we got quizzed on our new boss’s horses, family, and vineyard

A reader writes:

I’m a contractor at a big company that has some ongoing labor disputes. While I’m in a different division than the several others that have strikes planned, it has bled over into some of my team in that we’ve been asked to add coverage to some areas during planned strikes. A few months ago, we had a reorg and have a new grandboss, “Alex.” Alex is new to the company and has done a lot of work to try to get to know the business and the people involved. The attempts have mostly seemed practical and sincere.

Unfortunately, recently an all-day event was scheduled under his auspices and it included sending a survey out ahead of time with questions like, “What don’t you know, but would like to know about Alex (personally or professionally)?” “What do you believe are Alex’s expectations of us?” “What has surprised you thus far?” It was made clear this survey was not anonymous. I found the questions tone-deaf and very off. Why would I care about details of this person’s personal life? This was supposed to be a meeting of all the people under Alex to discuss, one had assumed, business and answer questions about the future of our teams and management under the new leadership. I simply didn’t respond to the survey.

I got to the meeting and there was a slide show showing Alex on many horses and wandering through a vineyard playing. The first 20 minutes were all the executives giving each other gifts, on a podium, and sharing with us their plans for the holidays. It turns out they all own horses. Interspersed throughout the day were trivia questions with prizes (from Alex’s winery) for knowing things like, the names of his horses, or children, on the name of the wine he makes at his vineyard. One of the questions someone had put in the survey was about how he handles work life balance. He responded by humble-bragging/complaining about how early he has to wake up to tend to the horses before doing this job while also juggling his vineyard. How universal he imagines that struggle to be is hard to imagine.

I’m a contractor whose contract might arbitrarily end nine months earlier than agreed upon because someone made a mistake in the system about my end date and no one has corrected it and time is running out so, despite everyone wanting me to stay, I might yet still be terminated in about a week because the right hand isn’t talking to the left fast enough and at a company this big, sometimes these things happen.

Overall, I found the meeting deeply offensive. Renting out a fancy venue that’s normally used for weddings for an all-day meeting to learn about this person’s Christmas plans and be quizzed about his horse names while I’m not sure I still have a job and there are strikes planned against the company seems tone-deaf beyond comprehension. Our last meeting of this sort had protesters outside.

We were promised another survey will be coming and we were twice told we should feel we can be completely honest. I have a very hard time believing my feedback, attached to my name as it will be, would be welcome at all, given how negatively I feel about the situation. I’m worried the next survey might be mandatory. How do I go about threading this needle?

But don’t you want to be tested on the names of his horses??

Dear lord.

I assume that in Alex’s mind, this whole presentation (and quizzing! quizzing!) about his horses and spouse and children and vineyard and magnificent flowing hair and so forth was somehow about “being authentic” and “getting to know you.”

But yes, it was tone-deaf in the extreme.

And making you watch executives give each other gifts on a podium?

Somehow it’s not surprising that your company is having labor disputes and being protested.

I mean, it’s awfully surprising that they’d do that in the face of those things, but also … it’s not.

In any case, as a contractor, I’d leave it alone.

It might be wise to leave it alone as an employee too (although if you were an employee in good standing with some capital to spend, I’d encourage you to speak up). But as a contractor who’s currently dependent on your company’s good will to fix that end date mistake and not accidentally terminate you nine months early, it’s just not worth spending capital on. And it’s in no way your responsibility to educate them on how off-putting their ostentatious display of wealth inequality was — and especially not when it could come with personal cost to you.

If the next survey turns out to be mandatory, fill it out as tamely as possible. This is the time for the blandest of bland corporate pablum, not real feedback.

See if you can get some of that wine, though.

{ 514 comments… read them below }

        1. OP*

          Reminded me of HHGTTG, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing devision of the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation as ‘a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes'”

          1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            Curiously, an edition of the Encyclopedia Galactica which conveniently fell through a rift in the time-space continuum from 1000 years in the future describes the Marketing Department of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as: “A bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came.”

