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"It Was Chaos": 20 Erratic And Unpredictable Bosses Who Apparently Went To The Elon Musk School Of Management

BuzzFeed
BuzzFeed
 2022-11-29

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Note: This post contains a mention of suicide.

From telling laid off workers whoopsie, didn't mean to fire you to asking those who remained at Twitter to take a pledge to be "extremely hardcore," Elon Musk's managerial style has been in the news a lot lately. And though his fans see Musk as a brilliant and innovative leader, others describe him as erratic, chaotic, and clueless.

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And for some people, watching Musk's Twitter takeover has brought back memories of past bosses whose behavior was decidedly... Musky . So, we asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to tell us about their brushes with an unpredictable boss. Here's what they had to say:

1. "I worked for two best friends who were unpredictable. I would walk into work and have to ask the front desk person, 'What's the mood?' The best mood was apathetic. Otherwise, any other emotion meant I had to put out the fires they started. They would change procedure and not tell anyone, so they would get angry if we didn't do what they wanted, yell at employees if they made minor mistakes, and confuse everyone with changed plans by telling some people some things and other people different things. But the management team wouldn't be told anything."

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"There would be angry clients demanding service or they would take their business elsewhere (million dollar clients), scared employees because one owner would just yell at people for inconveniencing him (even though he was the cause of all the turmoil), and burned out management who had to put out the fires the owners caused, protect the employees from abuse, and try to ensure clients were happy.

I was a manager and resigned in less than a year. I was given a great severance because HR instructed the owners that I had a lawsuit if they didn't give me hush money.

Last I heard, they let go of all of the employees and bullied their walk-in clients if they got a bad review on Yelp.

They are still 'open,' however, the owners destroyed their own company."

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2. "I worked for a 'finance bro' one year older than me who advertised the job as a 40-hour-a-week admin job, but it turned out he wanted a 24-hour personal assistant. If I refused to work more than my 40 hours, he would tell me there would be no room for growth. He also would sexually harass me on a daily basis, and call me as late as 9 p.m. to tell me about minor errors I made that day, such as spelling or grammar errors in an email."

—R, 30

3. "I worked for one of the world's foremost neurosurgeons. Brilliant man, but as a manager, he was a nightmare. He made millions of dollars a year, and loved to work 18 hours a day. He couldn't understand why on a Friday after working 11 hours I wanted to go home. Spoiler alert: I made only $50k so I wanted to go home! He was notorious for requesting a meeting saying it was urgent and then canceling and asking, 'Why are we even having this meeting?!' This happened at least once a week, and sometimes twice a day. That is the type of chaos that ensued in our department, which was supposed to be the pinnacle for neurosurgery."

—F, 35

4. "One year, HR sent a company-wide email to announce the annual ‘London March Against Capitalism’ (the following day) and said everyone was to come to work in casual clothes, no laptop bags or suits, so as not to draw attention to ourselves (as the protest can sometimes turn violent). My boss then told our team that we were to disregard the email and come to work in suits as we are a professional team and we are not to let our standards slip under any circumstances. The next day, we all got into work, wearing our suits, to an email from our boss saying, 'I’m working from home today in case the protest turns violent.'"

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5. "I worked with her for years, and the last two years, she was making changes. At times, she wouldn't tell me she made a change. For example, I was entering all client data into one system. Then, a week later, she would ask me if I was the one doing that, because she forgot to tell me not to. She seemed more worried about her image on social media than running the business."

"When COVID hit, working from home was supposed to be permanent, but she changed her mind, but just for another year. She would constantly purchase unnecessary things that made no sense or that she wouldn't use again. It got to the point where bills were being delayed because there wasn't enough funds to cover it. It began to be chaos toward the end, so I left before it got worse."

—A, 36

6. "In 2018, I was singing for an opera company. The whole management team was getting replaced, so everyone was pretty grumpy, but the head of opera, let’s call her Sally, was particularly grumpy. I was doing two productions at the same time — one in this opera company and another in a nearby opera company. It just so happened Sally had applied for a job at the second opera company I was working for and got rejected. She decided to take this out on me."

