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Shooting Herself In The Wallet

I had a boss who was the most evil, vile old hag anyone had ever met – let’s call her Witch. She could be very charming – she was hugely high-powered in international marketing – but it didn’t last. Some of her fun activities including screaming abuse in her staff’s faces, refusing to let us leave the office for more than 10 minutes at lunchtime, keeping us there until 8pm or later because she had nothing to do that evening, ignoring contractual bonus payments, and so on.

Witch liked to pile work onto the four of us in her boutique business. She’d start with giving me a weekly simple spreadsheet. Suddenly I’d have to update it twice weekly, then daily, then three times daily, with enormous detail, then another two spreadsheets were added. It was like Rumpelstiltskin – the more work you did, the more she created, all needed now, now, NOW. She would ring from her office across the hall every 5 minutes and scream that she needed this, where was it. She’d give you six reports to create and half an hour to do them, so prioritising anything was impossible. If you didn’t have it, she might call you in and scream at you. Or she might just keep piling work on until you just never got out.

Her secretary cried so much she developed stomach problems from the constant nervous tension. Her Irish PA was called ‘a potato person’ including during Witch’s speech to her clients at the Christmas party. She made racist comments about our husbands/boyfriends, constantly belittled us, and made ad hominem attacks on us. The four of us (trapped in a severe recession) clung to each other, cried a lot and occasionally told her to lay off – cue more screaming 2 days later.

After 7 months, Witch gets a new consultant who is cheaper than me. The Friday before, she calls me in for 7.30am, works me like a dog and then at 6pm fires me without a reference because I’m ‘a horrible person and can’t answer the phone properly’. I’m a failure. I’ll never succeed, she can’t think of a single job I could do, I’m such a moron etc (I’ve got 10 years’ experience and a PhD). I leave.

Witch then refuses to give me my outstanding holiday pay. I wanted to put the horror behind me, but in the end I threatened her with a tribunal for illegal dismissal. We had a short and very entertaining phone call with a lot of screaming from her side and unabashed laughter from mine – until she realized she’d broken the law, and then she went quiet. I told her to never contact me again except for that money and hung up on her. Money arrives, together with one of the written warnings she should have legally given me before firing me! My husband opened it and said it was a list of personal things like ‘everyone hates you’! I took great pleasure in filing it unread.

Karma then catches up with Witch. My replacement lasted 3 weeks. The secretary snapped, screamed a few home truths at Witch and walked out. The PA got a new job and left. None of the next round of replacements lasted longer than a month. That left one girl, who sued Witch in court for breach of contract! I don’t know what happened after that but I hope she took her for everything she could! Witch’s own daughter was terrified of her. I’ve never known anyone just so utterly nasty right to the core.        0818-09

The stories of bad business owner/bosses always amaze me for the sheer idiocy displayed in their behavior to employees.  If employees are integral to the growth, productivity and prosperity of a company (and the owner), the intelligent thing to do is cultivate and encourage better job performance with civility.

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  • Alexis August 26, 2009, 1:28 pm

    I’ve worked a number of jobs where various individuals, not just management, were allowed to engage in all kinds of offensive, abusive, and even illegal activity without any negative consequences at all. But I noticed that all of the issues people had with such toxic individuals eventually turned out not only to be verified, but to be harmful to the business. Permit sexual harrasment and sooner or later someone will sue you for a hostile work environment. Allow a person you know is a thief to continue working and eventually, he’ll steal from you, and other people will begin to follow suit. Permit one person to be exempt from every rule and eventually the people who do have to follow those rules or be punished will lose all respect for those rules and find ways around them as well. I never saw a person with whom other people had serious issues fail to get fired for those issues eventually, despite the business’s initial calculations which determined that the person with the problem was more valuable to the business than the people who objected to the problems in the first place.
    Karma’s a witch.

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