Hugo, The Bad Boss

by admin on April 18, 2012

Years ago, I worked for a large Home Health Care company that delivered oxygen and other medical equipment for home use. I was a branch office secretary in one of the larger locations in Southern California, close to Disneyland and beach. My manager was great, my co-workers were great, and I loved my job. I was the only woman in an office of delivery personnel and respiratory therapists, and I worked very hard to maintain our medical records. I loved working with medical staff and patients to help make their life easier dealing with illness. My branch had a very good reputation and I was usually ‘fired up’ to start the day.

My current manager accepted a promotion to Corporate HQ (located only a short distance from my branch office), and a new manager was hired. I had a bad feeling when I first met my new branch manager, I’ll call him Hugo. I was in my early 20′s, however, and didn’t have enough life experience to trust my instincts (or how to properly act on them). Hugo was introduced to me as a respiratory therapist (a plus in that industry) with management experience. He was from Washington and new to California.

Hugo was pleasant enough the first day, but spent most of his time in his office with the door closed, rather than circulating to get to know his new staff and the office layout. I was puzzled, but thought he must be “in conference calls” with Corporate. The next day, he arrived a few hours late- and no one knew where he was or if he was even coming in. When he walked in, I smiled and said “Good morning; we were wondering if you were coming in and thought maybe you were at Corporate today.” Hugo response was a curt, “I’m the boss, I don’t need to let you know where I’m at.” He then walked into his office and closed the door. A few minutes later, he called me and asked where his coffee was. I never had to fetch coffee for my previous manager, but thought “OK, new boss- new rules. I can do coffee.” I quickly brought him a steaming mug, and as he didn’t acknowledge my presence, I felt a bit subdued and left his office, quietly closing the door. About an hour later, he walked out of the office- again, without telling me when or if he would be back. I knew better than to ask. Late that afternoon (around 3:00) Hugo returned and closed his office door, again — without acknowledging anyone.

I had been watching over the management reports during the interim period we were waiting for Hugo to start, and was eager to turn this duty over to Hugo and help him with anything I could to get him settled into his new job so my routine could return to normal. I timidly knocked on his door, and was summoned into his office. Hugo said, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you”, and proceeded to tell me that I’d be getting some phone calls for his wife and that I was to schedule her job interviews. I was shocked… and while I don’t remember exactly what I said, I’m sure it was something to the effect of, “Why isn’t your wife scheduling her own job interviews?” I was again told, “I’m the boss, you’re the secretary. I tell YOU what to do, you don’t question me. Is that a problem?” I couldn’t even look at him at this point, and likely mumbled something to effect of, “No, that’s fine.” Hugo then asked me why I wanted to see him, and I told him that I’d be happy to give him an overview of the management reports at his convenience. He told me to continue doing them myself, and that he wanted a summary from me prepared weekly prior to his Friday A.M. meeting with Corporate. I left his office with a sinking feeling, thinking to myself, “What exactly is he going to do all day if he isn’t even interested in his own reports?” I left work that day feeling very troubled, but also berating myself for not giving the new boss a chance. I told myself to give it time and everything would work out.

The next morning, Hugo came in with a armful of clothes on hangers. I gave him a puzzled look through my smile (I was on the phone taking orders- mornings and late afternoons were BUSY!), and Hugo dropped the clothes on a chair and told me to take them to the dry-cleaner during lunch. He didn’t even wait for me to hang up from my call, he talked right over my conversation with a patient and walked into his office. When that morning’s phone activity quieted down, I knocked on his door and was again summoned into Hugo’s office. I told him I needed to confirm that he wanted me to drop off his dry-cleaning during my lunch…? I rarely went out for lunch. He looked at me with a…speculative… look on his face and said, “You heard me. And don’t forget the receipt as I’ll need it for my expense report.” This was stated quietly, but I certainly heard a “challenge” in his voice. I asked him how payment should be handled, and was told I would be reimbursed when Corporate paid his expense report. I left his office without saying another word, and closed his door. I was seething the remainder of the day. Not only had my previous manager never expensed his dry-cleaning, I had noted that there were female garments in the pile. Unless, that is, my new boss was partial to wearing pink dresses and sequined blouses.

