Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Have you calculated your TCA (Total Cost of Assholes)?

Harvard Business Publications may be more well-known for academic and theoretical tomes, but the issue of workplace bullying has made its way to the inner sanctum of management strategy – clearly a sign that such a subject will be receiving increasing attention in coming months.

And, far from moderating its language on the issue, the article linked below correctly states that bullies, especially bullying bosses, are unaffordable. In an unforgettable phrase, the article quotes from Robert Sutton’s delicately titled book “The No Asshole Rule” :

The TCA (total cost of assholes), while difficult to calculate, is very expensive — in time, money, and workplace wellness

How about these eminently sensible tips on how to deal with a bullying boss:

Document and define the bullying. Is it actually bullying? Women who exert 'male' leadership styles are in danger of being perceived as bossy. Men who do the same thing are often praised as decisive. Look for patterns over time vs. isolated incidents, privately document the facts and specific actions. Finally, look at your company's culture. Is bullying or aggressive behaviour rewarded?

Consider your options and make a choice. If the culture supports or rewards bullying, seriously consider if this environment is for you.

Nip bullying in the bud — carefully. Privately derailing someone who is yelling at you by calmly repeating their name can be highly effective. Not so when your boss belittles you in a meeting. (Never out a bully in public; it will surely escalate things.)

Grow a support system. It's as important to get honest feedback about your experiences, perceptions, reactions, as it is to know that you are not alone

Is Your Boss a Bully? Stop Being the Target.

  • Is the fact that this difficult subject has been addressed by a normally academic publishing house a sign that the issue is not only a growing concern, but also one that is starting to be taken seriously?


  1. Publications aside - I’m sure that, in our increasingly litigious world, the cost of tribunal awards and out of court settlements will ensure that eventually this issue is treated with the seriousness it warrants.

    Perhaps organisations could learn something from our primary schools, who put anti bullying very firmly at the top of the agenda.


  2. EBTG

    Unfortunately, not all primary schools put anti-bullying at the top, it depends upon the Headteacher. If they don't want their statistics affected they will totally ignore the problem. I have been in the parent position in this scenario.

    I have also been on the receiving end of bullying in the workplace and found it very hard to breakthrough all the red tape to take it to the Grievance Procedure. I worked for a local authority. Say no more!

    Lou (Kent)

  3. It's bad enough people in the private sector knocking the public sector, without one of our own joining in. If you are not happy working for an LA why don't you get a job somewhere else? You may enjoy work a bit better there.

  4. In reply to the last comment, I did say I "worked" for a local authority. I am now happily working for myself on a consultancy basis and researching how stress affects people in the workplace.

    Lou (Kent)

  5. All: Thanks for your open, honest and revealing comments. You might be interested in today's article concerning classroom bullying which is being reported in the national press.