5 Real Bosses Straight From The Bowels Of Hell
You probably don't think much of your boss. They're always micromanaging you, and criticizing you, and telling you that you can't have the day off to watch football. But, after you read the harrowing tales of these infamous employers, you'll want to give your own boss a firm handshake. Or maybe a hug.
Albert J. Dunlap Turned An Appliance Company Into An Empire Of Violence And Fraud
Albert J. "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap was a man who lived to fire. And when he became the head of appliance maker Sunbeam, he had the perfect opportunity to rev up his pink slip producer. Derided by critics as someone who "sucked the very life and soul out of companies," he slashed half of Sunbeam's 12,000 employees, five of their six offices, and 16 of 26 factories. He was known as manipulative, ruthless, and controlling, all characteristics you clearly need to sell overpriced bread makers.
But at least profits and sales shot up under his tyrannical reign. The day he was announced as CEO, in July '96, Sunbeam's stock jumped from $12.50 to $18.50. By 1998 it was at $53. Sure, he was an eccentric who posed for photos in an ammo belt and billed the company for a bulletproof jacket and handgun, but one of the 6,000 people he laid off would probably take a shot at him sooner or later, right? Sure, his board members worried about his sanity, but what hard evidence did they have besides the time he threw a chair at the head of HR? And that time he covered an employee's mouth and threatened to ruin them if they ever slighted him? If you can't handle a little violence in the workplace maybe you shouldn't have signed up for a tour of selling midrange kitchen appliances.
Dunlap's madness was tolerated as long as Sunbeam kept raking in money. But, in 2002, analysts noticed an odd trend. During the winter, barbeques were selling like every day was Black Friday. Curious, the SEC began investigating Sunbeam, its accountant Arthur Andersen (the same vigilant industry titan that let Enron cook their books right under their nose), and the CEO with a "myopic obsession" with financials. Sure enough, Dunlap had invented $60 million of Sunbeam's supposed 1997 revenue of $187 million. He was sued, fired, fined, and eventually forced to retire while agreeing to never again work as an executive or board member of any company. He was then stuck, uh, enjoying an early retirement with his vast fortune. Justice kind of prevailed!
Charlie Ergen Founded Dish, Made It America's Worst Employer
Dish, the cable alternative we all tried and then quit as soon as Netflix arrived, made founder Charlie Ergen disgustingly rich and his employees just disgusted. A self-proclaimed micromanager, Ergen took pride in the fact that he treated his workers like preschoolers. Dish employees had to sign in with a badge -- later a fingerprint -- and if you were even a minute late, HR would get an email. Tardy executives would get a personal visit from Chrono-Scrooge. And to make sure he wasn't paying you too much, you had to sign out to go to the washroom. In 2012, 24/7 Wall Street named Dish America's worst employer.
Frustrated that something as simple as snow, aka Satan's Shareholder Sabotage, could occasionally keep employees from working, Ergen suggested that everyone book hotel rooms near HQ on stormy nights. No, of course the company wouldn't pay for it. Just like they also wouldn't pay for tips over 15%, counted right down to the penny. It got to the point where employees considered Dish a "poisonous environment" with an office that was a "danger to the soul."
The outside world loathed him too. Dish was sued by the FTC and the Justice Department for violating telemarketing rules with obnoxious calls. In 2013 Ergen was dubbed the "Most Hated Man in Hollywood" by Hollywood Reporter, who knows the Hollywood beat fairly well, for his constant spats with networks and creators. For all of this, and for failing to anticipate the threat Netflix posed, Ergen was punished by, uh, still being the chairman of Dish. But he did step down as CEO, so hopefully working there no longer feels like you're trapped in one of hell's more white collar circles.
American Apparel Founder Dov Charney Was A Gigantic Creep
Dov Charney, long-time CEO of American Apparel, was a control freak who got himself ousted in his quest for his particular brand of perfection. A brand that was probably covered in semen. Despite claiming that American Apparel prided itself on worker treatment, employees had to groom even their eyebrows in Charney-approved fashion. And good luck getting a day off to let your eyebrows down. Charney screamed "Are you out of your mind? Fuck your birthday!" when someone tried to take their birthday off to, like, enjoy it. Oh, and he had to settle a suit over allegedly rubbing dirt in a store manager's face while calling him a homophobic slur. Probably for acknowledging a birthday.
But in a classic example of "Do what I say, not what and who I do" hypocrisy, Charney used company computers to store homemade sex tapes staring himself and American Apparel models. He dated numerous staff members, then used company money to keep the affairs quiet. Executives eventually had enough. Between his use of threats and racial epithets, antics like dancing naked in front of his employees, just, like, a whole mess of sexual harassment lawsuits, and the shit cherry that was a rape allegation, the board forced him out.
