Bad bosses actually may get worse with recession

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Tulsa World: Bad bosses actually may get worse with recession

Bad bosses actually may get worse with recession

By JOHN STANCAVAGE World Staff Writer
Published: 12/13/2009 2:24 AM
Last Modified: 12/13/2009 4:53 AM

You might think that with the nation in its deepest recession since the Great Depression, bosses prone to outrageous behavior might tone down their acts a bit.

After all, you don’t want to give anyone a reason to dispatch that pink slip, right?

Not so, says a local human resources consultant. In tough times, workplace bullies actually tend to ramp up their reign of terror.

“This would seem like a good time for companies to get rid of these bad bosses. But what often happens is that good employees the jerks have targeted get laid off instead,” Kevin Kennemer, founder of the Tulsa-based People Group, told me in a telephone interview.

“Bullies typically don’t go after the weak. They make sure the company eliminates the workers who are the most accomplished and respected. Those are the people who are the biggest threat to them.”

Kennemer recently was part of a national panel that picked the 25 worst bosses of 2009 for The Web site enables people to rate their bosses in a non-libelous manner so that job-seekers can evaluate prospective employers.

The following are some of the bad bosses, along with’s description of why they made the list:

Leon Shaulov, senior trader, Galleon Group, New York

Shaulov allegedly berated traders and analysts at the now-defunct $3 billion hedge fund that currently is caught up in one of the largest insider-trading
cases in decades, using such insults as, “You’re a disease; you’re a jinx.”

Phillip Meeson, CEO,, Leeds, United Kingdom

Meeson received a warning from Manchester Airport Police after screaming at his own employees in front of hundreds of customers lined up at the airline’s check-in counter, ignoring a sign that warned passengers: “Abusive behavior towards staff will not be tolerated.”

Sean Benton, water distribution superintendent, city of Monroe, La.

Benton’s employees recorded a four-hour meeting that took place late last year where Benton used hundreds of obscenities and ordered one of the supervisors to physically attack an equipment operator.

Tom Cable, head coach, Oakland Raiders

Numerous eyewitnesses saw Cable punch an assistant coach at the Raiders training camp in August. The assistant coach suffered a broken jaw.

Mary Kay Peck, former city manager, city of Henderson, Nev.

Peck was fired in April after only 18 months on the job for creating what city council members called “a culture of fear” that included publicly embarrassing several employees.

Others on the worst bosses list included a former NASA inspector general, two executives at Bank of New York Mellon in New Jersey and a candidate for U.S. Congress.

Asher Adelman, the Atlanta-based founder of, said in a news release announcing the 2009 hall of shame that he is shocked such behavior continues to be prevalent in the workplace.

“Nobody deserves to be subjected to a hostile work environment,” he said.

I asked Kennemer about his experience serving on the panel for the bad-boss list.

“It was a little scary, since we are listing names,” he said. “But we have to shine a light on this subject.

“Workplace bullying usually goes on under the cover of darkness. Too many companies look the other way and allow it to continue.”

Along with lowering morale and productivity, jerk bosses also run off the best talent and cost their employers thousands of dollars in increased health-care expenses for those they prey on.

Despite that, Kennemer said he already has received calls from people defending some of the toxic bosses on the list.

“Bullies terrorize everyone down the ladder while kissing up to those above them. They are pretty good at getting people to back them,” he explained.

Kennemer has recruited Adelman to speak to the Oklahoma Business Ethics Consortium on Jan. 28. Watch the Sunday Business section’s FYI and Calendar columns for more details.

The last time OK Ethics focused on jerks in the office, it featured Dr. Gary Namie, founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute.

The Namie presentation drew a capacity crowd, so the topic definitely seems to strike a nerve in many people.

This was the first year for the bad bosses list. Kennemer said there likely will be a 2010 version.

“Maybe this will be an incentive for some bosses to create a more congenial workplace so they don’t get on the list.”
By JOHN STANCAVAGE World Staff Writer