          2. Texan In Exile*

            And this makes so much sense to me now that I have been in a marketing group where the new marketing director was upset, at the end of a 2.5 hour skype meeting of the entire marketing team, that nobody wanted to know more about the working conditions in the new office the company has opened in a Major City. The only marketing people in that office are the new marketing director and the new marketing VP. Marketing director didn’t understand why the rest of us – none of whom would be moving to Major City – didn’t care more about whether he had a trash can or was warm enough.

          3. AKchic*

            Okay, but can you at least wear your Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses and at least pretend that none of the horse droppings are hitting the fan?

        2. RVA Cat*

          Well going by French history, things turned out way better for the revolutionaries with guillotines (1793-4) than the ones who were arsonists (1871)…

            1. RVA Cat*

              It’s gallows humor – if capitalism’s got to kill you, at least a firing squad’s *quick*….

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Anytime I had a problem and I threw a Molotov cocktail boom! Right away I had a different problem.

    1. Important Moi*

      Is Alex a member of the landed gentry? This was hilarious but hilarious is not the right word.

    1. Phony Genius*

      I was wondering how long it would take for somebody to trot out the first pun from this entry.

        1. anonymous 5*

          Especially since Alex sounds more stable than a lot of the other bosses we’ve read about on AAM…

            1. Quill*

              If OP updates on how they went out in a blaze of glory, this boss is a shoe in for the 2020 worst boss list.

    2. AKchic*

      the whole situation reeks of horse pucky. I hope the contract ends well and you find yourself in greener pastures.

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        I do think complaining about this meeting on a survey would be like locking the barn doors after the horse has been stolen.

    3. Exhausted Educator Was Exhausted*

      Fill out all future surveys with horse puns in every open-ended question!

  1. Third or Nothing!*

    I got to the pictures of him sitting on top of various horses and couldn’t help but imagine Putin shirtless on a horse.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If asked what surprised me, I’d probably just say that he took care of the horses himself instead of hiring a stable hand. But I’d be wanting to say I was surprised that he hadn’t made sure contracts were being renewed promptly.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I, too, supervise the care of my animals. I make the toddler pour the dog’s food into her bowl.

            1. Marmaduke*

              Most of my managerial efforts involve preventing the toddler from licking the dog; does that count?

              1. CynicallySweet*

                I think you need to sit ur toddler down and have a conversation about the overarching pattern your seeing and let her know it’s not ok

                1. Mr. Shark*

                  Right. Have you explicitly told your toddler, “No, it’s not okay to lick the dog,” or have you just implied that it wasn’t okay. You have to have direct communication before any PIP process can begin!

                2. Fellow Boot Fancier*

                  Oh, I am rolling! Best laughs! Thanks! (Mr Shark included-couldn’t nest to your comment)

              2. Sesquedoodle*

                To be fair, dogs lick people all the time. Your toddler is just communicating in a more dog-effective way.

      1. Antilles*

        I’d bet that when he says “tending horses” he really means “going on a morning ride”. At absolute most, maybe he brushes them while giving out sugar cubes.
        There’s no way a guy this tone-deaf is doing the miserable tasks like shoveling out the stables.

        1. KayDeeAye (Kathleen_A)*

          Well, probably, but there are horsey people who genuinely love that. I don’t get it either. I mean, I like cats, but no amount of liking or love will make me relish cleaning out the cat box. But there are some pretty fancy horse-lovin’ types who enjoy that stuff – perhaps because it’s such an unambiguous, clearly defined task. Also, they get to chose whether to do it or not, and that makes it less intrusive, I bet.

          1. Lonely Aussie*

            I mean I didn’t hate it when I had a horse. Horse piss/poo isn’t any where as rank as dog/cat varieties and it was a bit like a quick 10-15 min morning workout with the added bonus of spending a little bit more time with my horse before work. Helped me start my day right, I really missed it when she moved to a different paddock and a friend took over the morning feeds after my work hours changed. Might have been different with multiple horses but there are def worse ways to start the day than cleaning a few stalls.

      1. Alex Di Marco*

        I laughed at the letter, I laughed at the puns and then I laughed and laughed at this. Perhaps this is about horses that came in from the cold. Spasiba.

    2. Three owls in a trench coat*

      I was picturing the Old Spice “I’m on a horse” guy but Shirtless Putin works too.

    3. Grapey*

      OT but I can’t get that gif out of my head where someone photoshopped a rolling ritz cracker in place of a horse.

      Putin on the Ritz.

    4. TardyTardis*

      I know, but Putin was just auditioning for the next Old Spice commercial! (boy, was he ticked when he lost…).

  2. Crivens!*

    Ugh, everyone thinks they’re an “influencer” now and that everyone in the world cares about their super special motivational lifestyle.

    1. Veronica Mars*

      This is so spot on. Honestly I’m surprised he didn’t have a session forcing you to follow him on instagram.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          I used to work for a company that pressured us to like/follow/repost them on social media and give them five-star Glassdoor reviews. They also strung along temps for years with no PTO, told us we were not allowed to make any medical appointments that required time off work during busy season (which was 9 months a year, thanks for the months of poorly treated depression), and required us to clock out and keep working if we didn’t hit their ambitious quotas.

          1. Rob aka Mediancat*

            I worked for a company that sporadically published books and the employees were encouraged to give the books favorable reviews on Amazon. We were also encouraged to do so for books published elsewhere by folks who contributed to our newsletters.

            I did not do so.

    2. Shadowbelle*

      “Influencers” are the current version of “ovinators” — subversive machines that inspire everyone within their range to influence to do exactly what they are told by the person in control of the ovinator (ref. Jasper Fforde; similarly “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”)

    3. Agnodike*

      I think this is just the last stages of the transition from capitalism back to feudalism. Surely it’s reasonable that your lord expect you to know the names of his horses, wife, children, and various other property? You owe him your fealty, after all! Be grateful that you had the opportunity to enjoy watching the pageantry of his exchange of gifts with the rest of the nobility; it enlivens the small lives of common folk such as we to observe the bounty of our betters.

  3. Traveling Teacher*

    This would be amazing AAM fanfiction, but I’m really sorry you have to deal with this benign-yet-horrible level of obliviousness in real life, OP.

    You’ll have the best cocktail party stories about your clueless corporate overlords, though!

        1. pope suburban*

          This reminded me of a video shoot I worked on some years back. We were working at a family’s home, where they had horses. One of these horses was apparently a little…spicy in temperament, so her registered name included “See You Next Tuesday.” The family, unlike OP’s boss, were lovely people with a fine sense of humor.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Spell out the letters in See You Next Tuesday…. it doesn’t start with an S.

            2. just a small town girl*

              There was a song with the same name, but See spelled as C and You spelled as U….initials spell an unkind word.

        1. Lonely Aussie*

          Polocrosse is the poorer cousin though, you don’t need the string of horses like you do for polo.

          1. Massmatt*

            Now I’m remembering the Honeymooners sketch where Ralph is (I think) rehearsing for a role of a rich guy for the talent show, going on about his “string of poloponies “.

            Long live Jackie Gleason.

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Possibly show jumping or eventing. But regardless, very very expensive.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Nah, not manly enough. I mean, it has to be something expensive but not quite so fussy in appearance.

        I bet his *daughters* take dressage lessons, though.

    1. Cookie Captain*

      “Here’s a picture of my son, who is currently failing his freshman year at Princeton, and the lacrosse team he was definitely not photoshopped into.”

    2. Heather*

      OP, I’m really, really sorry. But. This letter gave me life.

      Hilariously bad! Can’t imagine living through it.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Poor Skippy can’t weigh in, he’s too busy trying to get those stalls clean before Alex returns.

  4. TimeTravelR*

    I just hope/imagine/pray that there is more to this story than OP is sharing. OP sounds like they might be pretty annoyed with the whole place so some of the things they have shared were the only things she could see. That is, they were a little tunnel-visioned about the place so they couldn’t see any positives that may have come out of the event .

    All that to say, I hate when people talk about their possessions and how they spend their free time, especially when it is likely that their employees are not doing this. They are (I am guessing) trying to let the employees know them as “just real people” but they don’t understand that the struggles of the 1% are nothing compared to the rest of us.

    1. GreenDoor*

      Yep. One of our secretaries was commenting (with obvious dismay) about having to use half a vacation day to wait for her furnace to unexpectedly be replaced. It was winter – had to be done, no time to save up the funds for it. Our six-figure salary boss nodded understandingly saying she had to wait half a day last week for the electrician to come to wire up her newly renovated home theater room. And one of the two heated recliners had to, sadly, be sent back to the store since it didnt’ work.

      No furnace in winter on a secretary’s salary vs. no electricity in the home theater and short one heated recliner. Pretty much the same thing….

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Wow. As someone who had to replace both the AC and the furnace on zero notice (the AC died in the middle of a 100-degree heat wave, the furnace was 27 years old and on its last legs, and the vendor was giving 10% off if you replaced both at once), I can relate to existential dread of 1) your house being suddenly exposed to ungodly temperatures, especially if you have young children or pets, 2) you being suddenly plunged into a sizable amount of debt. At least mine gave me a “two years same as cash” deal. Definitely the same as a half-day wait for a planned renovation of a home theater room…

      2. Lily Rowan*

        I was in a long car ride with a rich higher-up who spent the whole time on the phone arranging for service for his multiple boats, pool cleaning, etc., but at least he acknowledged that he was ridiculous and had rich people problems!

        1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

          We had an exec discuss his hobby of collecting fancy sports cars in a large organization meeting that included a bunch of front line reps. Call me picky, but if your hobbies require a 7-8 figure income to pursue, perhaps they aren’t very relatable to the average person.

          1. whingedrinking*

            Season 3 of The Crown features Prince Phillip going on television and saying that it’s not like the economic downturn hasn’t affected the royal family. They’ve had to sell a yacht and their polo ponies are probably next. He’s then shocked when his idea for a documentary showing how relatable the Windsors are turns out to be a disaster.

            1. Nic*

              I’ve heard anecdotally from people who’ve met him that Prince Phillip in person can be genuinely relatable and funny (with a sort of deadpan sarcasm/irony that doesn’t translate well in print)…but boy he always manages to put his foot in his mouth whenever the press are nearby to record it, and that particular example is a doozy.

      3. Tzeitel*

        Wow, the correct answer would be “So-and-so, you shouldn’t have to use vacation for that! Let’s fix that right now.”

      4. Observer*


        I thought that the OP’s boss was about as clueless as it gets, but this really takes the cake!

      5. CynicallySweet*

        That secretary deserves a raise of not commiting murder in the front lobby w/ a stapler!

      6. 3.6 Roentgen*

        At the onset of the 2008 Great Recession I worked in a chain restaurant. It was bad. Hours were down, tips were down, we were all struggling to stay afloat. One day a VP comes in and starts going on about his business savvy in buying a vacation home for half market value in a short sale. Seemed really surprised none of us were leaping to congratulate him.

        1. RW*

          Yeah, I had an ex-boss who had just brought a flat (outright, with a sizeable inheritance), then WOULD NOT STOP complaining that he couldn’t buy the TV he wanted for the flat this month too, as he’s spent so much on other furnishings, and would have to wait til next payday, because it was 3K. He was my direct manager in a team of two and my salary was about 40% of his. We were also in a small open-plan office full of junior staff (making even less than me) and interns.

          Every time he brought it up the whole office fell silent and everyone got sour-faced. He was totally oblivious, kept bringing it up for weeks, which then led to our CEO being in the office one day and her being the ONLY one to commiserate, before launching into a monologue about her own recent struggles deciding between a £750K investment property or the £1 mil option in the same development.

          1. ten-four*

            ahahahahahaha that makes this whole thing even MORE amazing (although I am sorry you have to live this particular experience!)

          2. CynicallySweet*

            Oh noooooo! The wine was the only good part! Was it strong at least? It doesn’t have to be good if it was strong!

        1. pamela voorhees*

          Ha ha ha! You think that YOU, a mere PEASANT, would actually be allowed to TOUCH the horses? Off with your head for such insolence!

                1. Junger*

                  I suspect a lot of the former were just going along with it while being bored and/or outraged themselves.

      1. Junger*

        Some people may have found the whole thing grotesquely amusing?

        Rveryone got a good anecdote out of it?

        They have another argument for pay redistribution?

    2. Dragoning*

      This post really brought out the “Eat the Rich, but they have no nutritional value” in me

    3. NW Mossy*

      I will concede the survey itself as possible well-intentioned. For a time, my company did these with any team that got a new manager – the thinking was that the responses would set a baseline and give the new leader information about where they needed to focus to develop good working relationships with their new direct reports. I was the subject of one myself, and the debrief session afterwards was genuinely helpful in understanding where they most wanted my help.

      That said, I’ve never owned horses or a vineyard, and receiving gifts from executives in front of a room full of people sounds horrifying.

      1. OP*

        I used to do surgery design. This survey said at the top that it wasn’t anonymous and also had questions that were phrased in a way such to suggest positive responses so, hard to take that as a genuine attempt to get real feedback, especially when none of the questions pertained to business or his management style or really anything to do with us.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          “I used to do surgery design.”

          I infer from context that you meant “survey design,” but I really like “surgery design.”

            1. Massmatt*

              Can’t blame you for the perhaps Freudian slip. I’m designing some surgery for your boss now!

        2. The New Wanderer*

          “Choose one: Alex is
          – A great senior executive
          – The greatest senior executive”

          (h/t Stephen Colbert)

          I’m laughing about a non-anonymous survey asking completely banal questions that no one could possibly care about in a work context. I mean, what’s the point unless Alex is actually planning to have 1:1’s with everyone and answer their “What do You Personally Employee X want to know about Alex?” questions?

          1. Jaid*

            Wait, didn’t Gildroy Lockhart do quizzes like this at Hogwarts? Or was that just in fanfiction?

            “”Let’s see…” Harry muttered, staring at his own quiz.

            1. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favorite color?

            Famous (formerly, Hot Magenta).

            2. What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s secret ambition?

            To be able to take credit for every dangerous magical creature that’s defeated anywhere in Europe.

            3. What, in your opinion, is Gilderoy Lockhart’s greatest achievement to date?

            The building and management of his adoring fanbase.

            And so on it went until finally Harry got to the last question:

            54. When it is Gilderoy Lockhart’s birthday, what would his ideal gift be?

            The recent defeat of a dangerous magical creature in a mysterious manner with no witnesses.”

            From the fanfic “Oh God Not Again!”

              1. Alice in Wonderland*

                It was, although not with those answers! His favourite colour was lilac in the book, which is the colour which he decorated the Great Hall for Valentine’s Day (amongst other things).

          2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

            “What do You Personally Employee X want to know about Alex?”

            I, personally, want to know when Alex will be giving me a raise.

        3. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I hereby move that “Surgery Design” be added to the list of fake professions used on AAM when attempting to hide one’s identity.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            Oh, yes absolutely!

            I was scratching my head until I read Richard’s comment making it clear what was meant. It’s awesome when autocorrect goes rogue and accidentally creates something so amusing.

