11 September 2012
In the original post, I never said what triggered the EEOC complaint against Problematic Boss. Documentation had been building against his treatment of women, but that’s not what finally nailed him.
Coworker, looking at resumé of someone he was about to phone screen, looks at the person’s name and asks Problematic Boss, “What kind of name is X?”
Problematic Boss laughs. “Terrorist.”
In honor of events of today, I thought I’d share a tale.
Once upon a time, in a city gay and proud, a small firm hired a woman to move up from a city of relentless beige.
One bright person who interviewed the woman warned her about the boss: he didn’t like women very much. Before she started, events unfolded, the bright person got into an argument with said boss about hiring practices such that bright person got fired. Everyone was stunned, and everyone wanted to react. The woman said, hold on, if the reports are true, he’ll be there less than a month. Don’t do anything, keep your jobs.
And they did.
Sure enough, the woman was able to document enough in the first three weeks (observing maltreatment of others) to do something. But what? Reporting internally was always going to lead to the reporter being fired for poor performance. She’d heard of it happening before. So, instead, she filed a complaint with the government department for equal opportunity.
After the first phone call, when a hearing date was set, the woman approached management and had a meeting with the Head Honcho. The next day, the problematic boss was fired.
You’d think that would be the end of the tale. Sadly, it was only round one.
At the same time as the woman was gathering evidence around her, in another department was a young man who was offered a huge sum to work directly under the Head Honcho. In this case, directly under was intended literally. The young man soon found this out, and he filed a sexual harassment complaint. He was let go for, you guessed it, “poor performance” (one wonders how that was measured), signed his exit paperwork, and went and had a nervous breakdown. The woman didn’t know this until long after, though.
The new boss (Superproblematic Boss) hired to replace Problematic Boss was worse in every way, but cleverer. He lived in another city, as did his minions, and he flew his minions and his “admin” with him every week. The admin couldn’t spell, but then again, she wasn’t really the admin, only one on paper. Superproblematic Boss, it was later found out, was given, yes, given, his admin by a client. She came with a boat, kind of like towels come with a hotel room.
Unfortunately, with money powers that be having more of a say with Superproblematic Boss, the woman wasn’t able to get him fired. He was too entrenched at the top. Since the stress was making her ill, she engineered getting fired (because quitting would have meant paying back a signing bonus). Stupidly, Superproblematic Boss fell for it, and after she got out of the hospital for a very serious infection, she was able to parlay the firing into more money and more stock. The following day, she was hired for a new job paying 25% more elsewhere.
As a result of the stock, the woman was privy to details of things that came up later, including funding rounds and so forth, and eventually the Initial Public Offering paperwork was signed.
Superproblematic Boss was spending like crazy (something like 27 million was wasted on frivolity) and at least two harassment complaints were filed against him internally. Both reporters were fired for poor performance. Both were about mistreatment of the same person whom the woman had been trying to protect over a year earlier.
After that came to light, the woman wrote the underwriters of the IPO (even though that would mean less money for her should the IPO not happen) and pointed them to the government complaint. She heard nothing back, though later, after the IPO was canceled, she heard from a connection to the underwriters that it was canceled not for financial reasons, but for a reason she’d never heard before: “endemic sexual harassment.” Direct quote.
You see, the harassment was far more widespread than the woman realized when she was there, for she had not known about the young man — nor his replacement — nor that the Head Honcho loved to have sex in the office, nor that Superproblematic Boss and his minions loved to hover behind women and make rude gestures behind them or speak in buzzword code about what they wanted to do to them, nor that other people, both male and female, had been harassed over a long period of time. They all believed in the cause that the company represented and downplayed the toxic environment. Of course, they also hoped for a big payout in the event of a successful IPO, and it’s amazing what people will put up with for the promise of Big Bucks.
Shortly after the IPO folded, the woman was contacted by the attorney for the young man, finding out his plight for the first time. She had the only documented external report of harassment. The company was saying no other reports existed, as companies are wont to do. So of course she said she’d help. It was too little, too late, for his case, but it was a valuable lesson: reporting internally will likely lead to retaliation.
So when she hears about reports of people saying they’ve been harassed, then “refuted” with claims of poor performance, this is the saga she remembers.
Oh, that and the stock she had underwent a reverse split a million to one as the company went under and had to be refinanced in a fire sale.
Superproblematic Boss, after three years of making less than the woman, had to file bankruptcy.
Problematic Boss, however, is still spending 1-2 years at companies in the valley of tetravalent metalloids before having to move on to another position. All the people on Linked In who have recommended him are male. Shocking.
I believe you, Kate. (Since someone asked, no Kate isn’t any of the people mentioned in the story above. The story is just relevant to hers.)