Annoying Boss: Unabridged rant about Volitile Engineering firm owner

I don’t like talking bad about people, and I default to giving people the benefit of the doubt, which means that I really haven’t given a full rant of the bad boss I had to anyone, just the worst snippits here are there, and slowly ranting more as I get positive feedback from the worst. So it’s been about a year since I’ve worked there, and gotten enough feedback to know that I am not being unreasonable or rude to say that he was not a good boss and was at fault for most of the business’s failings.

It’s gonna be long and mostly unabridged, so I won’t blame you for skipping this rant.

The job was a Structural Engineering+Construction firm, small business, maybe twenty people with the Engineering office and Construction office both included. Basically, he did home renovations, patios, and new homes. He specialized in concrete stuff, but had enough experience and construction guys he could do basically anything.
I was in the engineering office and was hired to draw CAD drawings. Architectural, structural, and whatever other professional drawings were needed. There were two others working the full time, another drafter and a junior engineer straight out of college. Later two project managers were hired (one to replace the other) and technically his wife worked as well, but usually she “worked” maybe ten hours a week. (she’s worth her own, smaller rant, but that’s more petty than professional.)

So my boss, we’ll say “D”, isn’t like a terrible person I guess. Kinda overbearing at times, but like the big guy at the party that tells jokes too loud and “isn’t afraid to say his mind” but can mean well and stuff. I’ve known plenty of people like that, and while I wouldn’t hang out with them regularly, it’s not obnoxious or aggro or anything.

He’s a terrible manager though. Objectively.

If he was owner and left someone else to manage, it’d probably be more tolerable, but he needed to have his hands in everything.
I’m pretty sure he has undiagnosed ADHD, but instead of learning to deal with it and compensate for it (like me), he just gets mad about it.

  1. He’s forgetful to a point that you can tell him the same thing three times a day, every day, for a month straight, and he’ll still forget. He’ll forget the conversation you just had, and the three meetings he scheduled for the same time in an hour. I have bad memory too, and was willing to forgive it, but he never writes anything down, disregards it when people remind him about it, then gets upset for missing it or shouts at a random person for not reminding him. I didn’t like feeling like the most organized person when I had similar problems but just wrote literally everything down and used the digital calendars. He also tended to forget we needed him to sign off on projects and review them properly because all of us had come from fields other than construction and he was the official Engineer.(Technically, there was the real capital-E engineer he worked with, but it was just rubber stamping his drawings.)
  2. He’s reactive and emotionally volatile. He was exremely short tempered, and often shouted at people for minor mistakes, or percieved mistakes/slights, or even just being upset about bad news. Aside from that, the second any customer said anything remotely negative, the company priority was instantly “FINISH THEIR PROJECT WTF WHY ISNT IT DONE FIX IT NOW”. Then when everything was dropped to work on that, there would be another “high priority” project or a project with an actual hard deadline that would be missed because we were working “only on that project” leading to an endless cycle of “THEY’RE MAD FIX IT NOW”. (Because of course, when you keep jumping between jobs instead of tackling them in a reasonable order and giving realistic timelines instead of ones that look good, you don’t make any solid progress on any of the projects.
  3. He’s a workaholic. I know that’s used in jokes, but seriously, he can’t stand not working. Even on vacation. Even when he’s sick. Even when he got COVID. He was obsessive about constantly checking in and making sure either we were working or just to do some kinda work himself. Depite constantly saying how he needed a break and “deserved” getting off early or not coming in. (He was the owner, my coworkers and I worked fine without his intervention…sometimes better, and other than a handful of things he could take off any time he wanted.) We could always expect to see him at least once on his “I definitely wont be in today” days.
  4. If it’s not directly in front of him, he will either forget it or disregard it. Or if it’s not in “FIX IT NOW” stage. He’d regularly get mad about things not being done that he said he would work on or things only him could sign off on, and wouldn’t really believe us when we told him we were trying to get him to work on it for months.

So that’s just the “He definitely has ADHD or some similar mental issues.”
Which, don’t get me wrong, those above are plenty annoying on their own. But what really sold him as a terrible boss was:

  1. Cheap. If he could save a nickle doing it himself, he will. If he can convince you that it’s totally okay to work overtime just for fun, he will. If he can convince clients that the job is basically done already and that second payment is due, he will. And does regularly. Then thinks himself clever. Then when the job isn’t done in a few weeks, he gets upset that the client is upset and we haven’t miraculously finished the job early and he can’t get more money out of it.
  2. Condescending. I’ll be the first to say, he did legitimately have a good resume and portfolio. And none of us had worked construction before. But damn the man seemed to think we were green and irresponsible teens who had never worked a job before. He’d always lecture us about getting jobs done faster or rushing clients through things or being better about managing time and projects, despite all of the above meaning that we were doing really well all things considered. I’ve hinted at it in some disqus posts, but I’m a product designer. I have a degree. I learned CAD in high school and used it extensively for almost a decade now, despite being fairly young. I’ve been trained to know how to get designs from clients. I’ve worked big projects before. I’m just specialized to not draw buildings.
  3. Entitled. He was always right. He always “deserved” to take off because “he worked hard” or “he needed to be a better father” or whatever he tried to (rather transparently) guilt-trip us about. Nothing was ever his fault. Even when we and the latter project manager all but spelled it out: “70% of the jobs we have out right now that are behind are waiting on things only you can do or things you said you would take care of.” No, it was still us that didn’t know how to manage our time, rush clients through six-figure decisions, or do our jobs. If stuck or annoyed by a project, he’d throw out a random number that “was definitely right” because “he’s done the calculations for decades, it’s the exact same project” even when it wasn’t. Half of those would come back with a “why the hell did you draw it like that?? It’s entirely wrong. Redo it!” While kow-towing to the client about how terrible this mistake was. (It was his job to review the drawings before submitting.)

This is super long, but I guess it’s a forum post so I can keep going.
Here’s an intermission for making it this far:

why did the tomato blush?
It saw the salad dressing!

Alright, so the rest of the rant is describing my personal journey to being utterly sick of his crap.

So a few months in, the boss D decides that we could really use a project manager. Which we did.
He hired a guy that used to be a manager for a Used Car dealership…and he really hit all the stereotypes for a used car salesman. Good salesman, but often promised the moon, overcharged clients, got clients from outside our normal niche with promises of easy money, etc. I only sat in with him once or twice (because they decided rightfully that it’d be more helpful for me to actually be in on the sales meetings so I didn’t have to hear all the design requirements second hand.) and he griped about millennials, smoked like a chimney, and over-promised all the clients as a two-faced yes man. Eventually the guy was either really sick or actually “sick”, and ghosted us for two months. Leaving us in limbo with no client files and a bunch of jobs that were lost and popping up with upset clients that were also getting ghosted. So I had to quickly step in. I ended up going from just drafting drawings to actually using my full designer skills to work with clients while also playing catchup on all these lost jobs. Honestly? I didn’t mind. It was hectic, but emergency is an emergency right? And I can do it, and was using more of my full college-taught skillset. And I did well. All the clients had compliments for me. They told me, they told the boss, and when I handed things off to my coworkers and boss for the full engineering, things were on time and moving.
Sometimes my boss would gripe about me taking too long to get clients through design, but I’d fire back with pointing out that I could only rush other people’s decisions so far before it was only on them. And if I had a metric for what would be a proper “hey stop changing your mind” point, then I’d be glad to tell clients that. (Never got one.) But I kept telling clients that it would take around 8 weeks to get through the engineering part once I was done with my part since that was what the company contract promised.
But a couple months past the shuffling, and we got a new project manager to replace the old one, I was still soundly handling clients and going to appointments. I was hired as just a draftman, and my job description only included that, so I figured that now that I was doing actual design things with clients and doing more than a paltry draftman pay, I’ve more than earned a pay hike right? Even just a dollar would have been satisfying enough, even if I could bargain a few dollars past that.
So I confided in the other drafter and he agreed that I definitely deserved it and was doing very well.

So I started working up the nerve to ask for a raise.
Only, shortly after that, the boss was getting testy about jobs being late. And clients being upset. And some jobs being wrong somehow. Or needing redone. Despite not touching the jobs for months, it was abruptly my fault for all of this. I had my paperwork in line, and pointed out timelines and what I had from clients, and what information I had to work with. It pacified him enough, but he still was upset about this or that or the other things. He’d regularly call us in for meetings on “how to get back on track”, and didn’t really believe our reasoning about the delays or failing to work on multiple jobs at the same time. He’d occasionally try to guilt trip us with “if jobs don’t get finished on time, we don’t make money, and then I can’t pay salaries and I might have to let someone go.”
I forget exactly what he said one of these meetings, but some random comment he said abruptly resonated and told me “he thinks I’m just a noob drafter.” And the realization shook my trust in the job or confidence in asking for a raise, because it was abruptly clear that he didn’t value me any more than a random firm that draws up the plans and hands it back without comment or editing, or a teenage me that drew a few boxes on Autocad for the first time.
I dumped the notion of a raise and started flipping through job ads in my free time. There wasn’t many designer jobs in my area, which was why I took a draftman job in the first place. And there was a lot of draftman jobs. Especially now that I knew more architectural and structural drafting.