      2. Venus*

        > receiving gifts from executives in front of a room full of people sounds horrifying

        My impression is that it was each executive getting a gift from the other executives, in front of a crowd, so there was no benefit to the employees. Either way, it seems very tone-deaf.

        1. OP*

          Correct. They all traded gifts from their large estates to the others with large estates, while on a dias, while the rest of us watched from the audience.

          1. Elenna*



            I have so many questions about why anyone would think this was a good idea…

                1. Shad*

                  Maybe she was upbeat about designing the event to make them look absolutely as horrible as possible.

          2. EPLawyer*

            I cannot imagine the thought process of these execs. Let’s see labor disputes with planned strikes — most likely over $$$$. I know how to convince them we have no money to give to the peons, we will show them what we spend our money on so they will see there’s nothing left to spare.

            I’m surprised the room didn’t rise up in revolt right then and there.

          3. mountainshadows299*

            I just started watching Succession, and all I can think is that this very scenario will be in a future episode of Succession (or just one I haven’t watched yet). The absurdity abounds!

              1. Red*

                lolllllllll of *course* – OP, hope your job is safe, thinking of you while you work to not eat the rich.

    4. Chili*

      I’ve seen this happen at companies I’ve worked at in the past. One systemic solution would be to reduce income inequality by increasing wages across companies so executives aren’t paid hundreds (or thousands) times more than other employees. But that won’t happen anytime soon, so maybe there is room for a new consulting industry: how to be relatable when your income makes you distinctly unrelatable /s.

      In all seriousness, I think a lot of people would benefit by knowing that trying to be relatable doesn’t mean sharing all your personal business. I think it’s more powerful to show interest in others than spend a lot of time telling them about yourself. That can be hard if you don’t have organic opportunities to interact with a lot of your employees, but it’s possible to take initiative and try to talk to a few people about their lives. Even if you can’t talk to most people at your company, that positive reputation will spread.

      1. whingedrinking*

        maybe there is room for a new consulting industry: how to be relatable when your income makes you distinctly unrelatable
        Like the woman in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy whose job it is to tell rich people it’s okay to be rich.

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          I did once read a bizarre novel where the heroine was a wealth counsellor, helping rich people adjust to having stupid amounts of money.

    5. Essess*

      Agreed. At an Oldjob, I had been working 80+ hours per week, no day off for over 45 days. All of these hours were in the office, no working from home or running errands. No evenings or weekends free at all and it was going on for the month of November and was continuing across Christmas. I had been unable to buy a single Christmas present because I had not had a single free hour to go to a store because of the work. My boss stood in front of me complaining how painful it was that she had bought so many christmas presents that she had to go home and wrap while I’m upset that I can’t go shopping for a single gift.

    6. Time to go anonymous!*

      We had an all staff meeting a couple years back where staff from all our locations were required to attend. There was a quiz where the winner would get a prize. Every question on the quiz was something about the personal life of one of our C Levels, all of whom worked in a different building from general staff. Who has a pet iguana? Who collects swords? I think it was somebody in IT who won, because they’re the only department who visit every location and get a chance to talk to the C Level people on the regular.

    7. JustaTech*

      One time we had a new CEO start and he recorded a video (because he wasn’t going to fly out to see us plebs) and in his attempt to be relatable told a “funny” story about buying airline tickets for his high-school aged daughter. “Daddy, Coach is a bag, not a way to fly.” Ha ha ha, no.
      (Not only out of touch, but kind of cruel to his daughter, telling us she was spoiled and he was a sub-optimal parent.)

  5. TimeTravelR*

    Sorry… I meant to use they/them throughout since I don’t know the gender and I see I slipped a “she” in there. Sorry!! I didn’t mean to make an assumption!

