We all need money, fact. And when you need money you can find yourself in the worst situations with no way out.
I once worked at a place where my boss was a racist misogynist who barely came into the office except when he decided he needed to micromanage. Micromanaging in itself is already terrible — imagine it by someone who self proclaims their role as a sales person, but also the president of the company.
When I first signed onto the job I was not working directly under the president. There was a vice president with a bigger hand in all the comings and goings of the company — they were hands on while the owner was not. The company had a couple of warning signs but nothing you couldn’t deal with — it was a startup. No startup is perfect and if they think they are they wouldn’t be a startup.
It was great when I first started, we could work remotely, your job position was clear, and it had the actual decent team relationship Millennial startups pretend can replace an HR.
About a month into my employment the Vice President quit — with her another worker immediately quit. I didn’t think anything about it and was actually judgmental about them leaving without providing two weeks notice. I didn’t know the VP well enough to say anything about her quitting on the spot and I wasn’t in the office when it happened.
All of a sudden the company was being headed by a man I didn’t know, I knew his name was on the company and I’d met him once during my interview but he hadn’t even been the one who decided my employment — his father who was not an employee was also in the interview. I’d seen his dad more often than him and was told he was there to check up on things — no one told me he was related to my boss and not an employe(r/e).
This was around the summertime.
In two months my president had hired a new accountant. He told the previous accountant the new accountant would be in charge of different accounts. We were a small company so it seemed odd but we weren’t ever told about the bigger picture when it came to the company’s plans or directions.
Within the month of the new accountant the previous accountant of two years was let go — the excuse was we were closing accounts and wouldn’t need her services anymore. The new accountant stayed. At the time the accountant was put in a different office and had no contact with the rest of the team, we didn’t know this was the way the president built divisions.
One day he asked us to come in everyday of the week instead of working remotely because we would be having regular meetings. You couldn’t really say no even if it was an inconvenience — it’s the precedent for almost every company. The only problem was we were promised differently when we signed on. We only had meetings once but were told to keep coming in just in case. My boss was still never in.
The new VP was an employee I had never met — he was ambitious. Some of the other workers didn’t really like him but that doesn’t really mean anything, if you can find a workplace where everyone likes everyone I will buy a lottery ticket.
For a while it was okay, things weren’t great but they were fine. I’d just stepped away from a short job so I wanted to keep this one for at least a year so I could have a longer job on my resume, I’d worked longer jobs before but it never looks good to have a short job follow another short job.
By the end of the year things started to get worse and worse. My VP had begun hanging out with us in our open office space rather than his room and he’d make lots of uncomfortable comments unrelated to work. They weren’t always work related — his personality just wasn’t great.
I’ll never forget the one time he told me one of my coworkers didn’t seem black enough because he doted on his girlfriend. I’m getting upset again from just writing that sentence out.
I was about half way through my goal of staying a year but I had started applying to jobs. I was slowly losing my mind being employed here.
By the end of the year we had announcements of a minimum wage raise. I had been there for six months and was looking forward to a pay raise — in my contract I was actually promised a pay raise after the three month probation but held off asking because of a combination of the president never being in and the chaos of losing a vice president.
I wanted to wait until after the minimum pay raise to use it as leverage to make sure I was getting the biggest benefit of a raise. A week after the beginning of January two employees were let go at once, the excuse was that we couldn’t afford to keep them. Except we had had one of the most profitable months. The real reason was that one of my coworkers who oversaw our outsourcing contracts was uncomfortable with the big black man who challenged him any time he asked him to do his work for him. My now ex-employee had sent me an email where the literal words “I’m too lazy to do this, you do it” had been used. The last straw for my ex-coworker after continuous abuse.
At this point I couldn’t wait to get out — I was pushing job applications everyday and getting nowhere. But I needed to get out. Before I knew it, half a year had passed and I still hadn’t found something else.
We were looking for a new office space because my boss had gotten into a fight with the landlord. The day we moved I was in the office, the VP was working from home as was my boss. Two guys with moving trucks showed up saying they were here to set up for the next office. We called the VP and the VP said to just take everything with us because we were moving offices. Yeah, if you’re reading this incredulous think about how we felt as we started stripping desktops and other equipment to move to an office we hadn’t visited. We had put a bunch of stuff into our cars and after we had finished our VP showed up — he had three laundry baskets he said to fill with office stuff. We were moving monitors — none of them fit in a laundry basket.
This chaos was essentially our workplace. The workplace was being run by those on the floor and the VP and boss just tossed us around with terrible planning and minimal effort.
I had resigned to not finding anything else at this point. I’d keep my head down because I was suffering from job search depression. I’d gained twenty pounds, barely left the house, and spent most days finishing work because we’d get in trouble if it wasn’t done — I wasn’t paid for my overtime. I’d lost sight of just how bad it really was even when I knew things were horrible because a part of me figured I deserved it — why else would I be struggling so hard to find a new job?
One day my boss’s personal assistant was put into the office, he was given a new job, he was now a graphic designer. If you’re thinking these two jobs don’t really share the same skills, it’s because they don’t. My boss would frequently change people’s occupations so that they could fail — he would then have an excuse to let them go. There is record of that, he allowed his pa access to his e-mail box and had drafted a release letter before the employee in question had started their new job.
He’d still had access at that point because my boss had asked him to look at emails for him and had accidently came across it in his drafts. We didn’t know if there was really anything we could do so we didn’t do anything.
My boss hired someone who had reached out to him on LinkedIn. He was a guy who was formerly a mechanic who had written my boss a four page essay about why he should be hired — I kid you not, the VP had laughed about it. To everyone’s surprise, my boss hired him as project manager.
I’m not one to knock down anyone else’s skills but this guy was a mess. John* didn’t have any communication skills, he had once told a client they didn’t know what they were talking about because the client had misunderstood a word used in a poster, I had to tell him that’s not how we talk to clients. And he didn’t know anything about project managing, he had never done any administrative or management work before. My boss liked having him in a higher position because he would relay what my boss said without question. Even the vice president hated him.
Within the first two months he had lost two major clients. I brought it up in a meeting with my boss (we were starting them again after a coworker complained about having to come into the office for no reason when they were promised otherwise). My boss told me he knew what he was doing, not John, and that he knew John had the skills to do what he asked him to. He wouldn’t tell us what he asked John to do that he was skilled at. By the end of the quarter we’d lost another three clients, two of which had left because we hadn’t done any work we had promised — work that had never left the project management stage to be relayed to the rest of the team.
We were suddenly losing money. Before the project manager we had pretty much been self sufficient. The boss, as a salesperson, would make sales and give it to the VP who would give it to us — we delegated within our own teams to ensure they were fulfilled. There was a time period where I was working 70 hours a week for months to fulfill projects. All of a sudden we had a new project manager who was overstepping the VP and profits were on a decline.
In November, my VP quit over the phone.
In a company wide email he accused my boss of illegal deals with customers (without proof) and he confirmed the fact that he intentionally changed employee’s job positions to suit his needs. To say company morale was at an all time low would not be an exaggeration.
At this time my coworker had brought up the point of company morale. He had mentioned how we were losing clients for no apparent reason — mismanagement isn’t excusable if there isn’t a reason for the failings. Hiring someone with no history or skills in that area is not an excuse. My boss decided to book a Christmas party in November where we were to stay overnight, he didn’t present it as a choice, he expected us to stay because it was a work party. Obviously many people didn’t.
I remember John asking me if a coworker had a dog. I didn’t know why he asked at the time and had told him I didn’t know. I found out later it was because that employee had bowed out of the party/trip to take care of their dog. I don’t understand why we’d have to provide reasons to not stay at a work event overnight. My boss just wanted us to prioritize work for no reason.
As things began to degenerate my boss and John had become more and more desperate. My boss had mostly stayed out of the picture but had to step in as the VP left — it was honestly amazing he didn’t prioritize losing clients until the VP quit.
If you know nothing about business one of the only rules you need to know if consider the overhead cost. What that is is the amount of money that goes into the production — the cost of materials, workforce, and then the actual product. My boss no longer cared about the overhead cost.
We had a project that would cost $600 to make. My boss sold it for $1000. This didn’t account for the shipping or the printing services. We were graphic designers — our work was printed on high material and required high processing to finish. The actual profit from these amounted to no more than $100-$200. These projects too almost a full day to create.
My boss rationalized it as he could sell them quickly because they were much cheaper than direct competitors. He didn’t think about the actualization of people considering work to be poor for such a low price.
As he became more and more desperate his expectations became more and more outrageous. He began blaming the workers for not delivering on sales that were not being explained to us. John wasn’t telling us how to finish the job and we were told not to ask too many questions because it slowed the process — we were expected to know what we were doing.
One memory sticks to mind — we were told to finish a project that would normally be a five day project in one afternoon because he “forgot to send it to us” and that the client was “on the verge of leaving us.” We were being punished for my boss being unorganized. As the sole salesperson it was his responsibility to ensure we receive the projects obtained from his sales. We often didn’t get them.
At this point the employees had basically separated away from management, the only employee who was “on my boss’s side” was the racist worker I mentioned earlier. He was the outsourcing link and therefore untouchable. He didn’t care that he didn’t have to finish work, he just collected a paycheck.
At the end of the next quarter my boss had decided he wanted to start promoting the company. He was hosting seminars to reach out to clients to invite them. Turns out he was actually illegally contacting them. In Canada you can create an email list but your contacts have to approve their addition to that list otherwise it was seen as spam, which is illegal. My boss was having his new p.a. run a bot on LinkedIn and sent out invitations to those in our field. His email box currently directs into the spam folder.
He was trying to be Gary Vaynerchuk.
Within a couple of days of the announcement he had hired vlogging staff. Yes, he was recording himself.
I was bewildered — we were losing money and he was hiring video staff. I didn’t necessarily agree with promoting the company via ads but it made sense. Vlogging didn’t make sense.
We didn’t see the direct result to this redirection of money until January. Within the first half of the year we lost four employees from the graphic design team. The main source of income. The boss said it was a mixture of a lack of funding and that we weren’t doing our jobs properly. Imagine that.
John was still employed.
We hired a new VP. We had a person come in from the outside to take over management to ‘fix the company.’ He worked directly with me to oversee what was happening. I explained that the first issue was a lack of communication. Everyone had to wait to see what the projects were instead of one central source and once we received projects we weren’t to ask questions because it was a sign of incompetence if we did.
He told me he would work things out. I basically implied the problem started and ended with my boss. John was basically a free floating p.a. at this point because the new VP was also overseeing project management. Things didn’t get better.
I had come up with a solution to our sale problems. My boss constantly has a p.a. with him when he meets clients. I told my VP to have the p.a. email the team after a sale because my boss often forgets. My VP said the p.a. was too busy handling the social media to do that — how was tweeting about my boss’s failed vlogging experience more important than sales? When I left the company my boss has a total of 16 subscribers on his Youtube channel. He was not a successful media person.
I brought up the overhead costs. The VP told me the numbers I was throwing out didn’t make sense. Of course they didn’t, that’s why I mentioned it. He said I must be mistaken otherwise the company couldn’t exist. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t see the company wasn’t really existing — it was a downward spiral. We were losing money and clients left and right. We had already entered months where we as a company owed money.
Eventually it came to a head. My opinions about not running the company properly was pushed down from the VP who told me my boss knew what he was doing because he was the boss. The title doesn’t make you successful, it just means you have the title.
The VP had turned into another puppet for my boss. He expected my boss to be correct and couldn’t make the connection that doing things the way my boss wanted was how we got into this mess in the first place.
Two years after I had started I received an email. I was let go. The official reasoning was because we were short on funding. Where was the graphic design team if I was the only employee in that department? I couldn’t answer that.
It was a bittersweet moment but as I sat in my room I realized I could also breath a lot easier now that I wasn’t employed at the type of place where your boss refuses to call you to let you know you don’t have a job anymore. I still haven’t spoken to him since then. I mourn my lack of pay but I don’t mourn this shitty job I should’ve left despite the consequences ages ago.