Dear Careernomers: Help, There's a Tyrant in My Office!

Aug 28, 2012 1 Min Read

Leaderonomics have experts on career management, HR and office issues, who will address your questions and doubts. We refer to them as Careernomers – experts in career matters who will help you in your career journey. The questions can range from issues you are facing in the workplace to career advice and questions that you need help on. Panelists will take turns answering your questions on careers.



The company I work for, like many technology companies, has a guy who is very skilled and inventive but who behaves like a madman. He insults co-workers, embarrasses us publicly, and abuses many of us — to the extent that some get depressed and cry. Anyone who works for him ultimately ends up quitting. I have no idea what management sees in him but they view him as a superstar and genius, even though we don’t see what the big deal is with him and the work that he does. He listens to no one, especially folks like me in sales. He works in operations but his negative impact even touches me and my team.

The heads of department of our company seem to think he is indispensable (like themselves), and our terrifying nightmare goes on and on. Sure, he is a smart guy and has some neat skills but there are a ton of skillful people out there. Why tolerate this fool? What is wrong with our management? Why can’t they see what we see?

My personal view is that if the abusive person is retained, he should be carefully locked up in a lab and supervised by specially trained guards. In fact, they have put him in an office that is far out of the way, but they forgot to chain him. What is your view? What can I do?

Frustrated Fadli 

Responses from our Careernomers

Hui Ming

Dear Frustrated Fadli,

Firstly, before you jump off the edge of the cliff and lose your sanity, ask yourself these few questions:

Are you happy with your role/ job currently (assuming you had the magic to make this nasty employee disappear)?

Do you think highly of the organisation that you work in? Do you believe in this organisation’s goals and purpose? (again ignoring this ‘bad apple’ employee)

If your answer to both is “YES”, then I suggest you practice putting a filter or invisible shield to protect your mind, thoughts and emotions from this negative vibe. Try to ignore the negative things he/she says/does and pick out only the good stuff e.g. the great ideas. Filter the rest and don’t agonise over one person who has an attitude problem.

If your company has a practice or culture of feedback, then by all means, voice out your opinion. If it doesn’t, then consider if this is the type of environment you’d enjoy.

If your answer to either one is “NO”, then, the smart thing to do here is to find a new job and quit. That is what many of your co-workers have done and what everyone who has contact with this employee should do.

I am guessing the real question you may be struggling with is ‘why on earth does a company’s management ignore and even encourage this type of behaviour? It’s not uncommon to find “untouchables” who everybody but the boss can’t stand. So what makes the bosses blind to these ‘untouchable’ people?

First of all, as you said, the guy in question is really skilled and smart and has some great ideas. The powers that be are aware of these great ideas and probably only see that part of this person. They flat out don’t see that the source of these “great” ideas is also the source of the problems. Management often keep people for their skills and not their EQ/social skills which can lead to longer term issues down the road. We find that success is hugely dependent on emotional intelligence (EQ) vs IQ or skills. And many management teams end up worrying they will lose ‘talent’ and then end up tolerating talent with significant issues. And sometimes, in management’s eyes, the mass exodus from this guy’s department must be due to people not understanding his “genius” rather than the fact that he has no EQ. Because you lack the power to terminate this employee, while company leaders are terrified to function without him, and he makes everyone miserable, it’s time for you to decide what you can live with or without… maybe it’s time to browse through the next few pages and look for new opportunities which may be out there. But don’t be alarmed if in your new company there may be other “untouchables” that you have to deal with. Such is life!

Ang Hui Ming

Hui Ming was part of GE’s elite group of hi-potential talent. She was a business leader to GE’s Global Business Service division and later led the HR functions for GE at the Asean level before being made Asia HR leader for GE’s Oil and Gas division. She is a co-founder of Leaderonomics and a prominent HR leader in Malaysia.



Dear Frustrated Fadli,

Incidences like these make us realize that bullying doesn’t stop after high school! But don’t fret as Hollywood seems to have an answer for everything these days.

Just like in the big screens (and comics), there is a superhero for each villain. Let’s imagine for the next few minutes that this colleague of yours is seen as a “villain” among your colleagues. The question here then is, which cape would you put on to deal with this situation?

BATMAN – What is good is not always the best for you!

Although Batman believes in what he does, he stated in one Justice League episode that he would rather be separated from the elite Justice League and continue his work on his own.

Likewise, you need to reflect on this company you are with. Is this a place where you can grow your career? Do you believe in the vision and values this company has? If not, then get yourself out from there FAST before the toxins of the villain reaches you and affect not only your productivity, but your emotional and physical health.

If you decide on the move, make sure you provide honest yet professional feedback during the exit interview. This can help your management see a different angle of this staff and manage the situation better in the future.

IRON MAN – What doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger.

However, if you have found a reason to stay on in this company, then I suggest you write that down in a place you constantly look at (cubicle, wallet, phone, car, etc). Then get to work every morning with that reason/goal in mind, lest you forget on difficult days.

Iron Man is a great example of a person who is not at all bothered with all the insults and comments hurled at him as he worked on what he believed in. Similarly, as you work towards your goal in this company, make it a point to leave your emotions at the door so no one can crush it in the office. But let me warn you, be careful not to blow up from too much pent up frustrations, otherwise, you will risk turning into a “villain” too!

SUPERMAN – There’s always some good in everyone!

Clark Kent/ Superman has always tried to look for the good in people, even in the likes of super-villain Lex Luthor. Remember that the people who are hurting are those who hurt others.

If you can find it in your heart to somehow build a relationship with this man and be a friend, I believe you can make a difference to him personally as well as the company. As a friend, you can gently but firmly let him know the impact of his words and actions on others.

Address the issue when you have gained his trust and gathered enough facts, examples and most importantly, COURAGE. It may be scary, but very likely effective. And when you succeed (it may take time), you will realize that not only have you kept the job you love, you would have also grown as a leader who managed to influence another person. Win-win, don’t you think?

So Fadli, I hope you can find the right “superhero power” to channel all your frustrations in this situation. All the best!

Elisa Dass Avin

Elisa currently heads the Assessment and Career Growth at Leaderonomics. She grew from the role of an FES counsellor to an identified Young High Potential in Sunway Group, where she also led the Career Services Team. She was later recruited as a Senior Talent Assessment Consultant prior to leading Inspired Minds.


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