Are you imitating Lily Tomlin or Dabney Coleman?

In the movie 9 to 5 with Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Jane Fonda, Dabney Coleman portrayed a stereotypical   bad boss. Selfish, narcissistic, lying, manipulative, conniving and building his reputation on the backs of his employees. If you don’t remember it, the ladies came up with a resolution to his behavior in a workplace violence (WPV) way, albeit hilarious and comedic. They kidnapped, assaulted, held prisoner, and imitated Dabney Coleman to make the workplace better for everyone.

Why should I bring up this movie in combination with WPV? Besides the fact I’m lost in the past, it is to make a point about bad bosses, no matter what title they wear. Far too many of them, still, believe that they have impunity in supervising or treating their employees worse than they do anyone else or their favored ones. An authoritarian style of management more reminiscent of the 19th century instead of the 21st. A couple of examples from ladies I know in the not so distant past:


A supervising nurse tells one of her favored ones that another nurse, a veteran of 40 years, needed some reeducation because they just couldn’t get things right anymore. When informed it was one of the favored ones who messed up… the incident was quickly forgotten and brushed aside with no punitive action taken.

When the veteran nurse was called into the Unit Manager’s office for a disciplinary issue, the supervising nurse went along. She knew that the veteran was not at fault and had told her in front of several others earlier, that it wasn’t. However, in the meeting when it came time to defend her subordinate… she said nothing, when it appeared she would be terminated.

Billing Clerk

The new supervisor caused the production of 2/3 of her employees to fall by assigning the one who came on shift early to grab most of the work. It therefore made it look like the first employee was over worked and the others were sluffing off. This caused significant stress to the latter in both work and personal lives…and financial when they were terminated for it.

Because she was a computer nerd, the old supervisor asked her to help the others with new programs, macros, and such issues. Later she found out the new supervisor wasn’t giving her time off her own work to do it, she kept her on production time. The person she was helping got down time (not counted against her work time), and she wasn’t.  She was helping the rest of the crew, she was going to keep her on work time while sacrificing my friend’s production time when she was assisting others, which was a disciplinary issue. She was eventually terminated.


In the warning signs & attitudes of WPV & SV, I talk about personal and work life stress, disparate treatment, and an authoritarian style of management. It doesn’t matter how decent of a person they are or how well they have held up in the past. Unless circumstances change then they can, and usually will, break. Whether that is in a psychotic episode or something else, who knows until it actually occurs.

The employer is at great risk of a lawsuit if the employee pops their proverbial cork and injures or kills someone. It is in the best interest of the employer to pay attention to any indication that the employee is being bullied, harassed, threatened, or intimidated by their manager that is initiating this bad behavior.

Movies, as you can see from 9 to 5, books, television, and old-time radio serials represented bad managers as bumbling buffoons who were always thwarted by the targeted employee. Rarely does that happen in the real world. Usually, it is the employee who pays the price when they are terminated by a corrupt and self-serving superior, unless it is turned on them with a weapon, which is not the best action to take.

The attitudes of organizations that encourage WPV or SV are replete with those reasons as well;

Not Invented Here

Playing favorites

Communications not being efficient or effective

Unequal Enforcement of Policies

Disparate Treatment

Authoritarian Style of Managing, employees refusing to bend to their will & offer obeisance


Keep in mind that in some cases the unprofessional behavior is not perceived and is real to everyone. It is also just as likely that other employees, especially those who receive preferential treatment don’t even seem to notice or intervene… they wish to continue receiving the perks that come with, for lack of a better term, sucking up to the boss.

The overall issue is training supervisors and managers to know when they are acting in this way. The longer they have been in charge the more resistant they will be to changing their ways, like communists who don’t know when to give up power until they are violently ousted, much like some managers could be during a WPV incident.

If they refuse to change and follow the new way of supervising people, firm but fair, which is very easily accomplished, then an ultimatum needs to be given. I was in charge of straightening out a large account who were perpetually losing officers because of the supervisors. I trained them and told them either get with it or get out. Very harsh, but it worked and the officers were happier.

Next is training the employees to inform someone in authority what is going on with the Dabney Coleman in the organization. If employees don’t speak up then no one will ever know until, potentially, one comes back with a firearm and resolves the issue their way. Then the company will payout significantly more $$$$ than just disciplining or firing the manager.

As you undoubtedly know, if someone would have said something about someone to someone then any number of Workplace Violence, School Violence, domestic violence, terroristic incidents, and war may not have occurred. After the incident it comes down to the denials, “I didn’t think they could do that!” or “I didn’t think it could actually happen here (or to them).”

The sad reality of these violent incidents is that it is all too often true what happened to the people above, whether we want to believe that or not in our society and supposedly enlightened world. Managers and companies are sometimes stuck in the 18th & 19th centuries when it comes to their style of management and employees…well it is unfortunately sometimes, me first and only me.

Is this saying that a 40s, or further back, era style of authoritarian management can sometimes be justified? Of course, it can, but it depends on the circumstances and needs to be seldom utilized. There is a difference in that sort of style and issuing orders for work to be accomplished.

Robert D. Sollars assists businesses & schools to safeguard the lives of their employees & students to lessen their risk of violence as well as other security/customer service related issues with time tested and proven ideas. You can follow him on his website, twitter@robertsollars2, or by e-mail at

He is the author of 2 books on preventing violence in both schools and businesses:

Never to Grow-Up: Preventing Violence in our Schools

One is too Many: Recognizing & Preventing Workplace Violence

both available on Amazon. His upcoming book will be available in May, watch for more details on

Murder in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Prevention

I May be Blind but my Vision is Crystal Clear


Permission to reprint? Of course, with these guidelines; the original content must be printed in full of original wording, with grammatical corrections, and full attribution.

Copyright 2018 Robert D. Sollars

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