Toxic work environments are destructive to workers. One would think that the Board would want a work environment to not be destructive, because it may impact profitability. However, when there is corruption in management on up, they may give the appearance of being profitable at the expense of the workers.
Today, I’m going to tell a handful of stories about toxic work environments. I will be either omitting or changing names to protect the guilty.
This was a small landscaping company where I worked with the owner, the office manager, and the landscaper manager. On the surface, it looked like a dream job.
That is, until one day when I was at my desk and the office manager and landscaper manager wanted to see some numbers on my computer. I’ll call them OM and LM, for short.
Below is a transcript of an actual conversation that happened at my desk.
OM: Tell LM that I don’t like these numbers.
ME: But he’s standing right here.
OM: Just tell him.
Owner: [rushing in, taking me aside]. Look, we have a situation where they aren’t allowed to talk to each other, so you’ll have to repeat everything they say to each other, as if you’re relaying the messages.
Me: Okay, I’ll give it a try.
Me: LM, it seems that OM doesn’t like these numbers.
LM: You tell OM that these are the numbers we need, end of story.
Me: [repeating what he said]
OM: Well, you tell LM that I’m going to fight him on it.
At this point, I’m getting uncomfortable with the conversation, so I blow up at the owner.
“Look, I don’t know what happened to cause this situation. I don’t know who has naked photographs of who. I don’t get why these adults can’t have a conversation. But it seems that you’ve got a shit situation here. When you clear this childish problem up and are ready for real business, with real employees, let me know. Tell OM and LM to fuck off.”
The manager of this office was in charge of raising millions of dollars via donations from wealthy people who would come into her office. There was an expectation of me that was not disclosed when I took this job. I’ll refer to her as MGR.
The fax machine was in my office. MGR yelled at me, “Bring me the faxes!” I do it and go back to my desk. Less than one minute later, MGR yells, “Bring me my faxes!”
I go in and tell her that I already brought them in. She asks where they are, and I point on her desk. She picks them up and I go back to my desk.
I don’t even sit down, when I hear more yelling, “Bring me my faxes!” I run back in and she demands that I “quit messing around” and give her the faxes.
I point out that she’s holding the faxes in her hands.
This song-and-dance went on for two hours. Eventually, I found that that my biggest responsibility, as a TEMP worker, which they did not previously disclose, was that I would be held personally responsible for every check they receive from a donor.
A donor came in. It was a husband and wife. The husband looked beaten down. The wife had her husband write a check for $750,000.
I quit and called the agency, letting them know that I’m not going to be responsible for large sums of money when that responsibility was not disclosed for this $11 per hour assignment.
THE HELP DESK
This temp job involved working at a help desk at a major university. I was at this highly-public help kiosk with a woman who was a full-time employee.
“Okay, here’s what we’re going to do. I need to get this filing done, but people keep coming up and asking for directions to various buildings. Your job is to help them out while I focus on the filing.”
I asked her if there was a map of the campus. When she told me there was no map, I told her that I had NEVER been to this campus before, so I know less about it than the students and visitors.
“I know. Just ask me if you get hung up on anything.”
This was a flat-out guarantee that I was going to get hung up on something.
Five people came up in the first 20 minutes. Every single time, I had to interrupt her for help, because I had NO information. They gave me NOTHING. And every time I had to ask her, she got very irritated.
I had the feeling that this was getting worse, so I grabbed my motorcycle helmet and told her, “I have to go get something out of my car. Be right back.”
Then I left.
This was a media company That spied on workers at night to see if they were drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes. Anyone who was caught would get fired instantly.
As their Quality Assurance Engineer, I went through 11 supervisors in just under 2 years. The shortest time a manager was there was 45 minutes.
In this case, we were told that we had to test some software, where we had no prior knowledge, no documentation, or any prior involvement. Proper QA requires that QA be involved in the Software Development Life Cycle, or SDLC.
This new manager wrote an email, “Effective immediately, QA will not be testing any items unless we are involved at the beginning of their development.” He kicked back and said, “I just solved 95% of our problems.”
Three minutes later, two big guys in Italian suits with baseball bats showed up and escorted him out of the building. They walked him all the way to his car and threatened him to never come back. He was crying the entire time, “What did I do? What did I do?”
I could go through all of the bosses, including one who was a paranoid schizophrenic who had just gotten out of jail for threatening politicians at a town meeting with an axe. He was easy, because I convinced him that “they WERE out to get him,” and that his only salvation would be to quit immediately and never come back. He did just that.
Everything about the place was corrupt, all the way up to the CEO. These days, he teaches a course at The Learning Annex on “How to be a CEO.”
But before that, his company fell apart shortly after I quit, because his financier got arrested for running a $25 million Ponzi scheme.
THE UNETHICAL JOB INTERVIEW
I worked as a temp in an office as an Admin Assistant. One day they said that they would be hiring full-time for the position. However, they didn’t want to just hire me straight-out, even though I was doing a good job. They wanted a little competition, so they brought in a candidate who said that she had “computer experience.”
Remember that for later.
This job interview was the strangest thing I had ever encountered.
The first step of the job interview involved handwriting analysis. This was where they had unlined paper with 2-3 questions per page. What I had to do was write my answers. The answers didn’t matter, so much as the handwriting.
After we were done, we gave our handwriting samples to famed handwriting analyst Anne Silver Conway. I’m making an exception for leaving out names in this case.
After Conway reviewed our handwriting, our handwriting samples and resumes were given to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, so that he could meditate over them and make a decision.
The next day, I was given the results.
They decided to go with the other applicant, based on what Anne Silver Conway told them about my handwriting sample. I always print, and Conway told them that, “People who print do so because they have something to hide.” She effectively called me a dishonest person for printing.
The other person was given the job.
A big part of the job involves updating a 37-page Excel spreadsheet that listed properties, prices, and other real estate information.
The company called me in a panic.
The person they had hired, who had “computer experience,” freaked them out when they handed her a print-out of this 37-page Excel sheet, and she opened a new spreadsheet and began typing from scratch.
They asked her why she wasn’t editing the document that was saved. She replied, “What is saving and editing?”
They relayed this information and begged me to come back. I told them that I could not work there anymore, because I have something to hide, I’m a dishonest person, and I’m really not one to be trusted. I then told them to never call me again.
This was a hard thing for me to do, because I really needed that job.
A few minutes later, my phone rang again. It was handwriting analyst Anne Silver Conway. She asked me if I wanted to work with her.
Yea, she actually fabricated a reason for this company to not hire me, so that she could bring me on as a freelancer. I worked for her for a while, building copyright infringement cases for publishers of mathematics books. But she ended up being so slimy that I eventually quit as soon as I found something else.
Here’s a tip: DO NOT betray me and then ask me to be on your team. I did it for a while, for the money, but will not ever do that again.
IN THE END
There are many other stories that I could write about, but these are three of the simplest ones to tell. I may write in the future about one situation that was very big, where some crazy things happened as the whole world was watching.
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