Things were getting steadily more aggravating to deal with, with D’s outbursts getting more frequent and more petty. The three of us and the new project manager worked really well together, and we really get things done and straightened out, but we could only do so much when the boss and owner wasn’t cooperating.
Then one day, the boss reported that he wasn’t feeling well over the weekend and tested positive for Covid. It was a small office. We all worked closely together. So we all agreed to take the time to go get tested, and since most of what we did was online anyway, we could resume work at home after we got the tests settled. Fortunately all of us tested negative, but the boss was incredibly upset that we went home. He shouted at the junior engineer on the phone first. He was very upset with me on the phone. He at least took the other drafter’s word more calmly, probably because he vented his anger on the other two of us and all three of us pointed out that we could have worked from home at any point in time, and were resuming working as soon as we got settled.
We worked from home a week, then the three of us went back to the office at his demand, since we were negative. We worked alone pretty much the same as always, since he was always in and out anyway. When it was getting close to ten days since probable exposure (and eight days since testing) we discussed about him insisting on coming back on ten days since exposure on the dot. None of us were happy about it, I’m high-risk, the junior engineer had a new baby and a wife that’s high-risk, the other drafter had both problems. But we didn’t see the effort in arguing with him, so we agreed to mask up when he inevitably came back.
Only he came back early. A full day early.
I was at lunch but the other two gave him and his wife an earful for it.
He was upset at us for “making” him get a doctors note, then even more upset when his clever play to show us up was ruined by the doctor saying “IT’S TWO WEEKS FROM TESTING WHAT THE HELL MAN”. The boss tried apologizing later with a “I was just mad at the situation” but he sure yelled at us a lot. This moment also instantly killed the other draftsman’s tolerance of the boss’s antics, when he had been the most patient and nihilistic about it.
All three of us were now extremely aware that the boss had no respect for us or our needs, despite being told about our legitimate grievances about it. And the new project manager too, when he heard about it.

When I got a new job, I broke the news to the other drafter, feeling bad about definitely leaving them worse off. He told me not to feel bad. The other two employees had similar reactions when I told them.

I resigned the end of that week, and was fully expecting D to lose his temper and tell me not to bother with the two weeks. I did offer a possibility of contract work at a consultant’s pay, which he seemed interested in. (Probably at the thought of not having to pay full time.) He stayed professional and seemed fine with it, and the cynic side of me is pretty sure it’s because he was looking for a reason to get rid of me anyway and the contracted work sounded like a way to make his cake and eat it too.
He made almost no mention of the new contract or my leaving except to tell us a couple times that I needed to sit down and have a meeting of where all the projects were. When we finally got around to this meeting, the boss was again out of office, but I ran through everything with the others and gave them my detailed notes. That week my coworkers also gave me the heads up that my boss would probably cut my notice short, since he demanded to know of them if I was actually needed for that week or if he could just dismiss me immediately. (They worked hard to get that proper handoff time.) I told them I appreciated them watching my back and I had pretty much expected it.

On the last day, I didn’t really have much to do since I had hit a good point with the clients, already told them all I would be leaving and they had to direct questions to the others, and finished what I had left and wrote up all the notes I had. The boss still hadn’t made any mention of my notice or him cutting it short.
Me and my coworkers joked around a bit and I assured them they could just text me for any random thing I might have missed in the notes and they wished me well. I didn’t see the boss at all until the end of the day, where he brought the junior engineer and project manager in his office. The engineer came back and reported that D finally wanted the news broken that I wasn’t needed for the second week. Of course, he couldn’t do it himself, I guess.
We laughed about the foregone conclusion and continued our last conversations, when the boss started leaving the office then stopped by my desk all smiles and saying “Hey, I wish you well! If you need a reference or anything let me know! And come by monday and we’ll talk about the contract work! It was great working with you!”
We were all baffled.
As soon as the door closed, I said: “I’m pretty sure I don’t want him as a reference.”
They both agreed and were astounded by the about face when he had regularly been dismissive and talking about firing me. They asked about the contracted work, and I explained and said “Honestly I figured he forgot or wasn’t interested!”
They all encouraged me to charge him as much as I could get away with. And to come in at my leisure on Monday, since he was never on time anyway and I didn’t work for him anymore. I took their advice lol
I did meet with my boss, but he never signed the paperwork and I never reminded him, my professional courtesy being satisfied by offering it.

