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  • Writer's pictureRuss Newton

Life lesson number 5 (work and personal)

The story I am going to tell today is about how I dealt with a bully as a boss over my career. But I think this lesson works well in your personal life as well.

This happened in 2005. I was director of operations at California Community News. I worked for the SVP of Operations, Mark Kurtich. One day, we had a big mistake made by one of our truck drivers. He delivered a small community newspaper two hours late to a DC in Orange County where the Los Angeles Times was also delivered from. The two hour delay led to the LAT being two hours late because the same carriers delivered both papers. The team at CCN investigated the situation and we issued a Last and Final warning to the driver for the poor decision that he had made that led to the two hour late delivery. (he had gotten lost and didn't call for help) That is the background to the bullying that happened next.

I received a phone call from Mark Kurtich about the incident. I started to explain what had happened and what we had done but before I could finish, Mark interrupted and started to get angry. He started yelling at me, saying how unacceptable this was and how bad it made him look as SVP. The yelling continued, I could not get a word in. So I hung up the phone. About five minutes passed, he called back. Asked what happened. I said we must have been disconnected. He started talking and again started yelling. I hung up a second time. This time it took ten minutes for him to call back. He said what is going on? I said, Mark, you can discipline me, fire me, affect my pay, my bonus, stock options or promotional opportunities. But you can't yell at me. Okay? Is that fair? He agreed and the call ended. And for the next two years I worked for him, no bullying happened again.

At the time, I was worried I would lose my job. But I can't stand being bullied, particularly by being yelled at. My father was a big yeller and I learned the correct lesson at an early age, Yelling doesn't work. The first time I was bullied as an adult by someone other than my father was when I was a press operator at the Army Times in Springfield VA. In 1984 I was running the front page color lead on the product we were printing. I had a red plate out of register six rows of dots (about a 1/4"). We shut the press down for replate and the supervisor said "No plate moves, we are behind and we just put the replate on and go" He told me to "split the difference" (Which means there is two seperate newspapers being printed at one time, so I was put both papers 3 rows of dots out. I was a bit of a perfectionist at this time. So this is when I made my first mistake. I knew I could move the red plate in the same number of press moves it would take the other operator to replate. So I disobeyed my supervisor and moved the red plate. When the press started up, the second mistake I made was obvious! I had moved it the wrong way! So the supervisor angrily shut the press down and we moved the plate the correct way. I came out from the unit mentally kicking myself. I should have followed his direction, i was a moron and I would never do that kind of thing again. But then the supervisor approached me and procedure to yell and scream at me for what felt like five minutes. And during that yelling, I stopped thinking about how I screwed up and started to think I don't know when, I don't know how but I am going to get even with you prick! All thoughts of my error where gone and I was on a revenge mission. I did get even with him many years later, more on that in the future. When I became a supervisor, one of the things I vowed I wouldn't ever do was yell at someone. It doesn't work.Explaining what the person has done wrong and seeking corrective steps to fix the problem in a calm and reasonable manner works a heck of lot better than yelling at the individual does.

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