A recent New York Times article links employers’ tolerance of abusive supervisors to employees’ participation in “The Great Resignation.” The article claims that employees have lost patience with management they view as unfair, arbitrary, or bullying and will simply quit when faced with these behaviors. Companies that tolerate such supervisors are likely to face increasing turnover and difficulty locating replacement employees.
Curbing abusive supervisors may help with employee retention, but it also dovetails with companies’ legal risk management. With the exception of a handful of states and municipalities, bad or bullying behavior by managers does not directly result in legal liability absent evidence that the behavior is motivated by discrimination or retaliation against people in a protected classification. However, it’s natural for an employee on the receiving end of abusive treatment to conclude that it results from a discriminatory animus. Employers that defend such claims on the basis that the manager is an equal opportunity jerk basically admit that they tolerated or even ratified such conduct.
Even highly productive managers who behave in an abusive manner can eventually cost their employers through constant turnover and legal expenses. Companies that establish and enforce “no jerk” policies may be better prepared to adjust to changes in labor markets and competition for talent.