"One day, I had a show in opera house two, which was about an hour and a half away by train from opera house one. I was supposed to be rehearsing in opera house one during the day, but because of the time constraints, the director and conductor in opera house one gave me the day off.

Sally didn’t like this.

She told them I wasn’t allowed to take any time off and I had to go to rehearsal. She then sat in on the rehearsal to make sure I didn’t miss it. Luckily, the conductor was on my side and let me sneak off an hour early so I could get to my show in opera house two in time.

All because Sally was feeling petty."

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7. "This was about a decade ago. On my first day, the IT guy that was setting up my computer told me there was a pool out on how long I'd last. I laughed, thinking it was a joke, until he told me I was the fifth assistant in the last year, the longest lasting three months. It was a well-paying gig, and I needed the money, so I decided to not walk out in that moment."

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"She was incredibly rude and demeaning. A real Regina George without the entourage. Everyone in the building essentially avoided her at all costs. Because of who we worked for, no one could touch her. She had HR around her finger. Total abuse of power.

It was also her personal joy to torment me. She would change how she wanted me to do things almost daily, and then berate me when I followed the new instructions. Ie: She'd tell me she wanted an email every time I saved a file, and then, she would call me into her office and berate me for 'wasting time' sending confirmation emails. She'd yell at me for the punctuation format I used for calendar appointments, the format she specifically told me to use (think colons and not dashes type stuff). I have a one-inch stack of printed emails of this type of toxic behavior because I had once considered engaging an attorney it was so bad.

One day, she invited me to happy hour, and when we arrived, she said, 'Oh, by the way, my husband is supposed to be attending an event upstairs, so we will get to say hi soon.' In actuality, we were spying on him to see if we could catch him cheating. Some time passed, and it looked like the event was over, but no husband. She asked me if she should go upstairs, and I, of course, said yes because I wanted to see the aftermath. Well, she went upstairs and promptly came back down. He was with another woman, alone, at the upstairs bar, cuddled up. She was livid, and I felt like sweet justice had been served. I quit not long after that.

In the end, I mostly felt sorry for her, but she never changed. Last I heard, she decided to hire someone with my same name so she didn't have to learn another name. Her husband divorced her. And I never found out who won the pool in the IT department."

—J, 35

8. "When I was a student, I worked at a golf course that was badly run but profitable, so the owners didn’t care. The general manager found a reason to yell at every employee at least once a week. She once called me into her office to accuse me of talking constantly on my cellphone. This was in the late '90s when cell costs were massive, and besides, my family had one phone for five people that was for emergencies. At most, I had used it to call home for a ride. As a result, the staff was robbing the place blind."

"Party tonight? Take a case of beer home. Want a tee time at 9:00? Take a cart, your drinks and food are on the house. They had no inventory management, and there was no cash register on the course, just a paper record of what you sold. I didn’t take millions of dollars, but I paid my tuition and books and going out money for the year and didn’t need a job in the school year."

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9. "I just quit because of my boss. She starts all her stories in the middle, as if you already understand the details. She does not help with work, no matter how busy. One day, two months ago, I was in the middle of preparing for 200 students. I was up to my wrists in paper work. She came in and loudly complained that the front door looked dirty."

"She then proceeded to take down all the signage and 'scrub' the door. I tried telling her multiple times that the marks were scratches, but she continued to 'clean' them. She handed me several signs and told me to scrub. I placed them on my desk and proceeded with my student work. She then took the daily newspaper that we get for our clients and went to her office.

Once, her boss asked her to order a reprint of an old book. He wanted to give them out occasionally to dignitaries and speakers. She ordered 600. Three have been taken so far."

—E, 33

10. "About 10 years ago, I got a job at a tech startup in San Francisco. The CEO, let's call him Bob, came from a wealthy family and had a different, lucrative career outside of the tech startup. The tech startup was supposedly his passion project. I was very young at the time, just 23, so I missed all warning signs."

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"I first met Bob at an event and mentioned that I had a background in writing. Bob was so taken with me that he created an unnecessary marketing role to hire me. (I later found out that he actually hired me so that he could have sex with me.) Why was it an unnecessary marketing role? Because he had NO PRODUCT TO MARKET yet. Bob blew literally hundreds of thousands of dollars on the marketing initiatives that I spearheaded, all the while, he neglected his software development strategy.

