At a company where I worked long ago, we all complained about one employee who always drank too many martinis at the holiday cocktail party and annoyed everyone with her ridiculous behavior. We complained about her, that is, until she left the company, and some of us suddenly realized we had to worry that without her there, the Holiday Party Lunatic could be us.
I’ve been thinking about that syndrome lately, in the context of the potential departure from America’s corner office, of one Donald J. Trump.
This could be bad for jerk leaders who have been flying the under radar.
On Monday, I included an item the Executive Communication Report (the free e-newsletter to which you should subscribe because it’s good and it’s free):
Navatek CEO Martin Kao was arrested last week on charges of defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program, according to the Hawaii-based engineering firm’s hometown news outlet, the Honolulu Civil Beat. An employee email acquired by the Civil Beat after the arrest showed Kao warning employees several months ago of “draconian consequences” for failing to maintain maximum productivity during the pandemic. “I am a man of few words when it comes to matters like COVID-19 and our Country’s response in directly dealing with the virus and its collateral effect,” Kao wrote in the employee email. “I am a man of even fewer words when it comes to your personal fears, feelings or afflictions with regard to the virus during these times. In fact, I really only have three words: I … Don’t … Care. What I do care about is ensuring that all of you have the knowledge and ability to take comfort that your jobs and finances are secure and the Company is positioned to continue to grow at an incredible pace, despite the impact of CV-19.”
In addition to being good and free, the Executive Communication Report is also digestible, so I didn’t actually have room for the most asinine marks in CEO Kao’s employee memo:
Navatek has made sacrifices beyond explanation to protect your jobs, financial wellbeing, and personal/family’s wellbeing during these challenging times for all Americans.
So, when you are “working from home” in your pajamas, and get up to go to the bathroom, grab a drink/snack from the refrigerator, change the channel on the TV or whatever you’re watching on Netflix … be sure to take time to walk in front of a mirror. Look in the mirror and ask the person staring back at you, what sacrifices are you making?
Working from home, while MILLIONS of other American’s are losing their jobs, paycheck and livelihoods is an absolute privilege. So, if I sniff, whiff, or hear of anyone abusing this privilege, it will be met with draconian consequences.
Now, how is it that you don’t know that story, which has been out for a week and, for the corporate communicator type who frequents this blog, is as delicious as chocolate marijuana.
Oh I don’t know, maybe because the World’s Worst Boss has been strutting his stuff per usual across the American cubicle farm—in and out of the hospital—and even in his diminished state, making every other leader look like Mahatma Gandhi by comparison?
And there are other jerk leaders, you know, just like there always have been. They expect everyone in their company to “act like an owner” and then complain bitterly when—not being owners—they don’t. They play new and eager employees against established and knowing ones, they reward naive enthusiasm over seasoned judgment. They change their priorities based on their anxiety level, and they don’t tell you when they come off their meds.
And most chronically of all, they use every rhetorical means to create a tiny snow-globe context that puts the company at the center, not just of the universe, but of the history and future of the universe, and they judge every employee’s action based on that assumption. You’re taking a vacation? From the universe? You’re sleeping? While the universe is still expanding?
I was talking with a communication executive the other day and she told me she that for the first time since coronavirus, she had a quiet, in-person conversation with her big-company CEO. She told him frankly that between managing her kids and managing her life and managing her high-powered job (which involves managing him), she’s never had a harder time in her whole life.
“What did he say?” I asked.
“He said, ‘I can’t even imagine,'” she said.
And he changed the subject.
Politics aside, CEOs, university presidents, nonprofit directors everywhere ought to worry about life after Trump, whether it comes sooner, or later. Cuz without old Trump setting the bar so low that no one can get beneath it, the World’s Worst Boss could once again be them.