for Stanford Staffers on Office Bullies
from Jack Truher November 1, 2010
Don't miss this morning's San Francisco Chronicle, business section,
you find a story from Bloomberg's BusinessWeek, on a consultant
whose book covers "Workplace
Conduct ...(and) Office Bullies".
Does office bullying happen at Stanford? Stanford's Help
Center also recommends that book.
If you search the Stanford web site for the words, bully and
"help center", you get to a bibliography from the Help Center,
including the same book:
Namie, Gary. The Bully at Work: What You Can
do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job.
Sourcebooks Inc., 2000.
The Bully at Work: What
You Can do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity ...
Bully in Sight: How to Predict, Resist,
Challenge and Combat Workplace ...
The Stanford Help Center has run seminars (example1
) over the years on Workplace bullying, calling attention to
such behavior intended to degrade and humiliate employees. The talks
explained such action as misconduct whether coming from supervisors
or from coworkers.
I attended one of these meetings several years ago. Bullying by
rogue supervisors against their subordinates was emphasized in a
short theatrical as the more difficult problem to deal with.
Managers have rights which under California's "at will" employment
law means that employees do well to react carefully, with foresight.
In more than three decades at Stanford, I assisted coworkers with
strategies for adapting to, surviving and eventually restraining
such misconduct. My strategies and the Help Center's were often
similar. As an employee, I had some options the Help Center
did not, and the converse was also true. Until recently, the
Stanford Staffers web site Directory listed me as a resource on
"Workplace Quality" issues.
Bullying problems are common, but are not homogeneously distributed.
They twinkle like starlight, some strong and persistent, others are
seen and then gone behind the clouds.
Projects or managers can get out of control in the midst of
frustrations and pressures. There are mistakes in supervisory
appointments. Employees need to learn survival skills because
eventually you are going to run into some trouble of these sorts.
You can survive when your tormentor doesn't.
Or a friend of yours at work will have such problems. Nobody
escapes completely. Just making yourself available to a friend
or associate under duress can be an enormous assist at a critical
time of distress. Nobody can protect themselves alone under
I used to say: "One friend can be a big help. Two such allies
are a confirmation for the boss, which sometimes works. Three
or more is a movement, to which management has to respond."
That's part of "the informal organization" in H.R. parlance.
It's not so complicated after all. But its easier said than
-- Jack Truher, retired Staffer,
alum, employee 1965-1996.
|p.s. A more general source of
Stanford employee opinion on Workplace Quality is at
which also lists comparative salaries, etc.
same newspaper link as
A Stanford Business school professor, tells us more about the office culture, copied here below. -- Jack
author and Stanford management professor
San Jose Mercury
By Scott Duke Harris
Posted: 10/30/2010 01:51:55 AM PDT
Connoisseurs of corporate intrigue might consider
geeky, Dilbertian Silicon Valley an acquired taste.
Then again, few companies compare to mighty
Hewlett-Packard as a potboiler of cutthroat politics.
Once so stately, HP and the vaunted "HP Way" have
devolved in recent years to produce the stormy Carly Fiorina era, followed by a notorious spy caper and,
recently, l'affaire Mark Hurd. Viewing HP from the
sidelines, Stanford management professor Jeffrey
Pfeffer has drawn lessons for his classes that focus
on the way people accrue, use and lose power in the
Pfeffer draws on a world full of examples in his new
book, "Power: Why Some People Have It -- And Others
Don't." He expanded on his views in an interview by
e-mail with the Mercury News, which has been
edited for length and clarity.
Q Your book runs to about 250 pages, but surely you
boil the message down to a couple of pithy
paragraphs or maybe a PowerPoint, yes?
Q In a recent commentary for the Harvard Business
Review, you note that "The Social Network," to some
observers, raises the question of whether it's possible "to be successful without being a bit of a
brute." You say the answer is "almost certainly no."
Why "almost"? Why hedge it?
A I can boil the answer down to a phrase: Some people actually want power and are willing to make
the trade-offs to acquire it. Others think they want
it but aren't willing to pay the price. The trade-offs include: a) Working a lot -- few CEOs
or entrepreneurs are successful without putting in
long hours, and that's time taken away from other
people and pursuits; b) Always being under intense
public scrutiny -- when you are a prominent figure
with a lot of power, there is no such thing as a private dinner, as former HP CEO Mark Hurd learned; and c) Thinking
strategically about your interpersonal relationships,
even your marriage.
