What if the general counsel is a bully?

A newsletter from the US law firm DrinkerBiddle, Dec. 2007 at 2, discusses proposed bills in at least 13 states to prohibit “unlawful” workplace bullying. The newsletter informally defines workplace bullying as “the tendency of an individual or group of individuals to persistently display aggressive or unreasonable behavior against a co-worker.” It can include verbal and non-verbal abuse. Bullying can take a variety of forms, “which include rudeness, belligerence, screaming, cursing, destruction of property or work product, social ostracism and even physical assault.”

Some general counsel are tough moody, volatile, or rude (See my post of Aug. 4, 2007 about hiring no jerks.). Some praise sparingly, shall we say, and don’t mince words about underperformance. It is not uncommon to work for a demanding and insensitive toughie (See my post of Dec. 21, 2005 on emotional intelligence declining with rank.). If an average-performing lawyer is often on the receiving end of criticism, difficult behavior, and the boss pushing for extra performance, some of those lawyers will perceive themselves as being illegally picked on.

I abhor workplace cruelty, tyranny and obnoxious behavior (See my post of Dec. 31, 2007 on holiday parties and proper behavior.). Even so, loosely and broadly worded statutes will make being a manager even more difficult.

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