This was the third day, and I again left the office with a really bad feeling, newly bolstered by an indignant kind of rage. My new manager was asking ME to pay for his dry-cleaning and WAIT for Corporate to pay his expense report? My new manager was expensing his WIFE’s dry-cleaning? Nuh-uh. I don’t think so. I thought about this and seethed during the drive home, but also recognized that I was a bit afraid of this man, although I wasn’t quite sure why. I really didn’t know what to do, but had this firm conviction that charging my company for his wife’s cleaning bill was wrong, no matter how you sliced it. Telling me to pay for his dry-cleaning bill and wait to be expensed was also wrong- that huge pile of clothes looked like a week’s salary to me. I was also upset at having to maintain his management reports AND prepare a weekly summary for him. Not to mention, scheduling his wife’s job interviews? What next? He hadn’t taken any time at that point to familiarize himself with branch operations, and likely had no idea how busy I was. My unease had quadrupled over the drive home, throw in a healthy dose of ‘angry’…and I had no idea what to do about it.

Well, my attitude must have shown the next day. While I was cooly calm and professional in conversation with Hugo, I know I had this “look” on my face that displayed my disgust and disdain for him. And I was young (i.e. stupid) enough that I wasn’t the least bit interested in hiding it. He called me into his office late that afternoon, and things did not go well. At the end of that conversation, my only clear memory is that he stated; “It’s you or me. And it’s not gonna be me.”

The next morning, Hugo was again a few hours late to arrive at the office. I took that opportunity to call my previous manager Steve and requested a meeting. I told him why, sparing any detail. I simply said; “Hugo isn’t going to work out. I need to talk to you and tell you what’s happening.” I drove over to Corporate HQ during my lunch hour, and was surprised to see both Steve and the company President waiting for me. I calmly told them about the management reports, the dry-cleaning, scheduling the wife’s job interviews, and was given a, “Thank you for this information, we’ll think about it”, response. I left feeling like they didn’t quite believe me and that I was being an irrational or emotional young woman who didn’t take to her new boss (Pat her on the head to calm her down). Driving home that afternoon, I thought everything over and Hugo’s, “It’s you or me- and it’s not gonna be me”, statement finally clicked into place. I can work for and with someone I don’t like, but I can’t work for someone I don’t respect. And I forced this ultimatum because I didn’t maintain my professionalism. So now what? Can I really ‘win’ this battle? I did a lot of thinking that night.

The next morning, I quietly tendered my two-week resignation. Hugo told me, “This is for the best”, and expressed no surprise. I left his office feeling like he was, in fact, very satisfied. I wasn’t looking forward to the next two weeks, but I had resolved to myself that I was NOT going to teach him how to use the management reports and I was NOT going to pick-up his dry-cleaning. Oh, yeah. And I wasn’t going to schedule any of his wife’s job interviews. I was simply going to transfer the call to his office. If he wasn’t there, I’d take a message. Meanwhile, I’d do my job and leave the office with a clean conscience, still worthy of a good recommendation to future employers.

I’d been with the company for approximately 6 years (it was my first job) and while I was heartbroken, I told myself I’d find a job with a competitor and was confident enough in my skills and knowledge that I’d be OK. (I hoped!) When word started to spread that I had resigned, my old boss Steve called and asked me to stop by Corporate HQ. I did, and the President and Steve were again there to speak with me. They both expressed their regrets that I was leaving the company, and asked if I was sure about my decision. I told them; “Yes, I just have a bad feeling. I can’t tell you anything other than what I’ve already said…I just have a really bad feeling about Hugo.” The President told me that they had tried to find me a position in HQ, but nothing was currently open. This was the same President that told Steve to take me out for a nice lunch the previous year because of my good work and spotless aged-receivables. I was feeling a bit resentful at that statement, kind of like; “Sure, you’re the President but you can’t effect a transfer for me. OK. Sure.” I left Corporate feeling so incredibly sad, and questioning my ‘hasty’ decision. But the die was cast, and there was no going back. Hugo won.

Well, I was very lucky and found employment with a competitor within the month. It reduced my hour long commute to 15 minutes! Whoo-hoo! No more gray freeway scenery for 2 hours a day! I settled into my new job, missing my old co-workers but happily convinced I had made the best decision for me.

A few months later, I received a call from a friend who worked at my old company, in HQ. She told me that “Hugo” was gone! I laughed out loud, and said “NO! Tell me! What happened?” Apparently Hugo never did learn about those management reports. And since a replacement for me wasn’t hired by the time I left, those stellar aged-receivables started dropping down into the 120-day overdue category because prescriptions weren’t getting renewed. No renewals- no billing. New patients weren’t getting the proper qualification for oxygen therapy. Other employees were complaining as Hugo wasn’t responding to every day problems, and things at the branch office were simply falling apart.

