Monthly Archives: January 2010

More great bosses

After releasing the eBossWatch Best Bosses of 2009 list last month, we received feedback from many people praising their own managers.  We’d like to honor and feature some of these great bosses.  This is how their employees describe them:

■ Robert Stack is the founder, president and CEO of Community Options.  Community Options is a national nonprofit organization that develops small, community-based homes and innovative employment opportunities for people with disabilities and has been doing so for over twenty years.  Notably, this has been a tough year for everyone but for some reason, Robert has persevered and has taken us all along with him.  With a workforce of over 2,500 people in 32 cities throughout 9 states, Robert has inspired his staff to open more homes, take more people with disabilities out of institutions and provide more employment opportunities all at the same time.  When the economy got rough, Robert became more innovative.  Robert has not made one layoff during the recession but instead has invested in more training and appropriate resources for our existing and new workforce.  Robert is a complete inspiration and it would be so nice to profile someone who is running a true business with a social purpose that is changing the lives of so many people across the country.
■ On 4/10/2009, Erickson Publishing, LLC ceased operations, letting go a team of 14 incredibly talented people (I include myself in that number, not so sure I should include myself in the talented part).   We were all devastated because we all truly loved our job.  We produced a women’s magazine called BRAVA, that had been part of the viewing community for 7 years as well as the producer of the Madison Women’s Expo – a tradition of 200 exhibitors, celebrities and approximately 8,000 mostly female attendees.
Not to give up our determination for jobs we loved, a group of employees gathered together the following Monday to discuss a strategy to keep our jobs either by creating a new magazine or finding an investor passionate in bringing this back.
It was a long drawn out summer of meeting with potential investors and we struggled to keep our team intact in a horrible economy not exactly forgiving to the print media some taking leaps by not accepting positions doing other things.
Brad Zaugg, a veteran of the publishing industry of 16 years, met with our team and through painful negotiations and struggles, he started Brava Enterprises, brought the magazine back to life (bigger and better with more creative flow) and the Madison Women’s Expo (11th annual!) just took place in November.  I couldn’t ask for a better team lead by this man who would humbly say he didn’t do anything special.  But he saved all of our jobs and our love for it.  Not to mention he is the only man on our team – poor guy!
He deserves kudos.
■ I work for a start up that’s looking to change the face of youth sports. Our first initiative are the High School Rudy Awards.  The founder of the company, John Ballantine – is remarkable.  He has put together a team that is working to each of their strengths.  We’re encouraged to write our own job descriptions and to adapt them if they need changing, or if they don’t pander to our strengths.  He is consistently trying to uncover untapped strengths within each of us and wants us to ‘build our own brand’ which means to put ourselves out there in the community and press and reach out in any way we see fit.  I worked in the film industry for 20 years and have never had the level of support or encouragement I receive from John.  It makes you try harder, shoot for the moon and then some.
I’ve been laid low with the flu over the holidays.  He has repeatedly asked what he can do for me, do I need anything, can he go to the store and bring me groceries… and when I was being a stubborn pain in the ass and got worse, he offered to take me to the doctor.  Truly – how many bosses out there would even think of doing that?  What a gift this man is in my career.
■ I work for an online English learning company called  We’ve taught people in more than 80 different countries, and currently have a staff of just of 20 teachers.
I would like to nominate my boss, Marc Anderson, as the best boss of 2009.  Working online is a different concept than working face to face with your colleagues and especially with your boss.  My “relationship” with Marc has only been via the internet and the telephone these past 2 years that I have been working with him, but our relationship is no less real.
I am a Canadian living in Uruguay — so daily communication with Marc (who is in Ottawa) happens over a 10,000km distance.  I think it is awesome that he trusts someone as much as he trusts me since he has never “met” me and the distance factor is sometime a little overwhelming.
I have been working as the Programs Manager (doing everything) for the past year – and I can confirm that Marc is the BEST boss of 2009 not only because of his willingness to trust and give people opportunities and chances, but also because he is a really kind and funny person to work with.
I look forward every morning to waking up at 2am (because of the different timezones that we work in) to chatting with him and working through the different projects at hand.
■ I have the best bosses ever.  I have been with Choyce Peterson, Inc. for ten years now and have never worked for nicer people in my entire career (25 years).  Mr. Alan R. Peterson and Mr. John P. Hannigan are both very considerate, humorous and caring gentlemen.
As examples, Secretary’s Day is a big celebration.  I am always presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in the morning which is then followed by a wonderful lunch at a nearby Greenwich, CT restaurant.  My birthday is never forgotten – again, another celebration with a cake and singing and laughter.  For the holidays, we enjoy a company dinner with Kris Kringles.  Each one of us picks a name out of a hat and we buy gag gifts and roast each staff member during the course of a lovely dinner.  Fun is had by all.
They are both very family oriented — family always comes first and are understanding and thoughtful of family needs.  Charities are well remembered throughout the year not only during the holidays.  They encourage and support charity marathons and walks with which the staff are involved.  Every evening before I leave for the day, they always thank me for the day’s work.  They make work fun with their humor and sometimes pranks.
It’s simply a pleasure to come to work each and every day.  I am truly blessed.


