The Boss From Hell

Last Updated Nov 23, 2009 3:22 PM EST

Early in my career, I mean decades ago, I had a boss from hell. Oh sure, I've had lots of dysfunctional bosses. I was a pretty dysfunctional boss myself. But this guy was different. I'm talking serious lunatic stuff here. It was so traumatic that I sort of blocked it out of my memory. But as is often the case with tragedy, there was also a comic aspect and maybe even a lesson to be learned.

Let me set the stage here. John - we'll call him John - ran a regional office for a huge multinational technology company based in Asia. That's where our products and services were developed. These folks in Asia had no idea what they were doing in the U.S. market. I mean no idea.

John's boss and the rest of the company's U.S. management and headquarters were in another state - California. John's boss was a savvy executive who made it big down the road, but the rest of the U.S. folks were, well, they were idiots. And they were our principal interface to the folks in Asia who were clueless about the U.S. market.
There was also a regional sales office down the hall from us. These were the guys who were supposed to sell the products we supported technically. They were an assorted grab-bag of fun-loving sales people. And they loved to get John riled up.

I was John's first employee in this new satellite office. It was sort of an experiment for the company. When I got there, the experiment wasn't going so well.

John was constantly under pressure to support our local customers, and the folks in California and Asia were always screwing us up. Whenever that happened, which was pretty much daily, John would throw whopping temper tantrums. He'd run around the office ranting and screaming like a raving lunatic. Then he'd storm into the sales offices, rant and rave some more, and storm right back out again. The sales guys just loved that.

On occasion, he'd punch or kick holes in the walls of our offices.

I grew up in Brooklyn, New York. It was crazy growing up there. I thought I'd seen it all. Racial violence, gang violence, I had a friend who was shot over a gambling debt. But this guy - John - scared the crap out of me.

We had frequent conference calls with the folks in California and Asia. It would typically be John, me, and a sales guy in John's office. While whoever was on the other end of the line was talking, John would unzip his pants and, well, make some seriously lewd gestures at the speaker phone. Oftentimes he'd mute the phone and let out a string of curses that would make a rapper blush.

With customers, John was a pro. But when he was back in his office, he acted out like a lunatic Satan child whose parents had left town for good.

Within a year, I got the heck out of there. But John and I have crossed paths a few times over the years. Believe it or not, he's a senior executive, so I can only assume he's mellowed out some. I guess people can change. But if you looked at him today, you'd think he was 20 years older than he is. He looks terrible.

The take-away? Promoting people before their time is a bad idea. Giving them too much authority before they're ready is bad for the company, bad for employees, and bad for them. And some people should never be managers. Never.

So, that's my "boss from hell" story. Can you top it?

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