One day, Hugo simply didn’t show up. Or the next. Or next. By the time someone at the Branch Office called Corporate to ask where he was, he was long gone and the police were involved in looking for him. Eventually, they uncovered some interesting stuff! Seems that Hugo was NOT a respiratory therapist. He hadn’t worked at the medical institutions stated on his resume. He was in big trouble in the State of Washington with a warrant for his arrest… and had fled to California using a newly acquired ID to start a new life. A short-lived life since his new job in California didn’t go so well. Hmmm, seriously? LOL! I was flabbergasted, but feeling pretty darn vindicated in my opinion of this jerk. I think I did a little happy dance involving a lot of stomping on the floor at this news. I wonder to this day what happened to him. I used to wonder if the company President and my previous boss Steve ever regretted that they didn’t take my statements more seriously. I guess it doesn’t matter. Things worked out the way they were supposed to!

Here’s what does matter: That experience was a valuable lesson in many ways. A) I trust my instincts! I never would have guessed that Hugo was such a fraud, but I knew enough about him based on fact and personal experience. B) No matter how good your performance, you are dispensable. A sad realization, but helps one to understand ‘business is business’. Keep the heavy emotions out the workplace. And C), if you can’t be OK with certain work conditions, and I mean really OK, as in “adjust your attitude and don’t let it be something you bring home every night”– get out! Making a move to take care of yourself is empowering.

I had several very happy years with my new employer, and several promotions along the way. Opportunities (and many adventures in traveling) I probably would have never enjoyed at my previous company. So… thanks, Hugo! You forced my hand and started the downward trend in the branch office resulting in your own demise! Muuaaa ha ha! Looking back on my experience, Hugo didn’t win — I did.    0329-12

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

lkb April 18, 2012 at 5:18 am

Not sure what the etiquette angle is in all this, but I salute the OP for handling the horrendous situation professionally and that she triumphed in the end.

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Notoyax17 April 18, 2012 at 6:13 am

Good for you! It sucks that you had to give up a job that you loved, but it was for the best.

And this story is a great example for management. Some people just don’t seem to get that those of us in secretarial/assistant positions…we see everything. If you have a (good) secretary and they tell you that something’s up, that should be considered big red BLARING signal lights.

There are just too many stories that end up like this, and in the end they’re the ones that end up screwed over, not us (usually).

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The Elf April 18, 2012 at 7:39 am

The first warning sign to me would have been the coffee. I draw a big red line right there. Unless part of your job is to obtain and serve food and drink (say, a personal assistant), it is not acceptable to demand that someone under you fetch you coffee. Usually this is no more than a power play, and I categorically refuse to play that game. I’ll happily bring a coworker a cup when I’m getting one for myself, but I won’t play fetch. It’s not professional. Someone who likes to play these kinds of games usually plays fast and loose with other rules.

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The Elf April 18, 2012 at 7:39 am

I wonder if “Hugo” later found a job with GSA?

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One Fish, Two Fish April 18, 2012 at 7:42 am

That was a great story! Living well is the best revenge.

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Yarnspinner April 18, 2012 at 8:04 am

OP, I don’t think you did anything wrong in your position. You may have been young, but you did what everyone here always says: you documented, you spoke to the people in charge of your boss, and you were absolutely right to challenge the ridiculous demands of Hugo. Kudos to you for NOT teaching him how to do the job he should have been able to do. I wonder what his wife thinks of him and what he did and if she is proud of having to pack up and run in the middle of the night. Was he ever caught up with? I agree that you were the winner in the scenario. I hope Steve and the company president received a thrashing for their inaction. Maybe while you got to do your happy dance, THEY got to tap dance around their oversight. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

This story gives me hope for the future of my place of business where a once beloved public institution has been reduced to a hardscrabble entity catering to the lowest common denominator because it is easier for our Hugo than for her to maintain the excellence that had been ongoing for thirty plus years before she came on board.

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Margaret April 18, 2012 at 8:08 am

That’s a great story, and I think you handled it very well, all things considered. It would be a great story for a young person starting out to read.

Another important lesson for young people is that if your employer asks you to do something UNSAFE, you are allowed to refuse. We’ve known more than one person killed at work doing something without safety measures in place.

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Dorothy Bruce April 18, 2012 at 8:30 am

Congrats on surviving and thriving!! There are times that gut instinct is right on the money and your’s certainly was.

