Tyler was the best production manager at our facility, supervising about 100 employees daily. His name was all over the Hall of Fame board for obliterating goals and overcoming mechanical adversities on his shift that would have made most managers cry or shut down or both.
Tyler was a great public speaker—charming and funny and passionate and clearly knowledgeable about the business. He got along fabulously with the other managers on the other shifts and departments—he took a proactive approach to issues and always brought viable solutions to the table.
Tyler was one of only three minorities in management –and he was the only Hispanic. He was also the youngest by far, having worked his way through the ranks of the organization over almost ten years.
He was a superstar!
Tyler was also a serial sexual harasser and workplace bully. In his 5 years as production manager, there were 17 grievances filed against him for sexual harassment and hostile work environment. 9 of those resulted in some form of disciplinary action. But Tyler was never demoted from a management position, transferred to a different area that wouldn’t require so much interaction with so many people on staff, or just terminated altogether. He lost a bonus here and there, got suspended once, and received a “stern warning” for every offense.
I watched other managers and staffers demoted, transferred and terminated for much lesser offenses and with far less total number of complaints than Tyler. Yet he managed to survive every time. We secretly called him “Teflon Tyler” because nothing stuck to him. It was unbelievable. The outcomes of our investigations were always decided by a committee. It consisted of 4 people so the burden never fell on just one person. One person was responsible for conducting the investigation and presenting the findings to the rest of the group with resolution recommendations; the other 3 deliberated and decided the outcome. It was a little time-consuming but it was really effective. Generally, the deliberations were peaceful and everyone
quickly got on the same page about what should happen.
Not so much with Teflon Tyler. Those discussions were very lengthy and emotional.
The allegations couldn’t really be substantiated.
There were never any witnesses, nothing caught on camera, and no other way to corroborate the story. Because there were so many complaints, we weren’t even sure if they were real or just employees wanting to get a transfer to another shift or department who knew about Tyler’s reputation so they just made something up to use leverage to get what they wanted.
One time, I was sure that was the case. Her name was Tiffany and she had a romantic relationship with a guy who was promoted and transferred to another shift. A few weeks later, she asked to be moved. It was clear she was making the request to be closer to her boyfriend. There was no place to put her and, quite frankly, both employees were more productive and manageable now that they were separated. So her request was denied. A few days later, she filed a grievance saying Tyler had touched her booty and sexually propositioned her. The details of her story were suspiciously similar to stories I’d heard from a couple of women in the past, who were Tiffany’s friends. Within a week, she was moved to the shift with her loverboy and she couldn’t be happier. Eventually both she and loverboy were terminated for theft of time when they were found clocking each other in/out.
Then there was another time where one of the administrative assistants said Tyler had made comments about her body and things he would do with her sexually if given the chance. She had no motive to make anything up about Tyler—and she was pretty new so she didn’t really know his reputation. Tyler adamantly denied the accusation. I believed her. However, in the face of another he said – she said complaint, the committee issued another warning. The administrative assistant quit about 6 months later.
One time, we had Tyler on camera chest-to-chest with a subordinate employee arguing about something in front of other members of the staff. Tyler said the employee didn’t like his work assignment for the day and the situation escalated from there. During the course of this argument, the witnesses heard the other employee using profanity and racial slurs against Tyler—which the other employee admitted to. He also admitted that he deliberately guided the argument into view of the cameras and other people so they could serve as witnesses to how out of control and “drunk with power” Tyler was. Tyler was issued yet another warning; the other employee was suspended and moved to another department.
Finally, there came a grievance where the woman had some actual proof. This girl worked on another shift with a different supervising manager, but had been supervised by Tyler before. She claimed Tyler told her that if she didn’t sleep with him by her birthday, he was going to have her fired. She notified her supervisor 2 days before her birthday, who turned the matter over to HR immediately. When asked her when Tyler threatened this, she said “February.”
Skkkkrrrrttt! February?!? Huh? It was now AUGUST.
She said she had spent last 6 month trying to stay on Tyler’s good side to distract him from this ultimatum. She also said Tyler hadn’t made mention of the indecent proposal since March. I asked her to provide her telephone records – there were over 50 pages of phone calls and text history between the two of them from January through about 2 weeks prior to her complaint. It looked to me like workplace love gone wrong. Tyler assured me that all their conversations — even the ones at 5am and 11:30pm — were about work. He said this girl kept him abreast of all the gossip at the plant, but there was nothing salacious about their relationship. She admitted that she fed him information from the rumor mill, but insisted it was to get him to forget about the sexual ultimatum he’d given her months earlier. This time, I wasn’t
sure who to believe. However, it was clear from the phone call and text history
that something was going on with the two of them and it was inappropriate. The
committee’s decision? Another round of warnings.
After that incident, I didn’t know if Tyler was cunning or clueless. Was he playing us for fools or was he really the victim in all of this because his reputation had become so marred?
What I knew for sure is I was terrified of the liability for our organization as the grumblings and grievances just kept coming. How many more stern warnings was this guy going to get before we cut our losses? Sure, Tyler was a great business asset but the risks that came along with him were huge. Was the risk worth it?
Time and experience have taught me that Tyler’s tale isn’t all that unique. Stories abound of top performers who exhibit bad behavior behind the scenes. Does a person’s poor reputation ever reach a point where it truly eclipses great performance? Does a person’s character ever count as much as or more than the cash they bring in? Employers often build these monsters by allowing a different set of rules and expectations from top performers than the rest of employees. We turn a blind eye and make excuses for things that other employees couldn’t even fathom without serious consequences. Maybe not to the extreme of Tyler, but even things like more flexible hours, extra time off, assigned parking spaces, constant public acknowledgement and comparisons, etc of top performers takes its toll on the rest of the organization. The other employees feel unappreciated and unimportant, the superstar feels untouchable. I am keenly aware of this and, as much as I love the perks I get as a top performer, I worry about the harm it causes to morale and productivity.
Eventually, I left that company for another opportunity. I checked with old friends to find out the latest on Tyler. He is still working here. He is on the shortlist to replace the Plant Manager, who is planning to retire soon. There are also more than 40 grievances against him.