No one really won the subsequent legal in-fighting. American Apparel went bankrupt, but resurfaced as a digital store without the infamous risque ads. Charney launched a new company, Los Angeles Apparel, to make bland and overpriced products, and was forced to pay $19.5 million to a hedge fund because of the American Apparel debacle. At ... at least he's apparently stopped jerking off in front of reporters? That's the best takeaway we've got.
Cincinnati Reds Owner Marge Schott Hated Everyone Who Worked For Her, Also Hated Minorities
Sports teams are toys for billionaires. And when Marge Schott purchased the Cincinnati Reds in 1984, becoming just the second woman to own a MLB team without inheriting it (instead having merely inherited her father's lumber fortune and her husband's car dealership empire), it looked like she was going to share her toy. She kept ticket and concession prices cheap for the sake of families, she let kids run around on the field, she sat in a regular seat and let fans visit her, she made generous charitable donations, the Reds won the 1990 World Series... it was all going great. And then the Stasi-esque espionage and manipulation began.
Despite loving baseball, Schott apparently hated baseball players, and proudly boasted that she spied on the Reds. She had all their mail opened, all their clubhouse phone calls taped, and had them videotaped boarding buses and airplanes to ensure there was no "cutesy-pooing" going on. She also complained that they had the audacity to get paid while recuperating from injuries. When not terrorizing her team, she was treating her office staff like Dickensian factory workers. To save money she kept the temperature cold, refused to provide tissues, insisted on signing every cheque over $50, and required not one, not two, but three bids for anything over that limit. Like pens. She also underpaid so badly that, when a PR assistant moved to a job with Cincinnati's minor hockey league franchise, his salary more than doubled. And then the racism began.
Schott once said that she would rather hire trained monkeys than African Americans, except "African Americans" isn't the vocabulary she used. In 1993 she was suspended a year and ordered to attend sensitivity training, after which she came back completely unrepentant. She had nasty things to say about Jews, Asian-Americans, homosexuals, and women in the workplace, despite being one. And then the Hitler praise began.
In 1996, she was suspended again for saying "Hitler was good in the beginning, but he went too far." How did a baseball team owner's opinion on Hitler end up on record? Because people were complaining that she owned a swastika armband. She defended it as a gift from a car dealership employee, because who hasn't sent their boss some nice Nazi paraphernalia?
That was the last straw. Another last straw was when umpire John McSherry had a heart attack and died on the field on Opening Day, and Schott's reaction was to complain about the inconvenience. A third last straw was when she met the Prime Minister of Japan, then later discussed the meeting using racial slurs and a mocking accent. Schott was forced to sell the team, because the league could no longer ignore that her love of families and children really only seemed to cover the Aryan ones.
Lisa Frank Oversaw A Sparkling Hellhole
Lisa Frank got rich selling school supplies that look like they were vomited on by a unicorn. She founded her psychedelic puppies and rainbows empire in 1979 and soon grew it into a powerhouse, getting a $1 million order from Spenser's almost immediately. By 2005 it had grossed over a billion in sales, and child-friendly LSD trips had adorned countless notebooks.
But, behind the candy-colored facade, one employee likened working with Frank and her husband, CEO James Green, to being in an abusive, alcoholic home. They illegally recorded phone calls. They read, redirected, and deleted emails at will, either to monitor employees or to monitor each other and their increasingly fragile relationship. Employees, even those sitting next to each other, were forbidden from talking. Memos called Frankly Speaking (her greatest crime was arguably against humor) were constantly spat out like Harry Potter screamers as Frank issued more and more restrictive policies, including limits on how Green could be spoken to and a ban on family members ever dropping by. Breaking these rules led to verbal abuse or abrupt firings. Once, after an employee left 10 minutes early, doors were padlocked.
A revolving door of employees made Lisa Frank Inc. infamous as Tucson's "shittiest employer." Even when you quit you weren't done dealing with them, as workers often had to sue for their final paycheque. One employee said she heard Frank scream death threats at sales managers who made mistakes in presentations, while Green had a tendency to throw chairs around the office. (That might have had something to do with his alleged cocaine use.)
The espionage and abuse all became too much. Frank and Green split, accusing each other of adultery and of running the business into the ground. They spent a decade in a bitter court battle that Frank eventually won, but she was left with a fallen twee empire. In 2017, the company's revenue was only $2.3 million, and its 350 employees had contracted down to just six.
Adam does not have social media. He enjoys that very much.