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Coping with a toxic boss: “DICK THE DICTATOR”

eBossWatch is delighted to welcome Linnda Durré, Ph.D. as the guest blogger of a new twice-monthly advice column to help people cope with toxic bosses.

Linnda Durré, Ph.D. is Author of Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against Co-Workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day, McGraw-Hill, 02/19/10

As a business and corporate consultant, I’ve analyzed and worked with many difficult bosses over the years. In order to cope and deal with them, you need to know why they act the way they do and how best to deal with them, in order to earn their respect, get things accomplished, and preserve your sanity. In my twice-monthly column, I will help you cope with a different type of boss. Let’s take one of the most frequently complained about types – Dick the Dictator. 
THE SITUATION: Dick the Dictator is used to leading, voicing his opinion, and having his commands carried out immediately. Dick’s philosophy is “My way or the highway!” and “Do as I say, NOW!” You can’t breathe around him. He always has to be right and he is angry when his orders are not followed. He may also be a yeller and a screamer, demeaning and embarrassing you and your co-workers in public. He may also be a micro-manager and he treats you like you’re an incompetent imbecile who has no vision, smarts, or initiative. He tells you what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.  He rules by intimidation and fear. People usually hate and resent him. They secretly want to see him fail and may resort to passive aggressive tactics to set him up to appear foolish or fall.
THE EXPLANATION: Dick may have a background in the military and he believes that he should run everything just like a military command with him as a four star general. His childhood  may have had a very dominating parent – his mother, father or both – who served as role model. Or conversely, one or both of his parents may have been very negligent, passive, and/or weak, which made him feel insecure and scared. Someone needed to take charge, and he took over. He learned to be decisive as a child, to protect himself, feel like he was strong, secure, and in control of his life and destiny.  
Beneath that exterior, Dick may be like the Wizard in “The Wizard of Oz,” who inflates himself up through special effects, scaring you and pretending they are someone bigger and more powerful than they are. When Toto pulls the curtain aside to expose a skittish old man manipulating the dials, “The Great and Almighty Oz” yells, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” He does it to cover himself, pretend that it was a mistake, divert your attention, and dissuade you from thinking he’s a charlatan. Be wise and don’t be thrown off by someone like Dick. He is an insecure individual who needs to dominate. Don’t let that happen to you!  
What people may not surmise, is that Dick secretly likes others to be strong because they make him feel like he’s supported by other competent people.  So being strong and dependable around him, in a more quiet way, is the way to be. Stand up for yourself and let him know you’re not a doormat. You will get along better when you are not intimidated by him. You’ll also be a role model to the people at work when you do and they’ll admire you for it. Dick will respect you when he feels you are as strong as he is because that connotes dependability and reliability to him.
THE SOLUTION: “Dick, I admire your take charge attitude, that you like to get things done and see them happen immediately.  Having a mover and a shaker as a boss is motivating and I like your commitment to excellence.  What doesn’t work is your style – yelling, screaming, intimidating, humiliating, and demanding immediate gratification that is next to impossible to achieve.  People need time to accomplish your goals and you need to have a more realistic expectation about the time involved. You are creating an office of people who resent you and who may become resistant to your demands, slowing production and being secretly and silently rebellious. You don’t want that to happen. We are all competent, dependable people. You can rely on me and on all of us to get things done, and we all expect to be treated with respect, which we will reciprocate. The other people in the department, me included, would all like to get along with you, accomplish our goals, and we would like you to consider our opinions, as we will consider yours. I trust that you will heed my advice, because I’d rather not go to HR to report you for being unrealistically demanding. Thanks for listening. I hope we will accomplish our goals in our department.” 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linnda Durré, Ph.D., a psychotherapist, corporate consultant, national speaker, and columnist, currently hosts and produces her third radio show, “The Linnda Durré Show” on WEUS 810AM Orlando. She has hosted and co-produced two live call-in TV shows, including “Ask the Family Therapist” on the Mayo Clinic-affiliated America’s Health Network, and has been interviewed on Oprah, 60 Minutes, The Today Show, Good Morning America, and The O’Reilly Factor, among others. She has been featured in publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Parade, and San Francisco Chronicle, and has written for Forbes Online and Orlando Business Journal.