You’d think that’d be it, but no.
I didn’t get paid for the last week of work, which I figured would cause issues since it was between weeks and I got a paycheck at the end of it. I reminded my boss that he owed me. He apologized and said he’d mail it. I waited another week, nothing in the mail, so I reminded him again. He said he’d mail another one. I doubted the first one got sent, but wasn’t suprised by the delay and had already planned for it to be a couple weeks late.
The next week was the same song and dance.
The week after that was a full month late, and five weeks after I left the company. So I texted him again. He blew me off, so I threatened to go to the labor board about not being paid for the week if it wasn’t paid in 14 days. (Because $500 man. If it was just a day or two I would have thought it a payment to never talk to him again. And I gave him two weeks, which I thought was generous.)
He called me immediately, upset at my “unprofessional attitude” and how “he sent three damn checks to that address”. I told him I never got any of the alleged checks. He told me to just come by the office in the morning. A weekday morning. When I had a different job. And his office was a 40 minute drive away from me. I told him that wasn’t going to happen. I can’t just drop my actual paying job to go pick up a check I should have already gotten. He got even more upset and said that I needed to go down to the office anyway, because I “needed to help fix some of the projects I had worked on.” I was astounded. It had been more than a month since I worked there. Almost two.
“What are you talking about?”
“Some of the stuff needs fixed and we need to talk about it.”
“You realize I haven’t worked there for a month, right?”
“It’s professional courtesy. You worked on it before.”
“…If I go down there, I’m charging you for my time.”
“WHAT? WHY?? ON THINGS YOU ALREADY DID?!”
“Yes? I’ve got a job! It’d be a weekend or late! And I don’t work for you.”
“It’s professional courtesy! I would have thought [drafter] had taught you something about that.”

I was astounded. I’m not someone that loses my temper easily, but I was beside myself with anger. The audacity. To not only call me unprofessional but to think that I needed mentored in how to be professional when I was a professional before I worked there. I was friendly with the drafter but he didn’t teach me anything except a few things on formatting!

I fired back “Professional courtesy would be making sure checks get paid on time!”
“I’ve sent three damn checks to that address!”
“Well I haven’t gotten them and it’s not my problem to fix!”
“Fine! I’ll send them Registered Mail! But it’ll have a timesheet of hours worked!” He said it like it was a zinger, some gotcha for me being unreasonable. But Registered mail just gets signed for, to ensure it makes it, and I knew I only worked like 35-38 hours because I left early since I ran out of things to do and didn’t like sitting around for nothing.
“That’s literally all I’m asking you to do,” I told him.
He grumbled and hung up.

I ranted to my family, who commended me for standing up for myself. During the rant, D tried calling me again, and I took a breath and answered.
He tried to ask me about coming in again, and I told him again that it would be either during my work hours or during my (and his) free time, and I would definitely still be charging because I don’t want to work.
He tried to lecture me again, this time letting it slip “Just to answer some questions?!”
I was baffled. “You have my phone number and email. You could have called. Or sent a text or an email. I don’t need to come down there to answer a question.”
He was quiet for a long time, clearly not having expected the answer and definitely not having the questions ready to ask me immediately. “I’ll send an email tomorrow,” he mumbled.
He hung up.
He never sent an email.

The junior engineer goes to the same church that my mom does, so he’s mention that pretty much everyone has left for similar crap, unsurprisingly, and he’s one foot out the door and mainly staying to get his Professional Engineer test paid for.
So there’s that.

Well you get a digital dessert of your choice for making it this far, if you’re still reading. It was a little cathartic to rant it all at once instead of piecemeal.
I’ve shared random clips in comments before, so maybe it’ll be interesting to see it all at once.

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Did you ever get paid?

How much trouble did the used-car salesman cause before he finally disappeared?

And how in the heck is this clown still in business?

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-Yes I got paid, the check was delivered in a day or two, unregistered mail. The alleged other checks never showed, meaning they had never been sent or they were sent to a random address. (Which wouldn’t really make sense because he had my address and I sent him it twice over text messages when I told him I didn’t receive the final paycheck.)

-The salesman mostly caused trouble by his disappearing, but I had to clean up at least ten jobs that had been lost and resurfaced weeks later when the client was getting anxious about not hearing anything and not being able to contact anyone. We also found that he was stealing work by doing handyman work on the side with clients, using his own side buisness. There was one job in particular that we had to break to the old lady that we couldn’t do her dream renovation because it would involve completely rebuilding the backside of her house and wasn’t as easy as taking the wall out. Used-car guy promised her it was easy, and this was one I was in on and immediately was wary when he promised it without any sort of disclaimer about “bearing walls can be weird so no guarantees without the Engineer.” (I tried to input that but he doubled down and I didn’t want to start a fight in front of a client.)
He also didn’t keep the customer files up-to-date so we had to retread a lot of ground with clients, and some of the payments were hard to find or didn’t have a proper record of, but that part is out of my jurisdiction since I never saw or accepted payments

-And the last one is an excellent question.
My guess is that it’s one of the few sort of places in the immediate county, and he does technically have a good resume. Just terrible customer service. And he kept billing people early and insisting on making new sales constantly for that down-payment on projects, so I guess it was enough to keep pushing forward. Home renovations and structural engineering is also one of those niches where no one exactly knows what’s needed until they’re facing the building department. (Usually when the county tells them that “no you can’t DIY that shed or porch in hurricane country on the coast”.)