We filmed a commercial (I got to be in it, which was fun). We published an online publication loosely related to the nonexistent product where we interviewed big-time celebrities. He threw a lavish party to 'introduce' ourselves, again with no product to promote. In general, Bob was all about appearance.

Bob eventually ran out of money, but he tried to hide it. He stopped paying his software developers and other freelancers. He manipulated me into being his spokesperson, so I — at the young age of 23 — had to communicate with angry software developers and other freelancers. He eventually had me mail checks to each of them. I excitedly told everyone that their money was coming. To my surprise, each check only included HALF THE AMOUNT OWED. Bob had lied to me about the amount. Everyone was understandably livid, and I had to manage all of them. I was so stressed that I broke down crying in the middle of the office. Bob eventually shut down the company. He gave me one month's severance and hit on me. I was disgusted, but I learned a valuable lesson."

—C, 33

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11. "She came in to a lot of money through a military contract and bought a gigantic $30k custom wood table that was too big for the conference room. She moved the office way out of the city to an industrial park so she could yell at us without people hearing (according to her). She hired and fired people on a whim. She flashed her breasts at people. She bit one staff member. Kicked another. This was a violence prevention nonprofit that is still active. She actually testified before Congress about workplace harassment. What a hypocrite. I keep waiting to hear she is being investigated for fraud or harassment."

—R, 39

12. "I worked for an attorney years ago when 9/11 happened. I found out about it when I went to get a coffee for coffee break and they had a TV on. I went back to my office and told everyone what was happening. One of my co-workers had many family members in the service (upwards of 15 or so) and was very upset about them being drafted into what looked like a new war. My boss said, 'Don't be a baby and get back to work.' I took her into another room and tried to help her calm down, but he just kept telling us to get back to work. We eventually did, but working there after that scene was horrible for months."

—D, 69

13. "When I was laid off, it wasn’t by my boss, or my boss’s boss. The decision was made by a vice president who was looking at some spreadsheet to decide how to cut costs. They chose me along with 130 other people. But the thing was, I was the only employee who was an expert on a certain technology the company heavily relied on. So, for the next six months or so, I got frequent calls and texts from my former colleagues and boss asking how to do this or that. Part of me wanted to say 'screw you.' But it wasn’t any of them that made the decision to lay me off. And they were just other victims of the downsizing in their own way. So, I begrudgingly helped them all when they asked for help."

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14. "I worked at a global fintech startup as it was scaling. The CEO and management are notorious for toxic company culture, and it has been reported on in the press several times. There are dozens of stories I could tell, but the worst was during COVID when we were told that despite our hours (9 a.m.-6 p.m.) being included in the contract, we were expected to work '1.6x contracted hours as standard.' We could be fired for anything, at any time, no disciplinary action required, and that if we didn't keep quiet about it, the severance would disappear. Every day, I would go on Slack to find out someone else had been deactivated overnight."

"The culture of fear that it created burned people out, and there was at least one workplace-related suicide that was hushed up. Anything less than exceptional behavior during the quarterly reviews was a failing grade, and a lot of people were fired as a result. It calmed down, but it's one of the worst environments I've ever worked in."

—S, 31

15. "I had to give a presentation for an interview on how I'd fix issues with project management at all of our regional campuses. I didn't get the job (they'd already had someone else in mind and were just going through the HR motions), but I was told that while that wasn't what they had in mind for that position, they really liked my ideas and would create a position for me to do those things. Unfortunately, all of my 'ideas' which I'd presented were then shut down, repeatedly...only to come back again weeks/months later as my boss's ideas. Then, I'd be designated to execute MY IDEAS, only to have them completely nit-picked apart."

"I spent five years in that position, painstakingly executing all of my ideas, which led to some marked improvements. And I'd built up a rock-star team of four people to help me, only to be pushed into another position so that they could put one of my team members 'in my position' because she was going to leave for twice her salary, which I told them would be very bad for the organization, AND had told them six months prior would happen if they didn't significantly adjust my team's salaries to their worth.

Basically, he just got rid of me because I wasn't the puppet who would agree with everything my boss said and do everything the way he wanted, even though I almost always ended up being correct."