One way that the men in the workplace put down your “gut instinct” is by calling it “woman’s intuition”, which is very condescending. There are bosses out there that just don’t know what they’re doing and pad their resumes to try to get the job. Usually if the interviewer asks the right questions regarding subjects in the field and does a full and complete background check, it usually can weed out the liars very quickly. I used to do background checks for a former employer and the stuff that would come up would not necessarily be a deal-breaker, but the applicant didn’t list it on the application. That is always considered lying and they didn’t get the job.

You’ve not only lived well but you got the best revenge at the same time.

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Daisy April 18, 2012 at 8:36 am

A great story, and inspiration for those of us still in the trenches!

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starstruck April 18, 2012 at 8:38 am

wow i really enjoyed that story ! lol you told it well. and congrats on things working out. :)

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Rae April 18, 2012 at 8:47 am

Gosh your telling the story of what is happening to our secretary, just replace respiratory with an extremely similar medical field. Though without the criminal activity. New department head coming in and telling someone with multiple years of great service what to do, how to do it (incorrectly) and treating her like a personal assistant. I am glad it worked out for the best for you.

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AMC April 18, 2012 at 9:16 am

It seems Hugo got all his ideas about office etiquette from Mad Men. Oddly enough though as I read this story, instead of Don Draper, I pictured Robert California from The Office.

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sv April 18, 2012 at 9:22 am

Fabulous story, fabulous attitude. You are lucky you learned those lessons when you were young, as many people never do. Kudos!

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LonelyHound April 18, 2012 at 9:24 am

OP, I am very sorry that your old employer did not listen to you even though it worked out for the best. There is no good way to inform a superior, even someone you supposedly knew well, that your direct supervisor is doing things wrong. I think though maybe (or maybe not) things could have been worded better you did exactly right. Most job cultures (military and corporate, I have been in both) expect you to hanbdle it with your direct supervisor. The problem is when they are the problem and see nothing wrong about what they are doing. Then you have to take it to the next level up but then you are seen as complaining. I think you did the right thing and a brave thing at that. I am so happy it worked out for you.

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AS April 18, 2012 at 9:28 am

I am surprised that your company did not do any background checks on “Hugo”. Don’t all companies usually do that? And what did Hugo do about letters of reference, or did a healthcare company not require them?

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Shelly April 18, 2012 at 9:53 am

Wow, what an ordeal! I’m an executive assistant and can relate to much of this. There is nothing worse than being an assistant to a bad boss. I’ve also learned to trust my instincts over the years – I recently turned down a promotion because I just knew in my gut that it wasn’t the right fit. 10 years ago, I would have taken it just because it was a promotion. But my goodness, this guy above takes the cake. OP was not a personal assistant and he really didn’t seem to understand the difference. What bothers me is that no one took OP seriously when she let them know, even though she had been a respected employee there for 6 years. It shows how the bosses always side with the other bosses over us underlings, and it’s depressing. I was in a similar situation (warned my boss about a brand new coworker) and she did absolutely nothing. I think believed me but was non-confrontational, which annoyed me even more. She was allowing this person to cause me anxiety and stress because she didn’t want to have a difficult conversation. She regretted it because the coworker got mad about something ridiculous and smacked my boss in the face really hard! Yes, she got fired. I felt so vindicated but it was really hard not to say I told you so. OP, I’m so glad you got out of there into a better situation. That guy would have made you miserable.

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Kathryn April 18, 2012 at 9:54 am

Well done on everything working out well :)And good on you for sticking to your professional boundaries.

Just a thought on why they “didn’t take my statements more seriously”. Most jobs have a trial period of somewhere between a month and three. It’s very likely that they wouldn’t have been able to do anything about him until that trial period was over.

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twik April 18, 2012 at 10:11 am

I think the OP did a fantastic job of dealing with an impossible situation. I do find it unfortunate that often upper management can be snowed by a fraud (maybe not in legal terms, but professionally) and ignore advice from the ranks.

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manybellsdown April 18, 2012 at 10:24 am

Good for you! Women are too often told we’re “overreacting” when we go with our instincts. It was a lesson I had to learn the hard way.
Great example of a polite spine.

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Mysticpizza April 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

You sound like you were a very astute person. I had a similar situation, but it was after 15 years with a major corporation. I took great delight when, after I resigned, the new manager called to ask for my help. I would have been willing, however, they didn’t offer compensation, just tried to guilt me. When he slammed the phone down after I refused, I felt no remorse. Kudos to you for turning lemons into lemonade. Glad you’re happy now. Best wishes.

