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Screaming Bosses Are So Yesterday

Vivia Chen

August 15, 2012

AngryBoss_©pressmaster-Fotolia.comIs the American workplace losing its macho edge?

Seems that way, because another corporate icon—the ogreish boss—is about to bite the dust. Reports The Wall Sreet Journal:

Indeed, the yelling boss appears to be quietly disappearing from the workplace. The new consensus among managers is that yelling alarms people, drives them away rather than inspires them, and hurts the quality of their work. Some bosses also fear triggering a harassment lawsuit or winding up as the star of a coworker's cellphone videotape gone viral.

Many of us who have slaved in law firms remember at least one terror-inducing partner. It used to be a rite of passage—sometimes even a badge of honor—to work for someone with that type of reputation. It was like surviving boot camp—something that would toughen you up for the profession at large.

Though more outwardly tranquil these days, is the office a happier, more productive place? Not exactly. Anger and frustration still reigns in the workplace. But instead of direct confrontations, people are venting through emails, which, one expert told the WSJ, "tends to inflame conflict. It takes a very corrosive role in the workplace, for gossiping and undermining others."

And all of this suppressed anger takes more time to manage. "Managers spend about 25 percent of their time resolving conflicts," reports the WSJ.  Moreover, "all this guerrilla warfare is causing workplace conflicts to drag out longer than they did 10 to 15 years ago," said Steven Dinkin, president of the nonprofit National Conflict Resolution Center, to WSJ.

So what should you do if you're angry with an underling or work for a screamer? The WSJ gives a few tips, such as waiting 24 hours before you criticize an employee, or listening carefully to the screamer and then answering in a calm fashion. In the worst-case scenario, a mediator might have to be called in.

Would a law firm spend time and money on a mediator? Are you out of your tree?!

Maybe I'm just a hopeless romantic, but I have a hard time believing that tyrannical bosses, especially in the law firm context, are in danger of extinction. Sure, I know some firms are more civilized than others, but I doubt most law firms can afford to rein in an abusive partner if he's got oodles of business.

Am I wrong? Are the partners at your firm really nicer now?

Related posts: Three Tips for Handling a Bad Boss; How Would Your Associates Rate You?

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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.


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Oh how the blood boils when I think of a couple of the screamers who were my past bosses. What miserable, wretched, evil men they were. I learned nothing from them. The notion of learning from them "how NOT to be a good boss" was meaningless because such appalling behavior was nothing I would ever engage in anyway. I'm not ordinarily a bitter person who bothers holding grudges. But the amount of misery these beasts inflicted on me, my family, and many other employees as well over the years has had lasting effects. As I've risen to new positions in my career and acquired more power, revenge is most certainly in the back of my mind, which gives rise to yet another reason why law firms should avoid screamers.

Disgrunted is my new given name... so true, so true..

The stories I could tell, myself could contribute to your book. Large redwells thrown at me for one..almost getting hit by a partner (b/c) he was angry at another partner.. but it is always our fault in the end isn't it?

Oh my dear Vivia!
If you only knew, and if only we could name names!
Being a "blacklisted" support staff member, along with many others, I am sure; the stories I could tell you of my former career as a legal assistant.
You are right, it is/was a right of passage to go through the screaming bosses and come out stronger. But, because of the thick skin one develops it can also work against you. But, alas, we are ones who will forever be considered a "disgruntled employee" by any supposed agency that is out there to "help you". The facts are so incredible that no one can believe them. The fact is, there is no one out there to help us, we just continue to fight a battle that can't be won against law firms. The Florida Bar is of no help for it considers us merely another disgruntled employee. Perhaps, I should write a book about my experiences - hmm, what was that movie with Anne Hathaway and Merle Streep ...fashion icon ... lol

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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