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Letters to a Young Manager

How to Work for a Sonofabitch, #17
LTYM > Managing People II

Dear Adam,
So you have a new boss. And you don't like him. You're ready to quit. Should you?

I was once locked in a battle with a peer in a start-up in Silicon Valley. We were both seasoned managers; he ran engineering and I ran client marketing. When our boss was fired, my colleague made a move for the seat, and got it. I remember the screaming match we had in a conference room soon afterwards. I was ready to quit. But I didn't. Why? I had left another company only a few months ago for similar reasons. I had to ask myself if I needed to learn something.

A year later, the VP of the parent company, who I knew, came to visit. In a 1:1 meeting he acknowledged what I had done. I stuck it out and made it work. He didn't think he would be able to do the same. It became something I was proud of, and it won the respect of my new boss and his boss.

What did I do to make it work? If I brought him a problem that I knew he'd be upset about, like low inventory turns, I needed to get out of the line of fire so we could solve the problem. So what I did was to figuratively walk around to his side of the table, so we could both rail at the problem, agree it needed to be fixed and get his support to fix it.

Was this capitulating to a manager who often acted like a bully? Perhaps. But that's focusing on the wrong problem. We needed to work together to solve business problems. And solving them created support and eventually loyalty. As a matter of fact, he ended up telling me months later that he couldn't do it without me.

So what are you going to do? Walk away or figure out how to solve some business problems?
Sincerely yours,



Figuratively go around to other's side of the table and get angry at the problem facing us, rather than each other.

Discussion Questions:

1) What bothers you about this story? What resonates?
2) What are some other ways to respond to a bully in the office?
3) At what point do you walk away?

For Further Reading:

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