Team-building or torture? A sales rep in Provo, Utah has filed suit over what appears to be an extreme case of workplace bullying. The young man claims, and his employer doesn't particularly deny, that he was waterboarded by his supervisor as part of a "team-building exercise." He claims that he volunteered when his boss asked for participants for a "new motivational exercise." But the 26-year-old says that he had no idea that the "exercise" would involve his supervisor pouring water out of a gallon jug over his nose and mouth, while his coworkers held him down. The last time the team had done an exercise outside, it was an egg toss.
His supervisor remarked immediately afterwards, "You saw how hard Chad fought for air right there. I want you to go back inside and fight that hard to make sales."
It seems that the supervisor truly believed that causing your reports to feel the near-death experience of forced drowning is actually a motivational tool. The employee has filed suit for assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and wrongful termination.
Another of the supervisor's "motivational tools" was to remove all chairs, forcing employees to stand for the entire shift. This was his response to a day without sales. He kept a "motivational 2 x 4" wooden "paddle" on his desk on stand-by.
Normally, this is where we would provide sage advice on preventative measures, "be proactive with an anti-bullying policy," and reparative tactics, such as follow-up training for all employees. This case, though, is so extreme those normal reactions seem inappropriate. Instead, my recommendation is to to take a very close look at the supervisors in your workplace. Keep your eyes open for physically aggressive behavior, even if it's couched as "positive reinforcement."
This will definitely be a case to keep our eyes on.