We’ve already seen a couple of stories like this. In each successive one, Sen. Klobuchar’s actions sound a little more extreme. The previous story relied on three former staffers who said Klobuchar was often “demeaning and prone to bursts of cruelty.” Today, Buzzfeed confirms those reports with eight former staffers and adds that Klobuchar’s unpredictable behavior created an “overwhelming sense of panic” in the office among staffers who never knew when she would explode next:
She demeaned and berated her staff almost daily, subjecting them to bouts of explosive rage and regular humiliation within the office, according to interviews and dozens of emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News.
That anger regularly left employees in tears, four former staffers said. She yelled, threw papers, and sometimes even hurled objects; one aide was accidentally hit with a flying binder, according to someone who saw it happen, though the staffer said the senator did not intend to hit anyone with the binder when she threw it.
“I cried. I cried, like, all the time,” said one former staffer…
“I’m not an anxious person; I’ve worked for other tough bosses,” said the second former staffer. “But it’s hard to explain the anxiety that permeates the office. It’s an overwhelming sense of panic and not being able to plan. You never knew what was going to come at you. That compounds, and it affects the workplace.”
As before, Klobuchar does have some supporters who don’t so much deny that she blows up at the staff as claim her toughness kept them on their toes. Some of the supportive staffers are suggesting the focus on Klobuchar’s treatment of the staff was based in sexism, i.e. if a man were doing this no one would care. The Washington Post also published a story about Klobuchar today asking if reports that she is a bad boss should matter. That story contained this suggestion that sexism might be behind all of this:
If Klobuchar’s treatment of her staff does dog her throughout her campaign, it will raise the question of whether a man with such a reputation would face the same scrutiny.
[Harvard Business School’s Amy] Edmondson noted the unfair double standard that being “tough is a compliment for men but an insult when used on a woman.”
“Women pay a larger price and have to walk the line of being nice and being competent and tough,”[Stanford Business School’s Bob] Sutton said. “In her defense, I wonder if a man acted that way, would he get such severe response, even reputationally.”
But former staffers say sexism isn’t the problem in Klobuchar’s case. One staffer even assumed that might be the case and lived to regret it:
“I knew her reputation going in, and I rationalized it, because I thought that was what was going on — I thought people were saying that because she was a woman,” said the first former staffer. “I regret that now.”
“I don’t think this is one of those situations” where sexism is to blame, said the second former aide.
As HuffPost pointed out Wednesday, Klobuchar had the highest staff turnover rate of any Senate office from 2001 to 2016 (she’s now in third place). There is no way that happened because all of the people who worked for her over all those years were sexist. Something is obviously wrong here and pointing to sexism is an attempt to distract from the problem and make this about something it’s not.