“Is Jerry a good employee?” I asked.
“He has good skills but if he does not like a task, he starts griping and does just enough to get by.”
Jerry was friendly and nice when Jamison became his manager. But after about three weeks, Jerry began coming in a late. When Jamison approached Jerry about his attendance, Jerry responded rudely, “We’ve been working too much overtime lately. Why are you on my back?”
Jerry is a bullying employee. He saw that Jamison was a kind, caring manager and perhaps vulnerable. Jerry first endeared himself to Jamison (an effort to cause Jamison guilt feelings). Later Jerry tested Jamison with rude behaviors.
While Jamison was compassionate and well meaning, Jerry saw him as vulnerable and he escalated his defiant behaviors.
Maybe it is the “law of the jungle,” but aggressive employees seek out leaders who may be vulnerable and they test them with inappropriate but acceptable behaviors. Appeasing and patient leaders may actually encourage increased employee aggression.
When dealing with predatory animals, school-yard bullies, or aggressive employees, one must respond confidently and firmly to avoid becoming prey.