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Department of Interior pays employee $150,000 to settle sexual harassment lawsuit

In September 2009, the Department of Interior was ordered to pay a Federal employee $149,459 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a Department of Interior employee named Celeste Gray who claimed that she was sexually harassed by her supervisor for over two years.

Gray alleged that her supervisor “rubbed her shoulders, called her into his office to pick up trash off the floor in front of his desk, put a bottle of oil on her desk for her hair; told her that there was ‘nothing he did not know about a woman’s body.'”

Gray’s allegations were supported by two coworkers, who testified that their boss had asked another employee what kind of bra she had one and would look at the breasts of a female coworker and say, “Oh, I see the girls this morning.”

Gray suffered serious psychological damages as a result of the sexual harassment that she endured.  She suffered from hypertension, headaches, sleep disorder, depression, anxiety, nightmares, low self-esteem, excessive drinking, and alienation from family members.


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Boss’s Tip of the Week #2: Meetings: How to get things done (without wasting time)

Here is the second installment of the Boss’s Tip of the Week.  This advice column for managers is brought to you by Bob Rosner and Allan Halcrow, co-authors of The Boss’s Survival Guide.

Imagine what would happen if operations in an air traffic control tower were like the average corporate meeting: People speaking over one another and interrupting, random outbursts that have nothing to do with the topic at hand, some participants texting while others sleep, no clear assignment of responsibility and no follow-up. Scary, isn’t it?
Most meetings are pretty scary, too: Black holes that absorb huge amounts of time and accomplish very little (if anything). But just because there aren’t jumbo jets full of passengers at stake doesn’t mean we can’t still run meetings with the efficiency of an air traffic control operation.  
Start with a good reason to call a meeting in the first place. And no, an excuse to eat doughnuts is not one of them. But these are:
*Effective communication. When you need people to really understand something (a change in the company’s strategic direction, a new threat from your competition, a reorganization), a meeting ensures that everyone hears the same thing at the same time, and you can better judge the response.
*Shared expertise. Except in Congress, two heads (or more) are generally better than one. So when you face especially daunting challenges, getting people with different expertise and perspectives together to address the problem is a smart use of resources.
*Consensus. The search for consensus has been overdone: You do not need everyone to weigh in on what kind of paper to put in the copier. But you may need consensus on whether to launch a new product. If so, a meeting can be the most efficient way to get there.
*Productivity. When you hit a roadblock, you can let all work come to a halt to allow for a lot of finger-pointing and hand-wringing. Or you can bring people together to identify the problems and find solutions.

