Swimming with Sharks (1994) is the story of a young, ambitious Hollywood executive Guy (Frank Whaley) who gets a job as a personal assistant to a Hollywood movie mogul Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey). Guy is fresh out of school and looks forward to working with Buddy to learn the movie business. Unfortunately, Buddy turns out to be an abusive boss who treats his employees like slaves, abuses them verbally, physically, and emotionally, and publicly humiliates them. Buddy’s behavior is so abusive that it not only affects Guy psychologically and emotionally, it also has a tremendous impact on his relationship with Dawn (Michelle Forbes0, a young movie producer. Finally, when Guy has had enough, he takes matters in his own hands and decides to show Buddy how it feels to be abused and humiliated.
This movie is about abusive workplace behavior. The fact that it is set in Hollywood, the dream destination of many young people, makes it an interesting watch! It shows many behaviors that abusive supervisors use against their employees. The scene where Guy needs to go to the bathroom but Buddy does not let him go certainly takes abusive supervision to a whole different level. When Guy complains about the way he is treated, Buddy is dismissive of him. Buddy’s attitude towards Guy’s complaints is that he just has to learn how to be tough and take it like a man, if he wants to succeed. (Click here if you want to read about abusive supervision at United States Postal Service, a high-visibility employer in the United States!). Just as in the movie, it is not uncommon for abusive supervision to lead to workplace violence. Click here if you want to read the No-Axxhxxe-Rule some recommend for employees who feel they may be in an abusive workplace.
The movie is somewhat slow, but it is a good movie is for courses or classes discussing abusive supervision, deviant work place behavior, human resource management, and organizational behavior.