—S, 38

16. "I used to work for a sole attorney/owner. She was an intelligent lady, but she had the emotional intelligence of a 13-year-old. First of all, there was NO level of professionalism. She would go around the office, cussing, yelling, telling dirty jokes, and screaming into people's offices like you were in a dorm. She was also extremely opinionated on every topic discussed, and you always had to let her have the last word. She also had a tendency to overshare way too much about her personal life from adultery in her marriage to her IVF issues to her loathing of her family. We literally used to try and guess which 'version' of her would show up each day because you never knew."

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"You could say one thing to her on Monday, and she would laugh about it; the exact same matter on Thursday might send her into a rage. Turnover was very high there because most people couldn't deal with the irrational behavior and lack of professionalism. I stayed longer than most because I felt sorry for her. I truly think she was mentally undiagnosed, emotionally stunted, but doing her best. I heard she's still in business!"

—M, 37

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17. "My first job was in a grocery store, where I ended up being a supervising cashier. The store manager decided he hated me, for some reason, even though I often got compliments and was obviously trusted enough to train all the new cashiers. Anyway, one shift, he decided he was going to just stand behind me the entire shift. He said almost nothing, just watching me while I processed orders and helped customers. Hell, even some of the customers were wondering what he was doing."

"So, for six hours, the store manager did absolutely nothing but watch me, only leaving when I went on my breaks and then coming back when I returned. It wasn't like there weren't cameras; they were everywhere, and he would often watch us on the screens in his office and call the front desk phone if he saw something 'distasteful' like cashiers talking to each other.

Still never learned why he did it, but he never did it again. I quit a few months later."

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18. "Our owner needs a new hobby, honestly, because her hobby right now is to make us miserable. She demands things from us that are unreasonable and ridiculous. She insists that the bakery display be set up in a specific way, wants pictures every morning proving it was done that way, then comes and reorganizes it herself anyway. For a few months, she insisted on us being ready to open half an hour before our actual opening time, lights on, door open, music playing, ready to take orders, and make coffee."

"Recently, she was insistent on the volume of the music. It was an entire OSHA violation. She wanted the music so loud, we were all getting headaches and had to scream to hear each other or any customer, and she literally taped over the volume button on the system with a sticky note that said, 'DO NOT TOUCH VOLUME!'

She also is so obsessed with flat whites, no idea why, but she literally has fired someone on the spot over her 'flat white test' where she asks one of the baristas to make her a flat white. They failed."

—J, 27

19. "I worked for a healthcare clinic as an admin assistant for a doctor/boss from hell. She would bully me to tears if I had one page of patient notes out of order, showed up late by two minutes, or didn’t drive to her house on weekends to get stacks of handwritten notes transcribed off the clock. She also coerced me into approving PT/OT/ST with her signature and threatened me if I didn’t comply."

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"Eventually, she wanted me to start signing off on prescriptions when I wasn’t licensed. When I went to HR to complain about illegal activity and refused to sign scrips, she told me not to because 'they just meddle and mess up relationships.'

When I did go to HR, she made my life hell with passive aggression. I was fired a week later, told I had 'ruined everything,' and still have PTSD from my seven months there. I stayed because the pay was great, but in hindsight, not worth it at all."

—E, 32

20. "There has never been a more chaotic person to run a company than my old boss. He would get ideas and make his developers make his projects a priority. So, all these other projects like fixing the website took a backburner. He also once instituted a push to install a software that should have taken two years to integrate. He wanted it done faster, like six months total or something like that, so he pushed his developers and the other companies developers to the max. They rarely slept, and many slept in the office on cots."

"He was also just chaotic, and never knew a thing about what was going on with his company. Not until it was much too late to fix a lot of things. I honestly don't think he was ever truly invested in the company; he had a lot of health issues that prevented him from being able to truly focus on the company.

He left the company a majority of the time in the hands of someone who had no business running things. Life was horrible for a lot of people, and chaos reigned at that company for many years. From what I've heard, not a lot has changed since he left. I do know that before he left, he caused the demise of employment for 250 of his employees. That sadly was not the first time that happened."

—B, 30

Can you relate? Tell us about your chaotic boss in the comments!

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