Whichever of these is your goal, know and communicate that to everyone involved. And do yourself (and everyone’s rear end) a favor and don’t try to accomplish all these things in the same meeting. 

Real Life Example
Teresa Taylor, chief operating officer of Qwest, starts every meeting by asking, “Do we all know why we’re here?” Taylor told the New York Times that often people don’t know why they are there – they were invited and so they showed up. If there are eight people in the room, they may have eight ideas about why they have been included. Taylor also asks, “Are we making decisions? Are you going to ask me for something at the end?”
Once the group has decided what they’re doing she asks again if everyone needs to be present – and sometimes people excuse themselves.  Taylor concedes the discussion can eat 10 minutes of time, but she says the investment is well worth it.
We’ll have more meeting tips in future columns.

Dave’s Supermarket sued by EEOC for sexual harassment

Last September, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Cleveland-based Dave’s Supermarket, accusing a meat department manager of repeatedly sexually harassing female employees and accusing upper management of knowing about the bullying and not taking steps to prevent it.

The EEOC claims that Dave’s Supermarket manager Jugo Vidic subjected female employees to a hostile work environment permeated with sexual harassment that included making repeated, unwanted sexual advances on female employees as well as exposing himself to his female coworkers.

Dave’s Supermarket Chairman Burt Saltzman said, “We don’t think there’s any merit to (the lawsuit), and it’s under investigation.”  Saltzman also said that Vidic still works at the store.

Dave’s is a Cleveland-based grocery store chain which operates 13 stores in Northern Ohio, employing more that 1,500 employees.


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EEOC sues Dollar General for sexual harassment

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Dolgencorp, LLC, doing business as Dollar General, in September 2009 for subjecting a number of female employees to a sexually hostile work environment at two North Carolina stores.

The EEOC lawsuit states that a male Dollar General store manager sexually harassed several female employees by making crude and offensive sexual comments, by requesting sex from the women, and by touching their breasts and buttocks.

According to the lawsuit, the women complained about the sexual harassment to Dollar General company managers, but the harassment did not stop.  One of the women quit her job in order to escape the workplace bullying.


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Professors sue and demand ouster of Edison College president

Trouble seems to be brewing for Kenneth Yowell, president of Edison Community College in Piqua, Ohio, who has drawn criticism from a number of Edison professors. 

Charles Quincy Essinger, a former adjunct professor filed a lawsuit against Yowell and the college for allegedly unlawfully firing him in retaliation for videotaping a board meeting in April 2009 in which the faculty held a no-confidence vote in Yowell.  Essinger also accuses Yowell of writing an email in July that attacked his character and competence.

Stephen Marlowe, an Edison professor whose recent contract-violating layoff outraged faculty members, has been reinstated by the college after his union agreed to drop all of its formal grievances against Yowell and the college. Despite the victory, Marlowe and local union leaders continue to express their dissatisfaction with the leadership of Kenneth Yowell.

Marlowe and a number of other faculty leaders believe that he was laid off because of his recent public criticism of Yowell, both in his involvement with a no-confidence vote in Yowell and as the editor of the local union news blog.

In reacting to his reinstatement, Marlowe said, “We won the battle but not the war. My termination was the last in a series of really heavy handed missteps in leadership. My case was symbolic of what many people have suffered for the last 20 years of (Yowell’s) leadership. The only reasonable outcome of this situation is that (Yowell) retire.”


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Former employee sues Playboy for hostile work environment and discrimination

Jenny Lewis, the former Guest Relations Coordinator at the Playboy Mansion, has filed a lawsuit against Playboy Enterprises and Hugh Hefner after the company terminated her on November 4, 2009 while she was on medical leave recovering from surgery.

Lewis alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment at the Playboy Mansion for the past year.  In addition, she has accused her former bosses of gender discrimination for demoting several women while refusing to demote any of their male counterparts.

Lewis claims that her termination was unlawful under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and that it happened in retaliation after she questioned practices that she thought might be violations of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.


