I'm on team of seven people who are in highly skilled, technical, creative roles. Our manager is 50% amazing and insightful, 50% inappropriate bully. When he gets stressed, he demeans and berates team members and other employees we partner with. Usually, his feedback is insightful but the way he delivers it is condescending and so off-putting that people shut down and get defensive or don't listen. Generally, I've been able to tolerate it because early on I realized that it wasn't personal and that it's an issue with him not being able to regulate his emotions, but I've seen coworkers be totally demoralized and take his criticisms to heart. He has privately mocked other people on our team to me (like making fun of a speech issue) or complained about other team members' performance to me. Several coworkers believe the way he berates us is abusive, and I'm inclined to agree.
Usually I do not bear the brunt of his ire, but I witnessed it directed toward other people. At one point, however, he strongly implied that I was stupid for not understanding the point he was making. He was so condescending I almost cried in the meeting. A few days later, I talked to him directly about how he can't speak to me like that. We had a good conversation, he apologzied. Things got better after I drew that line in the sand, but it has been 6 months since then and he has started getting worse again. He recently criticized and reprimanded me harshly in a meeting of 9 stakeholders when he was the one who made an error. I haven't spoken to him at all about his behavior since then - I haven't been motivated to try.
He's constantly speaking poorly (talking sh*t) about all the project managers we work with, and he is very rude to them, too. It makes my team's job much harder because no one wants to work with our functional group and we're often mopping up the damage and rebuilding the bridges he is burning. Some people outside our team have mentioned that he said things to them that caused them to 'need to walk away' and they allude to his intense personality often. We have someone on the team who coordinates lots of meetings for us, and she told me she strategically leaves him out of certain meetings so that they don't go off the rails. She's basically managing up to an extreme. Three people on the team are already looking for different jobs - which is unfortunate, because it's a generally a good company overall.
After a particularly brutal meeting where he was just a jerk to a few people, a few team members started talking about going to HR as a group. Everyone on the team acknowledges there is a problem, but the severity and extent to which team members are affected differs. About half the team doubts that HR would be able to do anything substantial or to make it better. If all seven of us (plus allies outside of our team who have witnessed it) go to HR together, I assume they'd try to help him correct his behavior. I'm worried it will just get worse... I don't really know how to deal with this except to just leave, and I'm worried that any conversations with HR will just lead to retaliation or our job getting even harder. We do have people we work with, who are very established in the company, who we think could add weight to any complaint.
One strategy we've discussed is saying "WOW, that is really harsh" in the moment, or after intense meetings with stakeholders, "I'm worried your good feedback may have gotten lost due to the way you delivered it." Basically training him to recognize when he's being an assh*le. I don't think we should take on the burden of teaching him how to behave. I think the reality is that he needs therapy and he needs to be willing to change. He often says things like, "people sometimes complain about how direct I am, but I'm just trying to save time" or other excuses and justifications. He has definitely heard before that there's an issue. I'm not optimistic there's anything HR could do to make it better. I think the threat of consequences or punishment would work temporarily, but it will only keep him in line until the eyes are off him.
Has anyone dealt with anything similar? Do I just jump ship? I want to support my coworkers who are ready to go to HR because it's a terrible working environment, but I'm worried there's no realistic way it will get better.