From The Wall Street Journal:

This corporate sham is one of the most insidious, most damaging, and yet most ubiquitous of corporate activities. Everybody does it, and almost everyone who’s evaluated hates it. It’s a pretentious, bogus practice that produces absolutely nothing that any thinking executive should call a corporate plus.

And yet few people do anything to kill it. Well, it’s time they did.

Don’t get me wrong: Reviewing performance is good; it should happen every day. But employees need evaluations they can believe, not the fraudulent ones they receive. They need evaluations that are dictated by need, not a date on the calendar. They need evaluations that make them strive to improve, not pretend they are perfect.

Sadly, most managers are oblivious to the havoc they wreak with performance reviews. To some extent, they don’t know any better: This is how performance reviews have been done, and this is how they will be done. Period.

Here’s a simple experiment you can try. Ask yourself: How often have you heard a manager say, “Here is what I believe,” followed by, “Now tell me, what do you think?” and actually mean it? Rarely, I bet.


The performance review is the primary tool for reinforcing this sorry state. Performance reviews instill feelings of being dominated.

Do you give them? Get them? Do you think they’re worth doing?

Have you ever learned something helpful (even positive) from one?

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