Everyone has bad days. Even billionaire politician Meg Whitman, who once lost her temper in the workplace and physically attacked an underling.
Back in 2007, Whitman was the president and CEO of eBay. Whitman spent 10 years in this position, and during that time, she got a reputation for being a demanding and somewhat harsh leader. However, there was one incident in which Whitman's temper may have gotten out of hand, according to an article in today's New York Times.
According to anonymous sources, Young Mi Kim, an eBay employee, was helping Whitman prepare for a news interview on the morning of June 1st. Whitman was getting ready for an interview with Reuters about Second Life. Kim was writing talking points on the whiteboard in Whitman's personal conference room, when Whitman became upset, began swearing and forcefully shoved Kim. Details are vague, but apparently Whitman felt unprepared for the interview, and in her anger, she lashed out at Kim.
Kim was not injured during the argument, but she proceeded to hire a lawyer and threatened to sue. Though Whitman tried to reach out several times to apologize, the matter was not handled until weeks later. Two former eBay employees told the New York Times that the dispute was ultimately handled by a private mediator, who arranged a settlement. Whitman reportedly paid an amount "around $200,000" to Kim, with the condition that they keep the whole thing quiet.
Kim has declined to discuss the incident, calling it a "private matter" between her and Whitman. She later elaborated: "Yes, we had an unfortunate incident, but we resolved it in a way that speaks well for her and for eBay, and ultimately, I came back to the company, which is not something I had to do."
Whitman's campaign issued a statement to address the allegations. "In any high-pressure working environment, tensions can surface," it read. "Young Mi and I had a professional disagreement, which we put behind us. She and I continued to work together at eBay, where I valued her skilled counsel and thorough professionalism." Whitman has also admitted that she "physically guided" Kim out of the conference room, which doesn't make it that much better. A spokeswoman from the Whitman campaign says it isn't unusual to have "a verbal dispute in a high pressure working environment," which is a strange choice of words since the problem here is not the verbal altercation. No matter how many times they insist this is a "private matter," the fact remains: during an argument - "professional" or not - Whitman became upset enough to respond physically. Whether she "guided" Kim or shoved her almost doesn't matter, because the more important fact is that she placed her hands on an employee, introducing physical contact when it was entirely unnecessary and unwanted.
The story is still relatively new, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the media. If the Times is correct, Whitman may well be vilified for her actions. The L.A. Times remarks that this may solidify her reputation as a bully. Though there is a distinct possibility that Whitman will get a pass for her bad behavior because she is a woman (and as the logic goes, not particularly dangerous), we can't imagine her detractors will let this one go. Already the Daily Kos has called Whitman a "loon" and even absurdly "hoped" that the argument had "nothing to do with Kim's race." This is the first mention of that possibility, and unless more evidence surfaces, we hope it will be the last.
Meg Whitman Was Accused Of Shoving eBay Employee [New York Times]
Meg Whitman Reportedly Shoved EBay Employee In 2007 [LA Times]
Report: Whitman Had Altercation With Employee [AP]
Meg Whitman Assaulted Employee In 2007 [Daily Kos]