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We have a brand new line manager. He's only been on the job for a week, but is already crossing the line between being assertive and aggressive. He'll be quickly dismissive to staff and at other times interrogative. One staff member has already been driven to tears. He will labour over items of his own work that could be dealt with quickly and yet set unreachable standards for my team in terms of pacing.

For example, yesterday while I was in a meeting with him, he ordered me to immediately do a job that would take about an hour. However the meeting had another half hour to run minimum and I was due to finish for the day immediately afterwards. I knew it would be impossible without doing overtime, and I wasn't willing to put myself in that position. I was so taken aback that I said: "Uh I'll try, but I finish in half an hour." Needless to say the meeting ran overtime and I didn't do it. I've now done it today, but I'm concerned about future incidents arising.

I have a good relationship with the staff and the company owner. I would like the manager to be successful, but I also don't want to b subjected to bullying, verbal assaults or inappropriate criticism in what is already a stressful and busy job.

TLDR: How can I help my new manager be successful and not let him bully me in the process?

  • How do you want to handle it? What do you want to achieve, or what you want to change and how? – DarkCygnus Jul 18 '18 at 16:20
  • Some firms actually train their managers to behave like that - and fire managers who are not "assertive" enough. If it's the case, the only sensible thing to do is to vote with your feet. – gazzz0x2z Jul 19 '18 at 7:09
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Two things come to mind here:

  1. Do you have a relationship with the managers about this guy? Talk to this new manager's manager. I'd make a point to take them aside and explain that your new direct manager is extremely combative, to the point of being disruptive the team. Make it clear that not making a point of correcting this managers behavior will have a negative effect on the team and could drive people to seek employment in a more positive environment. I certainly wouldn't want to work in a place where

One staff member has already been driven to tears

  1. Make sure not to over promise on work you can't complete given the the time it was given. I've had managers who didn't understand the work behind a request and would try to force it simply so they could check off a box. In the end, both you and your work suffer needlessly.
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If you feel strongly about this, relay your concerns to him directly. If need be, bring somebody with you to act as a witness. Ideally this witness should be a peer to you (same level of experience etc), or else another manager as you don't want to undermine the new manager in front of his staff.

Don't forget to document the meeting and, depending on local laws, you could even record it on your phone.

If his response is poor, you can then start going up the chain and alert his supervisors.

At the end of the day, you have to stand up for yourself because nobody else will.

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It's a difficult one. You mention that you have a good relationship with the company owner, so perhaps you could try to discuss it with them, and see what they suggest?

If it was me, and I'm being ordered to do things that are literally impossible, then I would push back and assert myself. You may have to choose between putting up the dukes, or letting him walk all over you, and it's important to start as you mean to go on with the relationship as well. As they say, with some people, if you give an inch, they will take a mile.

If it carries on and doesn't show any sign of improving, and the Upper Management doesn't seem inclined to do anything about it, you should probably consider looking for other opportunities.

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I knew it would be impossible without doing overtime, and I wasn't willing to put myself in that position. I was so taken aback that I said: "Uh I'll try, but I finish in half an hour."

You did everything right, but you could have been more assertive. If you know that the task takes one hour, and you only have half an hour or less, you shouldn't say: “Uh I'll try,” but rather “Of course, I'll start it right after the meeting; however, the task would probably take one hour, so I'll have to continue tomorrow.”

If the manager insists on doing it today, you kindly reply: “I'm very sorry, but I can't leave late today, so I would only have half an hour if the meeting doesn't run late.” If he continues to insist, you should respond more firmly: “As I said, the task will take an hour, and I only have half an hour. Do you want to give it to somebody else? If not, what else do you suggest?” Any suggestions about you staying late should be dismissed very firmly: “As I already said one minute ago, I can't stay late today.”—the person is interfering with your private life, and any suggestions to stay late when you explicitly told that you can't do that are impolite.

Remember that your manager can decide what you will do, but he can't decide how fast you'll do it. He can't just assert that a three hours task can be done in one hour; putting more pressure on you won't make you think faster:

Lister's law: People under time pressure don't think faster.

If he insists on spending less time, invite him to reconsider the task itself. For instance, if you need to design a feature, you may suggest changing the feature so that it would be easier to implement, or cut a part of it, keeping only the essentials. Here too, a manager who refuses to discuss the subject and insists that you have to perform the original task in shorter time without should receive a clear and immediate feedback that this is not how things work. Doing otherwise, like telling: “I'll see what I can do.” would inevitably get you in trouble. Even formulations such as “Oh, I'm really sure I won't be able to do it in just an hour, but I may try.” would be misinterpreted, and the manager will be angry at you that you haven't kept your promise of finishing the task at time.

Needless to say the meeting ran overtime and I didn't do it. I've now done it today, but I'm concerned about future incidents arising.

You haven't mentioned the most important part. You missed the deadline, and then what? What was the reaction of the manager?

Reading your description, I had an impression that the manager may simply be trying to motivate you. I didn't say he was doing it right, but this is what some managers do. “I want this and that yesterday, and no compromises with the quality!” Such manager puts a lot of pressure, but he knows that the team won't be able to follow anyway, so when things are late, he doesn't blame anyone—he expected the thing to be late anyway.

If this is the case, there are specific techniques to deal with such persons. In most cases, it comes at simply discussing the issue with the manager, explaining the negative consequences his choice has on the morale of the team. However, you have to study the person well enough—some won't like a direct feedback like that.

If, on the other hand, the manager blamed you for finishing the task later than expected, this is probably a direct consequence of your “Uh, I'll try.” As stated above, you have to be firm when it comes to the delays and avoid misinterpretations.

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A more cordial approach may be to in a friendly manner make some small talk with the new manager where you and him can get to know each other better. "Hi I am X. Welcome to the team! We appreciate you coming on here..." Maybe ask about any of his hobbies, family, interests, etc. If nothing in particular is wrong (and even if it is), you probably should gently yet assertively state something along the lines "We appreciate you trying to really improve things- but what you are doing is actually causing a lot more harm."

If that fails, you may need to raise it over his head to the higher level manager. Or speak to HR depending on the severity and if it keeps persisting. (And if none of the above works.... then it might be time to dust off that resume)

Also very important- KEEP DOCUMENTATION- DOCUMENT EVERYTHING! This will save your rear if ever anyone up the chain decides unprofessionally & unscrupulously to burn you & toss you under the bus

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