Jerks. Bullies. And the GOBC

Updated on July 23, 2023

Supportive culture. Positive camaraderie. A career path. You have likely heard of, and perhaps experienced, companies touting the importance of such characteristics and why you should consider working for the company.  Many well-intentioned organizations tout similar taglines, but struggle to establish a culture that is consistent with these goals.  It takes more than well-intentioned mission statements and policies aimed at enhancing diversity, inclusion and a work culture that offers all employees an opportunity to thrive.  While there is no “one-shoe-fits-all” approach, hiring decisions can have one of the most profound effects on whether an organization successfully achieves an inclusive and supportive culture. Experience has shown that notwithstanding an organization’s best efforts, employee behavior can greatly undermine diversity and inclusion efforts notwithstanding an organization’s sincerest efforts. 

The following are examples of employee behavior that are based on actual events that have occurred that managers may be able to identify and take proactive measures to address.  Some of these examples include companies in healthcare. Regardless of the specific industry, these examples demonstrate a common theme: scenarios in which employee interactions erode the company’s attempts of promoting key aspects of a diverse and supportive workplace.

Authors note: The names listed in this article are not the names of the involved individuals. In addition, if a reader’s name appears in this article, it is coincidental and not related to incident(s). 


Fifer has worked for a company for several years. Throughout this time Fifer has actively sought feedback from supervisors and senior management. Fifer desires to be promoted and realizes that networking with management might help with landing a promotion. 

One day while walking down a hallway at work, Fifer is approached by Rumi. Rumi has been with the company for more than a decade and is very popular. As Rumi approached Fifer, unsolicited and unprovoked, Rumi said to Fifer, “No one wants to work with you because you talk with supervisors and senior management. No one trusts you and no one wants to work with you. I just thought you should know. You might consider your options”. 

In this example, Rumi appears to be intimidating Fifer by telling him to stop talking to supervisors and executives, that no one likes him, and that Fifer should find a new job in another company. This could be considered a jerk or bully move.  While intimidating conduct such as that described in the example can be very difficult to detect, organizations may mitigate the damage of such behavior by proactively communicating to all employees the characteristics that lead to success with the organization.  These could include timeliness, diligence, kindness and developing positive relationships with others.  Top-down consistent and positive reinforcement of these principles can help an organization continue to build a supportive culture. 

GOBC: Good ol’ Boys Club

Seth actively sought opportunities to advance his career at the company where he worked. He earned a college degree and attained instructor certifications. He was asked by supervisors to teach in the company’s new hire orientation and training programs. Seth provided various training classes and received positive feedback consistently from both students and supervisors. All was good.  

In addition to providing training during new employee orientation, Seth also wanted to become a preceptor in the ‘live’ setting. He applied to the preceptor program and received an invitation to interview. This was a career advancement opportunity Seth was passionate about.   

Seth prepared diligently for the interview. On the day of the interview, he entered the room and scanned the interview panel. Within seconds he realized that he had no chance of being offered the preceptor position. Why? Because the interview panel consisted of members of the “GOBC”, or the “Good Old Boys Club”. 

But what is the “GOBC” and why does it matter? Based on the definition on Wikipedia, it is an old boy network (also known as old boys’ network, ol’ boys’ club, old boys’ club, old boys’ society, good ol’ boys club, or good ol’ boys system) which is an informal system in which men with similar social or educational background help each other in business or personal matters. Essentially, it is a closed system of relationships that restricts opportunities to within the group. In this scenario, if you were part of or liked by the GOBC, the interview process was a formality – the promotion was a ‘done deal’. If you were not part of the GOBC, you were not going to get promoted. Period. 

Unfortunately, the previous scenario repeated itself at the same company. Landry, who was not part of the GOBC yet was equally as qualified as Seth stated, “When I walked into the interview room and saw the panel, I knew I was done. No way. It wasn’t going to happen.” Landry did not receive the promotion. Realizing that her advancement within the company was limited, she ultimately left the organization. She subsequently achieved significant career successes elsewhere. This demonstrates the opportunity for companies to promote and advance employees based on their merits, qualifications, and integrity. Organizations can work proactively to address deficiencies resulting from decisions based on popularity or affiliation, rather than merit.  Organizations should take care to ensure that interview panels, boards, committees, and other decision-making groups are populated with individuals from diverse backgrounds and (if feasible) different departments to help ensure that the group’s decisions are merit-based not based on inclusion or exclusion from a limited group.

Defacing publications

Tony published an article in one of his industry’s magazines. An employee from the same company where Tony worked printed a page of the article and attached the page on the announcement board that was located just outside of the employee lounge. Within hours of the article being attached to the board, the article is defaced with rude and negative comments. This could be considered the behavior of jerks and bullies.

The defaced article was posted in an area of the company’s building that was visible to all levels of staff. Despite this, members of the leadership team, including supervisors, did not remove the defaced article nor did anyone from the company respond to the defacing. Rather, it went ‘un-noticed’. 

This example highlights the importance of leadership in promoting a supportive culture and in instilling in their team’s value and respect for other’s work.  True, leadership cannot “change” a person or erase negative behaviors overnight.  But consistently leading by example, recognizing the contributions and success of their teams, and encouraging others to do likewise, can pay significant dividends both in terms of employee satisfaction and retention, and in quality of work and productivity. 


Companies, regardless of industry, are challenged with implementing a current and future work environment that promotes inclusion, diversity, and support for all team members.  Such a culture leads to higher employee satisfaction, retention, productivity, and saves the organization money while driving profitability. We hope that the examples in this article can assist leaders and team members alike to recognize behaviors that are destructive to a supportive and inclusive work culture, and offer what we hope are helpful strategies to advance a supportive and inclusive culture through top-down leadership and positive, proactive communication. 

Paul Murphy, MS, MA, Paramedic, has been involved in healthcare for 15+ years, including clinical and leadership roles. He has worked for start-up and established healthcare organizations including virtual care / telemedicine programs. He has published articles in a variety of healthcare journals.

Jonathan Savage, DO, is a practicing physician. He is the founder / CEO of Care on Location, is on the State of Colorado’s Office of eHealth Innovation’s Telehealth and Broadband committee, and is the Vice Chair – mHealth, Technology, & Distance Learning Group at the American TeleMedicine Association (ATA) as well as the Chair of the Advancing Telehealth for Medicaid Populations Committee at the ATA.

Clay Wortham, Founder and Principal Attorney at Wortham LLP, is a business-focused healthcare transactional and regulatory lawyer with sophisticated experience structuring complex healthcare transactions. With a background of service in large law firms and as inhouse counsel with one of the Nation’s largest retailers, Clay is ideally suited to counsel healthcare organizations and those who do business with them on how best to achieve their objectives while mitigating the legal risks of operating in the heavily regulated healthcare environment.

Clay’s current representations include diligence and guidance for health system acquisitions and joint ventures, negotiating telemedicine and telehealth provider arrangements and structuring pharmaceutical distribution and supply networks. Clay is a go-to resource for businesses seeking to comply with healthcare regulatory requirements, including Federal and state health information privacy and security laws, and fraud and abuse laws such as the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, Stark Law and False Claims Act. Clay also helps clients navigate commercial payor and Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement issues. Clay is uniquely experienced with respect to pharmaceutical distribution and pharmacy regulatory matters, including state Board of Pharmacy requirements and DEA controlled substance compliance. Prior to founding Wortham LLP, Clay served as a member of the Dentons Health Law Group in Chicago and as senior corporate counsel for Walgreen Co. in Deerfield, Illinois.


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