I once worked for a lawyer who was so wicked that he reportedly withheld his daughter’s cancer treatments in order to coerce his estranged wife into coming back to him. It worked.
It seems there is at least one of these in every organization, if not every department. I mean that one person who is so dishonest and unethical, so universally disliked, and yet they always seem to escape repercussions for their abhorrent behavior.
“Nemesis” was our resident Beelzebub. Virtually every attorney who had the misfortune of working for or with her went to HR to complain. One lawyer even quit rather than work for her.
When I went to HR, the rep said: “We can’t change her behavior but you can change how you react to her.” What? We can’t change her behavior? Her behavior that so obviously violates the company’s values of “integrity, trust and respect?” She was a walking ITR violation. Those words were mocking me again. How many employees had to complain—or quit—before the company would discipline her? Or even better, fire her.
There was a reason why management turned a blind eye to her antics and let her terrorize the minions. Everyone knew the reason but no one would ever say it out loud. And I’m not going to either. Suffice it to say that people like Nemesis do a disservice to those who are truly qualified and deserve their positions.
On one occasion, I dropped all my normal responsibilities to work on a contract that fell within her area of support. I did it because I knew I could do it faster, cheaper and better than outside counsel, and in my judgment, that’s what the project needed.
So I cancelled all my standing appointments with my regular clients, cancelled my regular office day at the Commerce Center, and did not return any of my clients’ phone calls. I worked only on this contract for the entire week. It wasn’t easy, either, because the clients kept changing their minds as to what they wanted in the contract. I turned draft after draft.
I finished the contract on Friday. Late that afternoon, one of her minions sent me a message asking me to review a presentation for the sales folks describing the contract. I politely declined, citing the fact that the contract had not even gone to the supplier and therefore we had no idea what it was going to look like in final form. I said I thought it was a little early to be preparing a summary deck. Also, I said I didn’t know anything about sales. Finally, I pointed out that I needed to get back to my regular clients.
There’s also the fact that the minion should have read the contract and therefore should have been able to review the deck herself, but I did not point that out to the minion. Why is it that other people can throw turds over the fence at me, but it’s never the other way around?
Honestly, I didn’t think it was that big a deal to say no. Apparently the minion did. She must have flipped my response to Nemesis because Nemesis responded with a vitriolic message blasting me because I said no. It had all the usual “you’re not being a team player, blah, blah, blah.”
I was livid. I responded with much the same message I had sent to the minion, plus I pointed out that I had taken over another person’s job in addition to my own. She responded with more insults. At that point I stopped responding.
When I went to talk to my boss about it, she didn’t support me at all. Instead she said I shouldn’t have engaged in the dialogue with Nemesis in the first place. Thanks for watching my back, boss.
On Monday, Nemesis came to my office to talk about it. She seemed to think that all we had to do was hug and everything would be ok. I told her I had expected to receive a thank you from her, not a slap in the face.
Her eyes widened in surprise. “You expect me to thank you for doing your job?” she asked.
“Yes I do,” I said. “I think everyone should be thanked for doing their jobs. People need it and they deserve it. The fact that you don’t think it’s necessary tells me a lot of things about your character, and none of them are good.”
She just smiled that Cheshire Cat grin she got when she was about to throw someone under the bus and left my office. The next day my boss dismissed me from the project. I know I should have been happy at that point, but I was pissed. I knew it would eventually come back to bite me. And it did.