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Aje April 18, 2012 at 11:14 am

Oh I hope I can gain experience as classily as you did as I start my career path. XD Well done! DOWN WITH HUGO!

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girl_with_all_the_yarn April 18, 2012 at 11:16 am

Sometimes manners are an indicator of character. I see this man becoming a bully of a boss.

Good on you for getting out when you did!

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Cat Whisperer April 18, 2012 at 11:45 am

Decades ago when I entered the worforce, I had the good fortune to share my office with a colleague who had 35+ years experience in the workforce. He mentored me, and I learned a lot of very practical things from him that helped me survive in the aerospace defense contractor worforce for more than 30 years while people all around me were getting laid off. I’ve passed these rules I learned from my colleague Bob along to a bunch of new hires, and now I’ve passed them along to my daughter. Here they are.

1. Be nice to everyone, you never know who will become your boss.

2. More people lose their jobs because they can’t get along with people than lose their jobs because they’re incompetent. Getting along with difficult people is a valuable job skill: learn it.

3. Never pass up an opportunity to help someone. If you see someone needs help and you can help them, then do so. Never mind if that isn’t your job. Just help people.

4. Do your job and do it as well as you can. Keep your skills set up to date, learn new things, constantly find ways to do your job better. You’ll feel better about yourself.

5. Do not bad-mouth co-workers. It can be tempting, but you never know how the sands of office politics are going to shift, and what you say will come back to bite you at the worst possible moment. If you have nothing nice to say about someone, say nothing.

6. The moment you tell someone a secret, it isn’t a secret anymore. It’s a limited-distribution item that will work its way free. If there are things you don’t want people to know, keep them to yourself.

7. Some days you’re the dog, some days you’re the fire hydrant. This is true for everyone in every job. Get used to it.

8. Banish the phrase “I told you so” from your vocabulary. Those words are the torch you use to burn your bridges.

9. A career is a marathon race, a job is a sprint race. If you want a career as opposed to a job, you have to take the long view: there are times other people will sprint out ahead of you. That’s okay. You’re in it for the long haul.

10. The ability to laugh at yourself is a skill that keeps you humble and keeps you sane. Cultivate it!

11. Don’t poop where you work. This pithy advice means that a wise bird doesn’t foul its own nest. If you have close personal relationships with people you work with and those relationships go sour, work goes sour. Keep things professional and don’t foul your own nest.

12. Nobody is indispensable. Nobody. Not even you. Especially you. Never think that layoffs can’t happen to you.

13. Nobody ever reached retirement age and said “gee, I wish I hadn’t saved so much money! I wish I’d spent more money!” but a heck of a lot of people reach retirement age and say “I wish I’d saved more for retirement.” Start saving for retirement the day you enter the workforce. Join savings plans. Participate in 401(k) or other plans. Stash money in the bank. If you want to be the envy of your coworkers when you retire, you have to start saving when you’re very young.

14. Finally, remember that family comes before work. Keep your priorities straight.

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anonever13 April 18, 2012 at 12:00 pm

OP, I’m happy that things worked out for the best for you!

I think your story says something about the former company not being very savvy, in that they apparently didn’t do a very thorough back ground check on Hugo before hiring him.

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travestine April 18, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Good for you! And those are important lessons to learn. I was in a similar position a few years ago – I was hired by a boss I worked really well with, and then he left and the person who replaced him had no interest in finding out what my job was and how I could assist him. Eventually, I was hit by the realization that I was being bullied deliberately to try to get me to quit. Uh uh. I hired an employee attorney, who told me to document everything he did, confronted him with my “evidence” after a few weeks, and was given a generous settlement and a clean employment release plus a letter of recommendation that I drafted (with my lawyer’s assistance). If I hadn’t realized I was being bullied and undermined on purpose, I might have just quit (jobs at my level are not easy to find), but this way, at least I had some money to live on and a letter.

Women, we have to learn to trust our gut instincts. If something feels wrong, 9 times out 10, it IS wrong.

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Ann April 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm

“Hugo didn’t win — I did”. Exactement! Kudos to you. You were pretty wise for your tender years.

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Binne April 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm

What a story! Good for you, for getting on with your life. I’m surprised the senior bosses didn’t back you up.

