Dealing with An IT Bully: Page 2

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Granted, there was much pressure from top management to get this release out by Friday and thus documentation and any internal training were pushed aside. That being said, it turned out a major bug was in the new release and the on-call support engineer had run a baseline test, but couldn’t put the results in context with the new reality introduced by this new bug. His only recourse was to escalate, and do it quickly.

I pushed back and told Dirk that I didn’t appreciate his tone. I suggested we sit down with our manager (the CIO) and talk through the issue to avoid future problems. His brow furrowed and he raised his voice, going on and on about how the software team should just take over support, since my team was obviously incompetent.

At this point, I realized I was just beating my head against a brick wall. Having had these poignant discussions with Dirk in the past, I knew he was not a reasonable person.

What could I have done leading up to this confrontation to change things? What can you do proactively to address any bully you might work with?

Here are three ideas: First, try to establish a conversational relationship. Some bullies are mean and nasty at work, but are astonishingly normal outside of work. If you can sit down and explore things you have in common outside of work, it may temper outbursts at work.

I asked Dirk if he watched the SciFi Channel and he said only idiots had time for TV. Strike one.

Second, you may be able to win a bully’s respect by showing off your knowledge on a tough IT topic.

I mentioned to Dirk that I wrote an article about how to best manage a support team. He laughed and said “I cannot imagine anyone wasting their time reading one of your articles.” Strike two.

Third, try and find some intermediary to broker issues that start getting out of control. If your manager isn’t an enabler of the bully’s actions, when things got heated you could have the manager negotiate a settlement. Or find a peer that the bully had a better relationship with that was more reasonable to referee prickly conversations.

I asked the CIO to broker this support issue discussion who immediately dismissed it and said, “I pay you two enough to work these things out without involving me.” Strike three.

It turned out that nothing worked with Dirk. He was just not going to be an easy person to work with and it was apparent the CIO couldn't care less if Dirk was causing an unpleasant work environment. I either had to leave the company or put up with his antics by covering my butt with excessive documentation of every conversation and action.

I eventually left because by the CIO enabling this behavior, more and more people in the company started acting like Dirk, causing an unproductive, confrontational workplace culture.

I would have been an idiot to have stayed.

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Tags: management, support, IT, IT Jobs/Salary, IT career

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