Management in the Twilight Zone

One of my more unusual moments in business was years ago; it was a short stint I did working as the general manager of a light-manufacturing plant in Los Angeles, California.

The story actually begins many years earlier when I was a young boy. I would stay up late watching old Twilight Zone episodes on television with my mother. There was one episode that I particularly loved about a little boy named Anthony who had incredible powers and completely controlled a small town. He would do horrible things to people and animals with his mind, and then his family would beg him to send the misshapen or deformed beast to the “cornfields.” As soon as he’d done it, one of the townspeople would inevitably utter the infamous words . . . “It’s a good thing you done that Anthony, it’s a real good thing you done that.” Then everyone would nod their heads in agreement in total fear that Anthony might do it to them next. This made for great science fiction and, because I love science fiction, it stuck in my mind for many years.

Fast forward about 15 years later when I worked as the general manager of a light-manufacturing plant. While there, I had the misfortune to work for the absolute worst, most dysfunctional, team of people I have ever seen. It was headed up by Sally, the co-owner of the company, whose idea of good management was yelling at everyone who didn’t do what she said–immediately. This woman was Genghis Khan in female form.

As soon as I started the job, I realized it was a horrible mistake and almost every day I dreaded going to work. Finally, after three months, “it” happened – the most surreal experience of my management career. I was in the middle of a meeting with some employees from the production department along with “Ms. Khan” when she went into an absolute tirade. She screamed at an employee and then threw the young lady out of her office.

At that moment, one of the horror-stricken production employees who was still in the room looked solemnly at The Khan, nodded, and said . . . “It’s a good thing you done that, Sally, it’s a real good thing you done that.” I couldn’t believe it! It was at that very moment that I thought, “Oh, my God, I’m in the Twilight Zone! I’m THERE . . . this is it . . . the cornfields have to be next!! I AM OUT OF HERE!” The very next day I gave my notice to quit the job.

I have never regretted leaving the company. It was the experience that prompted me to start my own business. Leaving there and starting my own company was the best decision I ever made, and I’ve never looked back (except to chuckle from time to time).

Have you ever had a similar Twilight Zone Management experience? If so, share it in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Management in the Twilight Zone

  1. Oh yes. Ms. Khan type people exist in no’s. Not only that, there are others who provide support for the next target so they are safe. Had bad experiences in my corporate career as well.

  2. We had a CFO (Jane) who told a story of how earlier in her career she worked for a boss whose management style was to belittle and berate everyone, including her. Jane said that experience was so bad that she never wanted to be that person as a boss – yet she was. Jane had taken on the management style she said she hated, she remained outspoken about how much she hated that kind of management and yet continued to dish it out to her staff. How she looked in the mirror everyday and reconciled her behavior remains a mystery. Eventually she moved on, I would suggest her behavior continues, and that she continues to hate it.

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