5 Ways To Engage Or Elude ‘Monster Managers’

Put simply, monster managers (as I call them) are bad news for employers — not to mention for the aggrieved workers who suffer under their wrath. It only takes one rogue monster manager to make an employee’s work-life miserable and intolerable, poisoning an otherwise ethical work culture. Yet there are likely tens of thousands of workers worldwide who are regularly targeted for management abuse or worse. Moreover, this troublesome trend does not appear to be dissipating (see statistics below).

From a corporate perspective, monster managers bring a heightened risk of legal liability, bad publicity, and a diminished brand image — all of which hurts the bottom line. In short, nobody wins by supporting, condoning or ignoring the heinous actions of monster managers. Yet the problem persists.

From a corporate perspective, monster managers bring a heightened risk of legal liability, bad publicity, and a diminished brand image — all of which hurts the bottom line. In short, nobody wins by supporting, condoning or ignoring the heinous actions of monster managers. Yet the problem persists.

Memo to CEOs

A while back, I wrote “Memo to CEOs” urging them to be more mindful, vigilant and proactive in rooting out monster managers and firing them when appropriate. As noted in the prior post, monster managers can wreak havoc in the workplace with damaging results for the corporate culture, including:

  • Eviscerating employee engagement,
  • Causing morale and job satisfaction to plummet,
  • Preventing peak performance and productivity,
  • Increasing employee absenteeism and related health care costs,
  • Stifling innovation by clinging to change-resistant bureaucratic cultures, and
  • Causing talented employees (human capital assets) to leave the company and work for the competition.

Many monster managers thrive in companies with unethical work cultures. These organizations have lax procedures regarding professional standards of conduct, HR policies, diversity training, commitment to equal opportunity, and internal complaint systems, for example. In fact, some small businesses might not be able to afford in-house legal counsel or human resource departments to keep them out of trouble.

Readers Respond with Wise Words

Many professionals shared their important views and insights about this perpetual problem, per the previous post. Here’s a small sampling of the most popular comments:

Ritika Nijhawan replied, “Yes, I have come across such managers in my career. I think the only way to deal with them is by finding another job where you feel appreciated and valued. The fact such managers are allowed to grow and prosper in your company says a lot about the workplace culture.”

Rob Jones pointed out: “The population of predatory and abusive coworkers, supervisors and managers isn’t decreasing, but is in a meteoric rise, often referred to these days as ‘epidemic.’ It is often viewed as a way to get ahead.” He also cited an important study on the rise workplace bullying.

Erroll Warner noted he, “Just can’t understand why companies are so in love with bad managers. I really don’t understand it, to say the least. Complaining about your bad boss could get you thrown out on the sidewalk.”

Jeff Rock summed it up nicely: “The cost to business and human lives is staggering. We are rapidly approaching a tipping point when businesses will be unable to compete if they enable their monsters. Top talent will not go there, and when you lose top talent, you lose creativity, then you lose innovation.”

Susan Gainen commented: “I have thought for years that fear of costly litigation would help senior managers wrangle their monsters. Sadly, it is often the most senior manager who is the most monsterly of all. It becomes the role of the Board to manage (discipline or fire) the monster.”

Daunting Data

Sometimes statistics can help tell the story. To wit:

According to a recent Gallup survey on the State of the American Manager, only 35% of managers are engaged at work!

Many monster managers may fall into the other 65% who are purportedly disengaged from their professional work responsibilities. Perhaps these disengaged mid-level managers and first-line supervisors are too focused on unprofessional, unethical or unlawful conduct — to which many employees can attest through on-the-record testimonials in legal proceedings.

According to HR Magazine of the Society for Human Resource Management or SHRM:

  • “41 percent of U.S. workers said they observed unethical or illegal misconduct on the job” (Source: Ethics Resource Center’s National Business Ethics Survey). And many may not speak out.
  • “Globally, only 28 percent of [people] believe that businesses follow ethical practices” (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer survey). Or, 7 out of 10 people think most companies are unethical.
  • Managers are responsible for 60 percent of workplace misconduct” (Source: Ethics Resource Center). Thus, in a large company with a workforce of 10,000, that’s potentially a lot of monster managers!
  • BUT: “Only 20 percent of workers reported seeing misconduct in companies where ethical cultures are strong, compared with 88 percent who witnessed wrongdoing in companies with the weakest cultures.” (Source: National Business Ethics Survey).

Laying the Foundation

This is why it’s critically important for executive management and leadership to comprehend the true extent of the problem, as well as the negative repercussions, rather than sweeping it under the rug. In essence, it simply makes good business sense for all employers to make sure their organizations are built on a foundation of strong ethics, as well as professional conduct and personal values. Effectuating an ethical office environment usually equates to fewer monster managers and a more positive, healthy workplace. This benefits employees and management alike. Yes, a win-win!

But what should YOU do when trying to fend off a monster manager? What are some of the best and worst options? Following are some suggestions for consideration and discussion below…

Stay, Flee or Fight

Five ways to engage with, or escape from, monster managers include (but are not limited to) the following:

  1. Taking it on the Chin. Playing nice while absorbing the abominable behavior because you need that paycheck. Engage the monster manager by doing what you’re told and marching in lockstep.
  2. Taking Flight. Elude the monster manager by seeking a transfer to another department within the company or to a different location like a field office. Often times, abused workers can find solace in a new office environment within a large organization.
  3. Hitting the Road.  Escape from the monster manager by seeking new employment ASAP, whether or not you remain with the company during the interim. Many employees exposed to monster managers simply leave rather than fight.
  4. Spreading the Word.  Engage the monster manager through passive-aggressive action. An example is starting a water cooler “whisper campaign” to get the word out about the misconduct to make others aware and help more victims to come forward. Often times, co-workers are likewise suffering but don’t want to speak out and stand alone.
  5. Fighting Back. Engage the monster manager by standing up, speaking out and bravely fighting for your rights. Yes, fighting management abuse head on despite the risks.

The latter option, which is the most direct form of engagement, is also the road less traveled when dealing with monster managers.


  1. Are monster managers a big problem or no big deal?
  2. What’s the best way to engage a monster manager?
  3. Are there other options in addition to the five listed above?
  4. Does it make sense to fight a monster manager, which is essentially going up against executive leadership and management?
  5. What are the most effective ways to fight a monster manager?


David B. Grinberg
David B. Grinberg
David is a strategic communications consultant, ghostwriter, and literary PR agent on issues of workforce diversity, equal employment opportunity, race and gender equity, and other social justice causes. He is a former career spokesman for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), where he managed media relations for agency headquarters and 50 field offices nationwide for over a decade. Prior to his public service at the EEOC, David was a young political appointee for President Bill Clinton in the White House: Office of Presidential Personnel, and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). A native New Yorker and University of Maryland graduate, David began his career in journalism. You can find David online via LinkedIn, Twitter, Medium, Good Men Project, Thrive Global, BIZCATALYST 360°, and American Diversity Report.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE