"The Folly of Management" - Anecdotal Examples of Poor Workplace Leadership
(A friend read this article and cautioned me about using real names of the companies discussed in this article, and asked if it fits into the taboo periphery. After an internal debate with myself, I’ve decided to use parodies for the names of the companies. My goal is to write fearlessly and honestly about subjects’ people are curious, ignorant or afraid to talk about. But, I must protect myself from legal ramifications if I am to continue to write and produce a podcast; it's the burden of free speech. The article is taboo because poor workplace treatment is talked too much in private but not acknowledged publicly due to the fear of reprisal. We fear our bosses, it shouldn’t have to be this way.)
Thanks to a combination of wanderlust, luck and one firing; I’ve had the fortune of working for various industries and prestigious companies. Ranging from Law Enforcement, Smish-isney; Smish-mazon and a Toyota Dealership. Though I am grateful for the opportunities of being part of these industries, I also feel the need to write of the lessons learned in regards to problems which are becoming too common and accepted in the corporate world.
I wrote this not to bash my ex-employers but to report on a consistent trend in all these companies. For years I was convinced it was me until I listened to other people’s stories. I have come to realize that bad leadership is common through America. The rationale from leaders who choose not to change their treatment towards employees is either because it’s “capitalism” or social Darwinism.
I am all for capitalism and pro-competition because it brings better prices, services, and innovations to the public. But, to abuse your workforce for the sake of profits, satisfying stockholders or out of pure ego; can only lead down a costly path for the company itself. You lose trust with the public. Employees will sue, unionize or passive-aggressively sabotage your production. Not to mention the high cost of constantly hiring new employees and losing valuable ones with experience and knowledge because they're switching to your competition. Or you get an ex-employee who doesn’t mind revealing your terrible decisions on the internet, like me.
The following are examples from the organizations I’ve worked for who practiced terrible leadership and their negative impact. Hopefully, you can use these examples for the betterment of your company.
Smish-avannah Police Department - It Starts with the First Yes
The career which I was simultaneously proud of and heartbroken over. It took me a few years after being a cop to understand and appreciate the meaning I got from the dangerous career. But, it ended sadly and with a personal sacrifice, which took me years to recover from. That’s a story for another time.
There was a plague of corruption during my tour as a cop. The F.B.I. arrested the Chief of Police for corruption, the Internal Affairs Unit had to be disbanded due to them protecting corrupt police officers; and a Lieutenant from I.A. committed suicide due to him being investigated by the A.T.F. On top of this were the continual abuse of power from elected officials and other leaders within the department. They egregiously punished officers for doing their duty; especially, if the officer was arresting a family member or acquaintance of the elected official.
Throughout the years I wondered how the leadership within a police department became so corrupt. Where did it all start? Were the leaders born corrupt, born sociopaths or were they people who lost their way? I’ve come to understand that it all started with the first “yes.” The first time was over something small, maybe accepting a small bribe from a traffic stop. They may have felt heavy guilt or the looming anxiety of getting caught at first. Then the next “yes” got more comfortable as the guilt and anxiety are replaced with thrill and confidence. One bribe leads to another more lucrative one until you’re protecting an illegal gambling operation and helping drug dealers.
But the first “yes” is just part of the recipe for corruption; you need the culpable and enablers. There was a Major who had the power to stop the corruption within the department, but she cowardly did nothing and let innocent people get hurt. She protected corrupt police officers not out of loyalty to them, but because they were the same race as her.
The obvious lesson is not to say no in the first place. The other, which we all know but only a few implements, is to take a stand against these people. Edmund Burke once stated, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” If people were willing to hold their bosses and political leaders accountable, then we wouldn't have corruption or abuse at the workplace. But only a few will take a stand because they conclude that integrity and doing what’s right outweighs job protection.
I had a Sergeant who embodied integrity and never said the first “yes.” He was passed for promotion multiple times because he arrested the Chief of Police’s daughter for a DUI. He was told to let her go and was threatened of what would happen if he did his job. He never said “yes.” Yeah, it did cost him those promotions in the past but now he is a Captain, and the Chief is in federal prison. His integrity only held back his promotion for a few years, but everyone respected and trusted him, which is priceless.
Smish-isney Cruise Lines- A Lesson in Arrogance and Hypocrisy
Before I begin, Smish-isney is a massive corporation with many businesses under its umbrella. I’ve heard great things for working for the other companies Smish-isney owns and negative things about others. Smish-isney Cruise Lines falls into the latter.
The execs will put company image over what’s right. I’ve heard a story of DCL executives blatantly breaking company policies and laws but were able to get away with it. One story I heard was an exec who brought a gun onboard during a routine inspection. Anyone else would have been fired, but he was able to keep his job.
But, it was my interaction with a Staff Captain (second in command of a cruise ship) which left me appalled. The Staff Captain was of short stature and had an arrogant attitude reminded me of a man with a Mussolini-Complex. We would hear stories of him backstabbing his friends, and his micro-management and mistreatment of the crew. An example would be of an officer on the ship who committed suicide the day before a major inspection. The bullying he endured from the Staff-Captain was what was believed led to his suicide. It couldn’t be confirmed because his suicide note was missing.
There have been complaints. I’ve made one about him bullying me, and I was accused of being mentally incompetent; HR made me talk to the ship’s doctor. While at the same time, my coworker and I was able to prove, via emails, of the Staff Captain ordering us to organize a group of Jamaicans (because he thought they were warriors because of their stereotypical size and capability of fighting) for the use of a militant task force to use against the Filipino Mafia on board the ship. Yes, you read that right. This was one of his many of infamously paranoid ideas. But somehow, he has never been accused of being mentally incompetent by HR.
Despite all of the complaints, the suicide and his attempts to kickstart Fascism again within Smish-isney, he still has not been fired or demoted. Many officers on the ship put in transfers or resign because of his behavior. The sad part is, he isn’t the only one in the company like him.
But there are good ones. There was a South African Staff Captain I admired. He was at first boorish, but I began to admire his compassionate treatment of the crew. He would let me debate him, and I respected him for treating me as an adult when the other Staff Captain treated me as a child. He taught me a good lesson about myself which I remember still. That I have a voice and I should use it.
The lesson I would take away is to hold everyone equally accountable for their actions, no matter where they fall in the corporate hierarchy.
Smish-mazon- A Lesson in Respect for Your Employees
I’ve written about Smish-mazon before (See: “FROM A TO I FUCKING QUIT” - AN OPEN LETTER TO A COMPANY WHICH I CAN’T NAME”), but I feel I have to continue to talk about them as their abusive treatment towards employees is becoming more prevalent in the news.
If Smish-mazon’s problem can be summed up to one word, then it would be: genuine. It always felt like Management and HR never truly listened, nor cared, about their employees’ problems nor had realistic expectations of the limits of their employees’ bodies. Like a bolt, a person to Smish-mazon is just as easily replaceable. All the employees made the same complaints about the unrealistic workload, the toll on their bodies and minds, and the totalitarian policies. But they fell on deaf ears as HR and Management give the trained reassuring nod and the standard “thanks for bringing that to my attention.” All being hollow like an empty box. It made me wonder if they forsake their humanity because of the job or if they even had any, to begin with.
Then again, would a farmer be concerned with the feelings of his beast of burden?
Smish-each Frames - Erratic and Non-Confrontational Leadership
The only job which laid me off. I worked for a small business owner for a brief period. It was a labor job I’ve taken to get out from working for Smish-mazon. The owner presented himself as a kindly man but it was during my employment I saw his erratic and non-confrontational behavior become apparent. Instead of telling me of an issue he had from my work, he would go to his elderly carpenter and yell at him for an hour when I wasn’t working.
The stories told by a few of his employees of him firing employees over the phone and then asking them to come back when he needs help. He fired his carpenters’ grandson for asking for a raise. Then he fired me because he decided to rehire the guy I was hired to replace. This was just a week after giving me a raise. He didn’t fire me when we did our end of the day chat but waited until I got home and called me with the bad news. Then forced me to come back the next day to return his office key or else he won’t give me my final paycheck.
I did receive some reassurance when I went back to get my paycheck. Unsurprisingly, the owner wasn’t there. But an employee told me how she was fired the same way, giving a pleasant goodbye at the end of the day and then getting the phone call when they were home. A few months later he called the employee back and wanted to rehire them. The employee took the job because it was close to their house.
The lesson here is obvious: integrity. The man communicated that he was an honest owner to work for, but his behavior did not reflect his words. He chooses not to express his expectations nor issues he had with employees to them personally. Confrontation is a necessary part of leadership. Yes, there are wrong ways to confront your employees, but you still need to do it if you’re a leader. The employee may not know if they’re not up to standard nor productive enough. It’s better to assume ignorance and communicate with the employee the measurable standards you would like achieved.
It’s also critical you don’t reprimand or fire employees just because they were never adequately communicated their expectations.
Smish-rlington Toyota Dealership - A Higher Road
Toyota makes a great car; too bad it’s sold by car salesmen. The environment fostered was one of the uncertainties of pay, distrust towards your co-workers, and unwanted stress from the inane selling process. All the stereotypes you hear about car salesman are true. Fortunately, the dealership I worked for won’t screw over their customers; they screw over their employees.
I was given a salary of $500 a week for training, but it was $320 after they took out money from our checks for uniforms and a $100 textbook they “loaned” us and said we would get the money back when we resign. One of my co-workers asked why she was getting money taken out for uniforms when she never received any. The Manager made up some lie which was overheard by a seasoned employee, causing him to check his paystub. Recently the highest selling salesman quit because the dealership wasn’t paying what they promised.
On top of the top of that, we watched as the managers drooled over the skintight-dressed Latina who failed all of her training tests but was allowed to keep her job. She feeds lunch to a manager in the public showroom, she would visit the GM’s office many times during the day, and men would give her sales for a “favor.” Of course, this is all hearsay until you here the GM creepily make an explicit innuendo to her in front of the other salesman during a training class.
The lesson here is the environment created. It’s an environment which doesn’t foster healthy competition but an atmosphere of distrust and desperate measures. It’s an unnecessary bureaucracy which taxes the salesmen and the customer. A devolution of business and an embrace of the primal.
Depends on what you’re expecting out of an employee but I can be simultaneously a headache and a blessing. I’m awkward, stubborn and rebellious. But, I’m compassionate, creative and honest. This inner dichotomy is a headache to me so I can’t imagine how some of my bosses felt. There were times I’ve made risky and merely dumb decisions then there were times where my risks paid off in high dividends.
Nevertheless, I meant well and always did what’s right, even if it costed me. Also, I was a fun employee to have around. I can guarantee you that your office becomes more interesting when you have me working. I fondly remember a Sergeant of mine ask me in a disgruntled tone, “Why did you have to come to work today?”
There is no way to avoid sounding like a disgruntled employee when you critique your former employers. My goal was not to chastise them but to put on notice the common issues employees deal with, which seems not to be isolated in a particular sector. Though anecdotal, some of the examples I’ve written about have been in the news such as Smish-mazon’s treatment towards its employees. I also write this as a reminder that employees have the power to make a change in their environment.
Yes, things have gotten better compared to a century ago. We don’t have to worry about unusable fire exits, 100-hour work weeks or child labor (we shipped those jobs off to China). Despite the progress, we’re encountering new problems in addition to unresolved issues.
Do I advocate for Unions in regards to better treatment of employees? I cautiously put myself in the affirmative. Cautiously, because Unions can become abusive as bad employers and may stagnant the benefits of capitalism. But, they do serve a purpose, and it may be the only way actually to effect change on behalf of the employee. The responsibility of change never falls on the employer, but the employees who risk job security to make a better work environment for others.
Nevertheless, I am grateful most of the opportunities I was given with these organizations. But, we’re all human, and we should be all treated as such.
I have to congratulate myself. This is the first article I’ve written on this site where I didn’t use the word fuck.