I work in a startup Software company in India. I head the development team. Recently, "Miss Sue" made some mistake. When "Miss Kate," the Lead of some other team, asked Sue about it, she replied rudely.

When this was brought to my attention, I confronted Sue, she accepted her mistake, and she and I discussed ways in which we can avoid the mistake in future. For me, the matter was over. But Ms. Kate called up a meeting of some senior developers, her own team and Sue, and of course me.

During the meeting, although the issue was resolved, Kate verbally attacked Sue with the purpose of further humiliating her. I defended Sue and asked everyone to focus on the solution for the problem, rather than on who made what mistake. When we were done discussing solutions, I asked everyone to leave. This angered Kate and now she has completely stopped talking to me.

I would like to also note that Kate kind of has a reputation of talking with people in a higher pitch/humiliating them in front of others, and in her own words, she thinks, 'That is how people learn'. I have always opposed that way of handling mistakes, and have even tried to explain it to her. On all previous occasions, she accepted she was wrong, and said she won't repeat it, but then again she keeps doing this kind of thing.

That is the reason why I have resisted explaining same things to her. I want her to realise her behavior would have propagated negativity within the team. But at the same time, this not talking thing is making me uncomfortable.

For last few days I have been thinking of raising the issue to our superior, who happens to be the CEO of the company. But, I am unsure of doing this, because I am not sure if this situation is worthy of taking up to the CEO. Can you please help me with clearing out my confusion?

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  • 9
    Do you have the authority to sack K? – Philip Kendall Oct 29 '16 at 8:22
  • 3
    I can take the matters to the CEO, but I don't want to aggreviate things as long as I can solve the matters at my level. – Shubhada Fuge Oct 29 '16 at 8:26
  • 2
    Instead of using letters it would be easier to call people "Alice, Bob, Carol and Dave". It's easier to keep track of the people when they have names. – Christian Oct 29 '16 at 16:41
  • I have some questions. Short summary if I understood correctly: K as team lead of B asked S of your team A if she made a mistake. S attacked K. You confronted S and discussed it, you thought it was over. K demanded a meeting with her collagues, you and S. K attacked S, you defended her, only allowed to discuss solutions and cut the meeting short. K is angry now and stopped talking. 1. Did you talk with K about S after speaking with S and before K's meeting demand ? 2. How long is K team leader, how good is the quality of Team B work and most important, were Team B speaking for K ? – Thorsten S. Oct 29 '16 at 17:37

You need to decide what you want the culture of your team to be. Is it one where management is by humiliation and ignoring people, or is it one based on humility, respect and trust? At the moment, you are letting Kate decide the culture - and it sounds like you're not happy with that culture. Therefore you need to start being a leader and setting the culture yourself.

Realistically, you've got two options here:

  • Tell Kate that her behaviour is not acceptable within this company and needs to change immediately (i.e. a final warning).
  • Put the wheels in motion to have Kate dismissed immediately.

Personally, I'd be going for the latter. You've had this discussion with Kate before and her behaviour hasn't changed; from your description, she is a cancer to your team. Yes, this isn't an easy decision to make, but leaders are paid to make the hard decisions, not the easy ones.

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    K is a team lead like the OP. They are on the same level and K is not on OP's team. How can the OP get K fired if they are peers? Even the first option is not realistic and sounds wrong to hear that kind of thing from a peer on the same level. – simbabque Oct 29 '16 at 10:10
  • @simbabque: "I head the development team". That's generally a position above "team lead". – Philip Kendall Oct 29 '16 at 10:27
  • You're probably right. OP is talking about several teams though, but never says that S is in OP's team, just a team. They probably meant they head the development department. – simbabque Oct 29 '16 at 10:31

You have made it clear to Mrs K that her teaching style is not acceptable. Communicate to her either face to face or by email that given her tendency to humiliate your staff, her next outburst will result in escalation to management. Then follow through if she can't restrain herself.

She will have another reason to hate your guts but as long as she stops, all is good with the world. You are looking for peace and quiet and if the only way to achieve peace and quiet is through enforced compliance, so be it. Forget about consensual compliance through popularity - you are already in the doghouse so far as she is concerned.


So the problem is Mrs. K. (Miss S. made a mistake some time ago, but that's all resolved).

The next time she attacks a person, if you feel that attack is done in a way that is not acceptable, you shouldn't defend that person, or say that you should focus on the right things, but you should straight away tell Mrs. K that what she is doing and the way she is doing it is not acceptable.

The serious problem is Mrs. K behaviour (for example, Miss S made some mistake, but someone like Mrs. K could completely demotivate Miss S, or even convince her to find a job elsewhere, so you spend lots of time finding a replacement, which costs your company ten times more than that mistake), so that problem is what you need to tackle. And while normally telling someone off in public is not something you should do, I'd say it is fine to do that when she is attacking someone - as she says herself, "that's how people learn".


The problem is not what happened in the past, the problem is her unprofessional behavior of refusing to talk to you. I presume you both have a manger, go to your manager and explain the context and the results of her no longer talking to you. And have him or her deal with the behavior. This is something that should not be acceptable behavior in any workplace.

At some point she needs to be told that how she manages her team is her business, but she does not get to try to manage your team and reprimanding your team members in public is way out of bounds for her. It is best if her manager has this discussion with her.

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