Now, when one is assuming a new, illegal identity, one might want to try to fly under the radar, right? Like, not attract a lot of attention of any kind? Like, if one has just pulled off a bank heist or is carrying significant quantities of drugs or ordnance in one’s trunk, one would be well served to observed the speed limit, stop at all stop signs, and make sure one’s tail lights are working? That way, you won’t get stopped and your car won’t get searched. If you’re on the lam, try not to alienate the people around you: make your own coffee, and, while you’re at it, make some for your secretary. That way, maybe she won’t turn you in.

OP says this was years ago — I think if this happened today the fraudster would be lucky not to have a Venti latte with lots of sugar dumped all over his and his girlfriend’s dry cleaning. “Oops! Sorry,” as she slams the door shut on his foot.

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Miss Raven April 18, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Kudos to young you, OP. I began reading this story with the sinking feeling that young, timid and naive you would have just paid for all the dry cleaning and etc out of pocket, only to get completely screwed out of your hard-earned money. It’s a good lesson for younger people in new (or even old) jobs who are easily intimidated. You need to look out for you, because no one else is going to make sure you’re not taken advantage of.

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Cat April 18, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Hugo had obviously seen, “The Devil Wears Prada” and he had decided you were going to be “Emily” for him. Next, you would have been walking the dog and doing his kid’s science project.
You did well for someone as young as you were. It’s hard to stand up to someone who is not on a level playing field with you .
The best thing is that you reacted promptly rather than hanging on for months and letting him make you miserable. Your life improved and the managers who ignored you found out you were right but, in waiting, cost the company money.

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StephM April 18, 2012 at 2:57 pm

I hope everyone involved with hiring that jerk was reprimanded. People get away with fraud all the time, but when loyal employees start waving flags employers need to get over their pride and listen. They might have been able to put a stop to his behavior or discovered the fraud before patients started getting left in the lurch.

Still, I’m glad you have a happy ending to that story. You did everything you could and it would have benefited no one – least of all yourself – for you to stay.

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David April 18, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Good for you for trusting your instincts, bad for your company that they decided you were replaceable.

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Ginger G April 18, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Wow, Hugo was a real piece of work! At least the whole situation worked out well for you. Years ago in my college days, I worked part-time at a restaurant and a new manager was hired. I immediately got a bad vibe from him, and we just did not get along from the start. Everyone else, including my good friends, just seemed to love him though for some reason. I didn’t go around bad-mouthing him, but I did tell them that something just seemed off about him to me. A few months go by and one day he doesn’t show up for work. We then found out he had run off with the previous night’s bank deposit and the police were looking for him! He had also “borrowed” money from coworkers who of course were never repaid. I hated to say “told you so!”, but I couldn’t resist doing it, at least a little bit.

I also had a supervisor who did not like me right from the start and after publicly blaming me for her own mistakes and deliberately setting me up for failure in other cases, managed to get me fired. I was beyond angry for awhile, but the job I got after that (my current one for 9 years now) ended up being one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I heard later on that her mistakes and general bad attitude caught up to her and she ended up getting fired too.

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Jennifer April 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I like your attitude!

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b-rock April 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm

@Cat Whisperer,
I love your list! I’m going to print it out, with a few minor adjustments to better suit it to my field, and post it for my employees and co-workers to read. Very well said.

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PM April 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I think it’s very interesting that OP described the way Hugo looked at her as “speculative.” Because he was trying to figure out exactly how far he could push her and he found out- not far. This is pretty classic sociopathic behavior. They constantly gauge the reactions of others to determine where they stand and what they can get away with.

I don’t see her leaving an increasingly bizarre and uncomfortable situation as “losing.” OP saw the red flags waving and did exactly what she should.

We got into a similar situation at church when I was a teenager. A new pastor was hired. After his welcome luncheon, my sister and I both told my mom, “We don’t like him. Something about him makes us really uncomfortable.” My mom played it off as us not knowing him very well and being over-dramatic teens. But over the next two years, we were repeatedly proven right. Highlights from his tenure include accusing my sister, the quietest, most well-behaved teenager you ever met, of stealing church property – which later mysteriously materialized in the church basement – and taking it upon himself to show up unannounced at our house to talk to me about my relationship with my long-term boyfriend (also a member of the church). He told me, very sternly, that he expected me to take a personal abstinence pledge to “prevent boyfriend from sinning.” My soul, I guess, was up for grabs. My mother promptly tossed him out of the house.

Pastor was eventually fired for reasons that weren’t disclosed. And Sis was never given an apology for being accused of theft.