A There are CEOs who aren't brutes -- former
Southwest CEO Herb Kelleher comes to mind, as does
Jim Goodnight, the leader and co-founder of
software company SAS Institute -- but there aren't a lot. I try to never answer questions as absolutes,
because this is social science, not physics, and there
are always exceptions to the rules.
Q Aren't you just saying, like Leo Durocher, that nice
guys finish last? What kind of message is that?
A Leo Durocher actually said that nice guys finish
seventh, if my quotation source is correct. The
message is a simple one: that you need to take care
of yourself and not rely on the beneficence of others,
including your employer. I am surprised that people
find this message either surprising or disconcerting.
For several decades, employers in Silicon Valley (and
elsewhere) have told their staff that there is no
guarantee of permanent employment -- just the
opportunity to build skills for the next job. We have
stressed self-reliance -- people ought to take that
message seriously and look out for themselves.
Because, with few exceptions, their employers aren't
going to take care of them. Nor will their co-workers,
who are mostly looking out, naturally enough, for
Q Your essay was titled "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg,
Hero or Villain?" You write that "characterizing
multiple-dimensioned human beings into
oversimplified categories like 'good or 'bad'
inevitably can only deceive us." Do powerful people
avoid this habit?
A Powerful people understand that they need to
make strategic relationships -- with important
people whose help they need -- work. They also
understand that characterizing people as good or
bad, or, to use the phrase of my colleague and friend
Bob Sutton's previous book, "The No Asshole Rule,"
is not going to be a way of building those
strategic relationships. So, powerful people tend to
see others as being either helpful or not, and let it
go at that.
Q Speaking of alleged brutes, Oracle's Larry Ellison
blasted HP's board for pressuring CEO Mark Hurd to
resign amid concerns about his relationship with a
marketing consultant who was not his wife. Then,
Oracle hired Hurd and HP sued Oracle, but it was
quickly resolved. What lessons from this drama
would you share with students?
A That emotions, not strategic thinking like we teach
in game theory, often dictate what people do. HP
hired ex-Oracle senior executive Ray Lane, and
Ellison hired Hurd, sort of like playground "I'm going
to show you" behavior. Which just shows that people are
people with emotions, including jealousy, envy
and anger -- even if they are CEOs or board
members. The lesson for my students: Don't assume p
eople are always going to behave rationally. Look at
-- and, if you can, use -- their emotions.
Q How does charisma fit into the power equation?
A Successful people will seem more charismatic as a
result of their success. Charisma matters more in
politics, where you need to touch lots of people that
you don't know well or even with whom you have any
contact. Inside of companies, there are lots of very
successful leaders who don't have much charisma.
And, in fact, Jim Collins' book "Good to Great" argues
that the best leaders aren't the over-the-top
personalities that seem to draw the most media
Q An important part of your message for mere
mortals is in the skill of "managing up." But don't
bosses know when somebody is sucking up and not
A You can never overuse flattery. People love to be
praised--it raises their self-esteem. You can
certainly do it with more or less skill -- and more
skillful behavior is always better. But telling others
how much you admire and appreciate -- and, even
more important, need them -- is going to be
effective in most cases.
Q Does Silicon Valley have different power rules
from the rest of corporate America? Some VCs, for
example, insist that founders and executives have
hands-on engineering experience. Could it be that
tech truly is more meritocratic than other
A Give me a break! Steve Jobs was at one point
forced out of Apple, and came back only when he
outmaneuvered Gil Amelio. The "meritocratic"
venture capital and Silicon Valley law firms are filled
with power struggles, coups, raging egos and
everything else I describe in my book. People are
people -- whether they are in Japan, India or Brazil,
in big companies, small ones, or even in high
- Title: Professor of organizational behavior,Graduate School of Business, Stanford University
- Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees, CarnegieMellon; doctorate, Stanford
- Experience: Faculty member at University of Illinoisand UC Berkeley and visiting professor at London Business School, Harvard Business School, Singapore Management University
- Hometown: St. Louis
- Residence: Hillsborough
- Personal: Married, no children
5 THINGS ABOUT JEFFREY PFEFFER
- Part of Stanford's faculty since 1979.
- Attended high school with Carl Stern, who later ran the Boston Consulting Group, and Nick Binkley, who later became vice chair of the Bank of America.
- Has delivered talks in 34 countries, once releaseda propaganda balloon in Taiwan to fly over the People's Republic of China.
- Lost a high school debate to Barry Posner, now a noted leadership author and former dean of thebusiness school at Santa Clara University.
- Author or co-author of 13 books.