Empowering Employees to Deal with “Jerks” at Work

Fenwick startup and VC practice co-chair Cindy Hess was featured in a TED WorkLife podcast that explored the detrimental effects of bullying behavior in the workplace, and how companies and employees can productively respond.

The podcast, hosted by organizational psychologist and New York Times columnist Adam Grant, also featured Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson, former Symantec CEO Gordon Eubanks and Duolingo CEO Luis von Ahn.

To prevent bullying behavior, Grant encouraged companies to give junior employees a voice and reward individuals who support rather than sabotage others.

For example, Hess shared how Fenwick’s free market system empowers associates, allowing them to choose the type of work they want to do and the lawyers with whom they want to work.

This approach helps maintain positive work relationships and also motivates partners and senior associates to be invested in junior and mid-level associates’ professional development, Hess said.

“Associates are going to choose to work with the people they enjoy working with — who they’re going to learn from, who will mentor them and who will take an interest in their career,” she explained, noting that ultimately this creates a culture where being a difficult manager is not an option.

The full podcast is available online at ted.com.


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