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Firecat April 18, 2012 at 5:16 pm

A business blogger I like to read has said many times that companies are often very, very reluctant to admit hiring mistakes. Hugo seems like a perfect example of that; too bad management couldn’t get over their egos before things got really bad. But major kudos to the OP for getting out when she did!

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MeganAmy April 18, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Thanks for sharing that. I read it with interest. And I think the lessons learned at the end are very valuable. I’m glad you got out of there as soon as possible.

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boxy April 18, 2012 at 7:25 pm

@Cat Whisperer – WONDERFUL! Thank you so much for the tips.

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Annie April 18, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I’m impressed with how well you handled this!

It sounds to me like Steve took your concerns very seriously. You don’t drag the CEO into two meetings with a low-level employee casually. And when the CEO said “they” had tried to find a position for you, I bet that means that Steve asked for a position for you and the CEO told him no.

I hope this experience taught the CEO to take his employees more seriously–including Steve.

If I could talk to Hugo, I would tell him that it’s a terrible idea to be dishonest if you’re also stupid.

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sillyme April 18, 2012 at 9:00 pm

I know EXACTLY what happened to Hugo — he was my boss at the Finance/Investment/Retirements/Insurance company I left several months ago. Of course, 2 years into it and everyone loves him …. but hey, these turkeys are always found out in the end.

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badkitty April 18, 2012 at 10:22 pm

All abusive relationships – romantic or professional – begin with the abuser “testing” the prospective victim; they are looking for some sign as to whether or not this individual will allow the abuse. In this case, the order to schedule his wife’s appointments was the first “test” and others only pushed his control of the situation further. The lesson here is to stand up for yourself right away when confronted with one of these “tests” – the abuser will move on and find another victim. People like this are not interested in a challenge, and they won’t take the time to bother with someone who is going to fight back.

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ellesee April 18, 2012 at 11:17 pm

It is so great to read a story like this. I myself am a 20-something starting out on her first job also. Sometimes I will ignore the red flags because I want to be nice or not make trouble, but I should remember my own self worth. Thanks for sharing the strong and inspiring experience.

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Vanzilla April 18, 2012 at 11:30 pm

Nicely done, OP! It would have been nice to see the jerk fired sooner, I’m sure, but things ended up well for you and that’s what matters!

I waited tables in college and my manager was INSANE. Not only did he yell, but he also dehumanized and degraded the entire staff and has reduced people to tears on many, many occasions. One time, I did not pour soup to his satisfaction, which of course warranted a tirade from him wherein he screamed that I was useless and a moron and it was a modern miracle that I been accepted into college at all (the entire thing was also heavily laced with profanity) – and that’s one of the milder encounters I’d had with him.

Some people just really don’t have the presence, consideration, and grace to be leaders!

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Cherry April 19, 2012 at 2:53 am

While in no way to this level, I’ve had employers try and turn me into their own little PA/errand girl before. There is a phrase I learned to repeat in my politest voice to make it clear it wasn’t on:
“That’s not part of my job description. I’m not being paid to do X”
You would be amazed how quickly some bullying managers will back down when they realise that yes, you did read your contract, and yes, you will take this to HR or further if that’s what it takes.

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Angeldrac April 19, 2012 at 5:09 am

One of the few but much appreciated reasons I enjoy working for a government department – my job position description is very carefully defined and any slight deviances from it are challengable by my union. Obviously, that wouldn’t stop moronic criminals from stealing, but it means we can avoid all the crazy lead up the poor OP experienced.

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The Elf April 19, 2012 at 6:31 am

Ellesee, listen to the red flags. If you aren’t sure, talk it over with an older co-worker you trust. There’s stuff I put up with as a 20 something that I never would tolerate now as a 30 something because I lacked the spine to say “This isn’t my job.” Thankfully, since I put my foot down about fetching coffee, it never got to the point of dry cleaning and scheduling spouse’s appointments!

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Green123 April 19, 2012 at 6:31 am

Employment law in the UK is very different to the US, I know – here, the OP would be supported by a union and a set of anti-discrimination laws, and have a claim for ‘constructive dismissal’ and would be entitled to compensation. As it stands, I congratulate the OP for dealing with the situation with honesty and strength.

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Striving For Sense April 19, 2012 at 9:37 am

As an admin of many years, I can tell you something you should have said from the get-go.

When he came in hours late, with no word, and said “I’m the boss, I don’t need to let you know where I’m at,” you should have replied, “Actually, you do. When Corporate calls, wanting to speak with you, I need to be able to tell them whether or not your are available, and more importantly, when you WILL be available, so they can plan when to call back. If I tell them you’re simply AWOL, it will reflect badly on you, and they won’t like it.”