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Boss’s Tip of the Week #1: How to Resolve Disagreements (Without Bloodshed)

eBossWatch is happy to announce a new weekly advice column for managers called Boss’s Tip of the Week.  The column, the first segment of which appears below, will be written exclusively for eBossWatch by Bob Rosner and Allan Halcrow, co-authors of The Boss’s Survival Guide.

Some people collect stamps, some people collect baseball cards, and some people – you know who you are — collect parking tickets. We collect boss stories. We didn’t set out to collect the stories (it’s not as if there’s a Boy Scout merit badge for it), but when one of us writes the syndicated Workplace911 column and the other is a management trainer and consultant it’s an occupational haz- — er, privilege.

As you might imagine, we’ve heard a lot of bad boss stories. Some of them are heartbreaking, some infuriating, and a lot worthy of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. Still, after hearing literally thousands of stories about bosses we can tell you:

  • Being a boss isn’t easy. (In fact, it’s really tough.)
  • No one sets out to be a bad boss. (No matter how much it may appear otherwise.)
  • Bosses aren’t the problem, they’re the solution. (Yes, really.)

That’s why we wrote The Boss’s Survival Guide – to show bosses how to get great results from employees who actually enjoy working for them. Yes, it is possible.

The new, second edition of The Boss’s Survival Guide is just out, and we thought we’d share some of the best tips on bossing we have. If you’re a boss, these are lessons that you – and your employees – won’t have to learn the hard way. (And they’ll help keep you from showing up as a bad example on If you work for a bad boss, we hope you’ll find some constructive ideas to share. Or some things to look for in your next boss. Let’s start with managing conflict.


Share responsibility (rather than just blaming the other party).

Let go of the past. Instead, ask what each party can do in the future to preserve the working relationship.

Focus on needs, not wants. Forget a wish list; focus instead on the bottom line.

Accept differences in style. Has someone suggested a great idea that you would never have thought of in a million years? Whatever their origin, differences in style are something that should be appreciated and embraced, not resisted.

Stop being selfish. If you’re the one acting selfishly, try to stop. If the other person is the selfish one, rather than focusing on one selfish act, remember all the people who’ve let you back in their good graces after you’ve done something negative. Return the favor by being more charitable now.

Find out what’s going on. Believe it or not, people usually have a reason for believing what they believe. Taking the time to share perspectives can provide new ideas or offer insight into different positions. Simply having a discussion increases the odds of finding common ground.

Real Life Example

A boss wrote to Workplace911 to share his strategy for resolving conflict. He has a standing offer to any two employees engaged in a conflict: He’ll buy them lunch to work out their problems. The catch? They have to come back and tell him how they’ve resolved their differences. He calls it “the cheapest problem-solving tool ever.”


Bob Rosner is a workplace consultant and well-known authority on employee retention. For the last 25 years, Rosner has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and has been an adjunct professor to MBA students in addition to addressing leading corporations across the world. For more than 12 years, he wrote the internationally syndicated column “Working Wounded: Advice That Adds Insight to Injury.” Bob is the founder of Workplace 911, a comprehensive web site offering help for whatever ails you at work. He has been featured as a workplace expert on The Today Show, 60 Minutes, NPR, CNN, Fox, and others, and his work has been featured in People, Wall Street Journal, Glamour, and Fortune. He lives in Seattle. 
Allan Halcrow is the former editor-in-chief of Workforce magazine, and has been awarded the prestigious McAllister Editorial Fellowship from the American Business Press. He currently serves as Partner at Help Jim, a training and consulting firm that helps employees perform more effectively. Allan lives in Irvine, California.

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12 black employees sue Cleco Corp for racial discrimination

Twelve current or former black employees of Cleco Corp., an energy company based in Pineville, Louisiana, filed a lawsuit against the company for allegedly subjecting them to racial discrimination and a hostile work environment where bosses encouraged “racist and dicriminatory comments”.

In addition, the lawsuit says that the company retaliated against employees who complained to Cleco management about the workplace bullying.

The black employees allege that they “were routinely denied promotion while (Cleco promoted) similarly situated white employees with less experience, education and training.”


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