Some people aren’t cut out to be supervisors. Too bad employers don’t always realize that until a steady stream of subordinates make their way to HR with complaints.
Typically, it takes awhile for the first subordinate to get up the courage. But then others may follow rapidly.
If it appears obvious that there’s a problem with the supervisor and not his subordinates, document the complaints and take action. You can demote or even fire him if you have an honest belief that the supervisor isn’t managing well—and your action will likely survive a court challenge.
Recent case: Jesse Carroll, who is black, was transferred from a supervisory position he had held for five of the 23 years he spent with his employer. He sued, alleging discrimination.
The employer detailed how, after five years, subordinates began to complain about the harsh treatment Carroll subjected them to. Some observed that barely a day went by when a subordinate didn’t cry. Suggestions that he develop a softer, more compassionate approach didn’t make any difference.
That was enough for the court to conclude the employer had an honest belief that Carroll shouldn’t be a supervisor and that his demotion had nothing to do with his protected status. (Carroll v. Gates, No. 2:09-CV-385, SD OH, 2010)
Final note: Remember also that concern about bullying has reached the workplace. Bullies can destroy morale and lower productivity—and courts are increasingly supporting employers’ efforts to rein them in.