by Carol Nibley

Last month’s article illustrated how incivility in the workplace can be expensive. Employee morale, productivity, and goodwill are just a few of the costs when a “fathead” is allowed to reign unchecked in the workplace.
Yes, certain categories of bullies—we’ll call them fatheads, for present purposes—deserve to be classified, labeled, and put on display in a natural sciences museum. Prominent warnings could be posted nearby to help the public learn how to interact safely with the live ones.

A few years ago I co-authored a short novel entitled Company Fatheads: How to Bounce Bully Behaviors and Boost the Bottom Line. The term “fathead” may be highly subjective, and all of us may have our “fathead” moments. However, most will agree that the world contains some genuinely obnoxious or nuisance types who rate classification as surely as any arachnid or lepidopteron. You know the kind—the chronic whiner, bore, antagonist, and incompetent, to name a few. Bullies, the whole bunch. If not always in the traditional sense, they’re bullies in that they make life miserable for others and pose a threat to workplace productivity. Such folk deplete our energy, raise our blood pressure, and cost us big time.

Sometimes the most effective way to eradicate the undesirable is simply to shine a light on it. Here are four actions to ensure employee engagement and to strengthen the bottom line, namely—

  1. Illuminate to eliminate undesirable behavior—don’t let negative employee performance or attitudes remain invisible and unrecognized.
  2. Provide training and other resources to help managers diagnose and deal constructively with undesirable or unproductive behaviors.
  3. Align employee and departmental outcomes with larger corporate objectives.
  4. Regularly monitor performance and distribute rewards/consequences.

Have you successfully rehabilitated a fathead in your workplace? Send your favorite fathead story to and we’ll share some stories in a future column.


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