When he told you to get his coffee, you could reply, “I’ll get it for you, on occassion, when you’re tied up in a meeting or conference call, and can’t get it yourself, as a favor. For future reference, how do you like it?” Learn how he likes it, because every now and again, he will be tied up on a conference call first thing in the morning, and desperately need coffee. It’s a very nice favor to fetch him his coffee at such a time. I’ve done it, and been thanked for it. If he doesn’t thank you for it, it doesn’t happen again. You said he didn’t acknowlege you when he took the cup. You can force him to acknowlege you by holding the cup, until he does. Once he says thanks, you give him the cup.

When he leaves, you don’t need to ask where he’s going, but you do need to ask when he’ll be back, in case Corporate calls. If he gets snippy and doesn’t tell you, then you smile brightly, and say, “OK, boss!” And if his boss calls, you say, “I’m sorry, but he didn’t inform me when he’d be available.”

Dry cleaning – “I’m sorry. That’s against company policy. Would you like the name of a good local dry-cleaner for you to use?”

Calls for his wife – “I’m sorry. It’s against company policy.”

For you to continue to do his work, and then send him a summary – email it to him and copy his boss. “Per your instructions, I have completed the report and attached a summary to this email, so you can have it in electronic format and save on paper.” If he gets mad at you for the email, you smile and say, “Don’t you want to save the company resources?”

At all times, be pleasant and smiling, even if you’re seething inside. If you need him to do something, smile, and say, “Of course you’ll be doing this. It’s in the company’s best interests.” Tell him that before he has a chance to refuse. Everything you do, and everything you expect him to do, is for the sake of the company – saving the company money, resources, and time that should be spent doing productive work.

Document everything, with time-stamps, if possible. Email is a good way to get time stamps. Email yourself when you need to report something he did, and blind carbon copy yourself on all emails sent to him. Then put all emails to/from/about him in a special folder, marked something innocuous like “Obsolete reports” or “Vendors to avoid.”

And smile! Always, always, ALWAYS smile!

Kudos to you for your class in this situation, and thanks for sharing it, so other young people can learn from it. And more kudos to you for not calling Steve and the company president to say “It told you so,” or “I got a better job, with higher pay, and closer to home, so thanks for not supporting me! It worked out really well for me. How are things going with you?” Tempting, but don’t burn your bridges. You never know when you might have to work with them again. Maybe they’ll get their own Hugo and wind up switching to your company.

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The Elf April 19, 2012 at 9:52 am

Ironically, Angeldrac, the worst employment abuses I’ve encountered was as a government contractor. And it wasn’t from my private industry bosses, but my government customer. When someone really loves to revel in their power, they’ll find a target somewhere.

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Striving For Sense April 19, 2012 at 9:53 am

Cat Whisperer – GREAT tips!

Annie – good point about Steve. He had her back, as far as he was able.

badkitty – True about the tests. Stand up for yourself, in a professional way, and he’ll probably leave you alone.

ellesee – Yes, remember your own self worth, and also remember the company’s worth. If you can explain just how someone’s behavior hurts $the company$, then you can fight it, and not worry about being nice. After all, you’re not being self-entitled or a gimme pig. You’re being a loyal employee. Be polite, of course. And smile! But be firm, and bring it back to the company. “That’s against company policy. That’s not in the best interests of the company. That wastes company resources.” It’s hard for a boss to argue with those statements, and if he does, you have REAL ammunition to take to the upper-levels, rather than “I have a bad feeling about him.”

I advise against saying, “That’s not my job,” for a simple reason. Go back and read Cat Whisperer’s tips, especially the one about helping people if you can. Even if it’s not part of your job description, you should help your co-workers, because you’re all on the same team, working toward the same goal – whatever your company’s goal/mission statement is. So, if you start responding with “that’s not my job,” that cuts you off from helping your other co-workers, too. Keep the focus on what is best for the company. And if a favor is reasonable (fetching coffee on rare occassions when the boss is obviously too busy to fetch his own), then do it, because it is a boon to the company to keep him working at his peak. Dry cleaning does not apply, because he’ll be just as effective if he runs his own laundry errands. Making calls for his wife is right out, because it takes time you should be spending on company work. Whenever a co-worker asks for help with a real job, help them. If it is not to the company’s advantage, say so and refuse.

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