We all have at least one – this is mine
We all have at least one ‘Type A Boss from Hell’ story and I’m no different. The guy in the photo above isn’t him; in fact, he appears to be a snowflake by comparison.
To put a name on this monster -that’s the kindest word I’ve been able to use in 10+ years- we’ll call him Moses. I chose this name because I’ve never had a friend or coworker named Moses. So, Moses it is.
My first interview for the position where Moses worked was over the phone with HR. I was then brought in for an editing test. The test was five pages long. I aced it.
Next came the interview with Moses where the first statement he uttered was:
“You’re going to hear a lot of negative stuff about me. When you do, I want you to report it directly to me. I want to know who’s talking about me.”
I should’ve run screaming from his office right then, but I didn’t. I just sat there in utter disbelief. That a mid-level manager in a Fortune 500 company would say that in a first interview…I was stunned to say the least.
Long story short, I was offered the job but not before learning that I was his fourth hire in four consecutive years for the same position. Again, I should’ve run. But I stayed.
The warning signs
There were warning signs that, in retrospect, I should’ve interpreted as elements that comprised the perfect storm for a Type B subordinate. But you know how it goes, you’re happy to have a job in an uncertain economy and you decide the take the good with the bad.
Unfortunately the bad was synonymous with dysfunctional, abusive, and slanderous.
The 7-day Workweek. I wasn’t required to work seven days a week, but Moses did. He came in at 6a because, he said, “I operate on East Coast time.” He would leave at about noon or 1p, go home and drink a case of beer (my estimation…stay tuned), and return at 6p for another four hours. He did this seven days a week. He had no friends and no life. As he told me on day two: “This job is my entire life.” I could see why.
The Daily Sit-Rep. Moses fancied himself as an ex-military special ops kind of guy, though I had it on good authority he wasn’t a veteran. When he hired me he told me I had to leave a printed sit-rep (situation report) on his desk before I left “at seventeen-hundred hours.” I thought this was a bit weird, but by now I was convinced he was as well and so I complied. I complied with this for about a month and then stopped. Judging by his reaction, you’d think that I’d leaked Top Secret intelligence to Wikileaks. The next morning he walked over to the cubicle I occupied and berated me like I was a child who’d misbehaved. “If you want to work for me, I demand you comply with the sit-rep requirement.” Sir, yes sir.
The Absence of Training. I was hired to do a job I’d never done in an industry that I’d not previously worked within. I was hired because of my writing and editing skills. He, a former journalist he said, came to the work and the industry because it offered him a lot of freedom and a lot of money. Both ideas were attractive to me, so I understood that. However, translated into normal workplace language that meant, “I didn’t have any training, so neither will you. Learn it fast however you can.” Yeah, OK.
Drunk Check-Ins. I mentioned above how Moses would leave everyday at noonish and then come back in at 6p. Not long after I started the job, he started calling me in the afternoon to see what I was doing. On one occasion, he said, “I’m making sure you’re actually there.” Like I wasn’t a 52 year-old man with a stellar work history who needed an attendance check. It soon became apparent that when he called, his speech was garbled and at times incoherent. I mentioned this to a coworker in an adjacent cubicle and she laughed and told he was most likely drunk. She told me that she’d been present many times at 6p when he’d return smelling of beer with his speech slurred. Yay for management oversight!
Self-Aggrandizing Press Clippings. Every few days I would come into work and find press clippings on my chair with a note attached requesting me to scan and save. It was the work of a master manipulator – he knew that I’d read the clips them. As I did I saw that they were all about him. In one clip, there was Moses making a purchase at a local thrift store smiling for the camera while in another he was accepting an award from a Boy Scout troop. None of these had anything to do with the company we both worked for so the only purpose for this task was to bolster my opinion of him. It felt sleazy and weird.
Soft-Porn for my Son. I was a single parent to my youngest son at that time and we’d gone through hell on the family front and were attempting to rebuild our lives when I took this position. My intention was to stay in the job -pretty much at all costs- because I needed it. One morning I arrived at 07:30 to find a stack of free porn mags on my desk. At first I thought a coworker was have fun with me, but then I saw his characteristic scrawl on a yellow Post-It note: For Your Son. Soft-porn for my TEN YEAR OLD SON? That’s when I went to HR.
No help was forthcoming
Although my complaints were familiar and verified by others after the HR investigation, nothing changed. Moses was protected. He was like a foreign national with diplomatic immunity who could do anything, conduct himself in any manner he chose, and never suffer any consequences. I learned that it was his direct boss, another dysfunctional workaholic, who had his back.
One of the guys joked that Moses must’ve had an incriminating photo of his boss in a compromising position with a sheep; in his estimation it was the only way to explain why such a predatory personality could and would be protected by a corporate VP.
When new outrageous behavior erupted, I had to weigh whether or not to risk another complaint. I didn’t want to be guy who complains all the time, but the situations were so weird and unacceptable I had to.
I recall another incident when we were on a conference call with several executives as well as other partner firms and Moses asked me a question. I was unfamiliar with both the terminology he used and the context of his question and admitted as much when I asked him to clarify his request. He then launched into a loud diatribe on the call about how he couldn’t find decent help and how he was continually handicapped by “guys like Barry who bring a knife to a gunfight.”
I quit the next day.
Hell hath no fury like a …corporate reorganization
Ten months after I left the company, I heard from the same co-worker that had befriended me on my first day. When she called, my son and I were on holiday. She told me that the company had reorganized and that Moses’s boss had been reassigned to a new division and that Moses had been fired.
The amount of gratification I felt when it seemed that justice had finally been done, wasn’t small. Some other company would probably hire him (and later did, as did another, and another) and learn the hard way, but so be it. I was vindicated as were those who held the position before me.
By this time I’d been freelancing for a few months and was enjoying my freedom although I was still struggling to make ends meet. Not long after that initial call, I received another call. This time is was from an executive that I’d always respected at the company offering me my job back. He confirmed that Moses had been fired and that he would be my new supervisor if I chose to return.
I did go back to the job and even negotiated a better position and salary. I enjoyed my tenure their for seven more years and worked with a variety of bosses, mostly Type A individuals, but none as dysfunctional as Moses.
The abuse the power is often tolerated
In 2013 another reorganization and multiple rounds of layoffs occurred. My latest boss, myself, and my team, all lost our jobs on the same day. That’s the risk one takes working for a corporation. Unfortunately it’s how business is conducted sometimes.
The moral of the story is sad one; it’s the story of how a Fortune 500 company tolerated, ignored, even protected the dysfunctional behavior of a ‘Type A from Hell’ that resulted in repetitive -and costly- job turnover. But it isn’t surprising. There is a saying that “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
I’ve seen it over and over again. When a Fortune 500 company has a problem with a Type A personality, other Type A’s rally around them and, if the individual is a revenue generator, they offer him or her protection.
To be fair, not all corporate employers tolerate such behavior. There are plenty of examples of corporations that do the right thing. But it did happen to me exactly as I recounted it here.
That’s why I do the work that I do now
Because I know all too well the hazards of working for Type A individuals and have experienced it first-hand, I know there are millions of folks in the corporate sector with similar experiences and similar stories.
I started Zen-Journal to impact folks, just like me and you, who are looking not to change their bosses (although in a perfect world…), but for tools to impact how they can thrive in spite of them.