I just realized that I never Pitted the Boss From Hell ©.
This will be long. Grab some food and drink, pull up a chair and take a load off. This will take a while.
I was freelancing in NY a few years ago, when I got a phone call from a former boss. We had worked in Japan at two different companies together. I had heard he moved to another Japanese company, and had also heard that things were less than smooth, to put it mildly. He asked me to come back and work for him again.
Now, I said no at first: I knew this boss, and while he was a nice guy, he was a horrible manager. Mainly because he was still also acting as a front-line analyst - spending all his time on being the star analyst, and zero time on any actual managerial stuff. At a Western company, it’s not such a big deal – I’d just do what I needed to do, keeping him in the loop via email as I went along. No big deal. At a Japanese company, however, not obeying the pecking order is damn near a criminal offense. It had caused some problems when we worked together previously, as he no doubt remembered.
“Don’t worry – I realize that’s an issue - but I’ve hired someone from the London office; he’ll come over to Tokyo next month to handle the day-to-day operations”. Great. I want to meet him. He sends the guy out to NY to meet with me. We have dinner. He seems intelligent enough. He tells me how great his London team is, but that Tokyo is a mess. He assures me that I’ll be in full charge of the London and Tokyo teams, that he’ll be busy with the other day-to-day operations. We even start outlining a few initial plans of attack. I figure I can work with him, and decide to take the job, even though it involves a move back to Tokyo.
I get to Tokyo a couple of months later to start the project. Problem number one surfaces: For some unknown reason, they have hired an ‘IT specialist” to work on part of the systems infrastructure stuff that I thought I was handling. Not a problem there – in fact, most of the time I’d be more than happy to let someone else handle the least interesting part of the job. The problem, however, is that this person is infamous in the industry – I mean, EVERYONE knows her, including my former (and now new) boss, because SHE ALSO WORKED AT OUR PREVIOUS FIRM. I mean, she is poison. Devil spawn. You know how black widow spiders eat their young? That was this woman. I immediately warned the new day-to-day boss – let’s call him R – that her M.O. was to latch on to the biggest alpha male and leech off him, would cause all sorts of scandalous talk by dropping hints and innuendos about how she and the BAM were an item, until something went wrong on whatever project was going on, at which time she would immediately turn on said BAM and accuse him of everything from sexual harassment/adultery to incompetence/grand larceny etc.
Problem two surfaced shortly afterwards as well: Turns out that R, in addition to handling day-to-day supervisor duties, was also….an active, writing analyst! :smack: So my boss, realizing that he, as a manager and analyst, couldn’t do both at the same time… hired someone to work as a manager and analyst at the same time. Yee gods.
OK, fine. I don’t need him around all the time. Just enough to sign off on things when they need signing off.
A few weeks go by. It quickly becomes clear that R has zero fucking clue of what it is he actually is supposed to be doing, so he’s using a) his London team, and b) his analyst work as his ‘hideaway zones’. He starts scheduling his own marketing trips etc. during busy periods. Hmm. He continues to belittle the Tokyo team (which actually isn’t as bad as I had feared), while saying how great the London team is (but actually…they aren’t). A few more weeks go by. I hardly see R. The only time I do see him, he’s in a frantic hurry, asking us to take care of something or other. I quickly realize that these are projects for his analyst-related work: things that he was supposed to have completed days or weeks ago but hadn’t gotten around to doing. Now I’m getting very concerned, because I haven’t seen any progress on the infrastructure development that my team needs. I am ultra super deluxe careful to keep the witch far, far from me – instead, she has her claws deep into R. Now I’m really worried. They are seen in the evenings having dinner. They are seen holding hands walking around town on the weekend (need I mention this guy has a wife and children back in London?) Now I’m really really concerned, because I know what’s happened – it’s clear from others working on the project that the Witch hasn’t been able to get anything done on the infrastructure project, so she’s stalling R from doing anything about it – and it’s going to end in a mess.
R, meanwhile, isn’t helping his own cause. He has zero time management skills. Zero people skills. He lies to anyone and everyone about everything. He blames everyone for everything. He honestly and truly believes that the lazy, incompetent, clueless team in London is fantastic, which means he resists my gentle suggestions that we could do some restructuring to improve productivity and cut costs. He blows off my requests to meet. He refuses to give me any update on the infrastructure project.
I finally start doing some things on my own – keeping both bosses in the loop all the while, but my former/new boss is too busy doing his own analyst stuff to really care. The next email I get from R is all pissy that I’ve ‘gone over his head’ and that I really should ‘consult with him before acting on my own’.
I couldn’t care less; it’s clear to me that R is a walking disaster. Within six months, I’ve improved the Tokyo team’s productivity by about 450%, cut Tokyo costs by a third, and the team is humming. But now I’m really at the point where I’m going to need a) to restructure London, and b) I need that infrastructure project to be up and running if I’m going to continue the improvement process. He continues to blow off my meeting requests for infra updates. In fact, he routinely will simply not show up for meetings with other internal and external clients. He has a secretary. I have a team of 20 and don’t have a secretary. He has a team of…one, and has a secretary. She never knows where he is. She is almost as frustrated as I am. We have a three-way meeting set up with himself, myself, and a head compliance officer. R never shows up, leaving first me then his assistant to apologize on his behalf. This happens at least three times a week.
I find out that on a recent trip to London he had a memo sent around saying that ‘R had been personally responsible for improving Tokyo’s productivity by 450% over the past six months’. I’m used to bosses taking credit, but sheesh, this just tops the cake.
The straw that breaks the camels’ back: I come back from a conference call with London. It’s well past 9pm. I find one of my DTP operators still at work, even though I know the work for the day is already done. I ask if an analyst has asked for something to be done – not a problem, but I generally ask them to let us know in advance when possible. “No, R asked for this, he said it was urgent’. I note that it does look urgent; looks like it’s for a meeting early the next morning. Except…that (analyst-related) meeting has been in his Outlook diary for weeks. Why wasn’t this forwarded on to the London team? You know, the team that is supposed to be so hot-shot super good? "I’m not sure - and do you know where he is? I can’t figure out what he wants to do with this chart”.
I finally track him down 45 minutes later – after asking a poor DTP operator to do four or five hours of work late in to the night, to do work he should have had done weeks ago – he’s out having dinner and drinks! I have never wanted to punch someone in the face so bad in my life.:mad:
The next day I told my bosses exactly what I thought of R’s ‘management’ capabilities, and gave notice. I hadn’t taken a vacation day the entire time, so I’m able to basically go home that day.
In total, I spent exactly 10 months working for the Boss From Hell, and as god as my witness, I am as proud of myself for lasting 10 months as I am about anything else I have ever done in my entire life. And I haven’t even gone into his affair with someone in the London office that ended badly when he promised a promotion he couldn’t give, she flipped out when she found out about R and the Witch, and ended up on medical leave for 10 months with severe depression. Or how he would send emails to the London team telling them to ‘ignore my directives, since really, R is still in charge’. Or how he would blame my team members for mistakes in reports that London, not us, had touched.
Fast forward a year. The company has demoted my former boss in Tokyo, R and the Witch have both been fired – and they hired me back to run the entire global operation. Only one person from the original London team is still here - and the team, which used to have 15 people, now has 7, yet runs at least twice as smooth.
Sometimes good does prevail
Sorry for the long rant - just needed to get that out there…