    1. Allypopx*

      In general Alison/the commentariat defaults to she, unless otherwise noted, as a counterbalance to the general assumption typically being “he”, so I think you’re okay :)

  6. drpuma*

    If, heaven forfend, the second survey is in fact required, may I suggest “surprised” as a reaction? As in, “I was surprised by some of the content.” “Many of the trivia questions were surprising.”

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Enlightening. It was a very enlightening presentation. I certainly came away with a new view of leadership. The trivia questions were certainly interesting.

      1. Cookie Captain*

        “I was very glad to learn that our executives have so much exciting material wealth, which they definitely aren’t trying to use to fill the aching void inside their souls.”

        1. Junger*

          ” I am highly motivated seeing that our company is both able and dedicated to giving it’s employees excellent salaries and benefits. “

      2. AuroraLight37*

        I think this is much more tactful. It gives them nothing to argue with the OP about, and she’s not in a position to chew out management for being tone deaf twits.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Never has “and the horse you rode in on” been a more apt response to every survey question.

      1. Rob aka Mediancat*

        — but why punish the horses? It’s not their fault they’re owned by a tone-deaf ham-handed jackass.

          1. Inca*

            Actually, I think horses should be tended to according to their needs (and used for work according to their ability.)

      2. Roy G. Biv*

        This is so awesome! Survey Monkey surveys always make me want to use simian typos and puns, but this would be comedy gold!

    3. AKchic*

      “The meeting was enlightening. The previous survey, combined with the meeting allowed me an previously unseen view into the upper echelon on the company that was both eye-opening and educational. The subject matter was intriguing and left me satisfied with my personal analysis.”

    4. Janie*

      Thanks to Seinfeld, my partner and I use “breathtaking” if we are having trouble coming up with a complimentary adjective. So in this case “the estate was breathtaking” or “the horses were breathtaking.”

  7. yikes*

    Wow. Definitely sounds like one of those times when it would be easier to pretend you are studying this bizarre culture. Meanwhile, I hope all goes well for you!

  8. Zombeyonce*

    This description of Alex and the other execs is like the over-the-top evil bosses in a movie just before they get murdered by the badass protaganist and everyone cheers. OP, were they wearing top hats and monocles while giving these speeches? You don’t need to answer; I know they were.

      1. JSPA*

        My guess would be that he’s the distracting front man brought in by corporate raiders while someone with actual brains dismantles the company from within, like a parasitic fungus. You get a close up view of the animated near – corpse of the host climbing up to a high perch, the better to be eaten by some larger cooperation, the better to spread the rot.

        I.e. worrying about the duration of the CONTRACT may be inconsequential, because it’s all going down.

        That’s just me, though. Some of these guys bob through life without QUITE destroying the companies they head.

    1. revueller*

      Agreed. Some people spiritually wear the Monopoly Man outfit 24/7. Or they decide that their role model is one of those over-the-top corporate boss villains from 80s action movies.

      On the one hand, they make it really easy to figure out who’s the villain in a given crowd. On the other hand, you want to hand the script of your life back to the writer for revisions, because this is way too implausible.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        The last half decade of the world in general has made me want to hand the script back to the writer, because seriously wtf. Mustache-twirling villains in charge everywhere.

  9. PB*

    My spouse used to work for a family business. Every year, the owner would send all of his employees his family’s picture Christmas card, which included photographs of the owner and his family taking their annual one million dollar vacation. No exaggeration; the owner was very open about spending a million every year on the family vacation. The employees, meanwhile, made just about minimum wage and dealt with twice-yearly layoffs, one of which fell right around the holidays.

    I had thought that was the last word in tastelessness until I read this post…

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      No, that one takes the cake for me. Million dollar vacations while laying people off twice a year?!

    2. Marmaduke*

      My dad was C-suite by the time I was a teenager, and he always insisted that our Christmas card photo be of us in our normal clothes, usually in the city park or in our yard. It always bugged me because my friends’ families would go get fancy photo shoots done and I was jealous of the glamour. I was an adult before I realized that his team included some entry-level workers and he wanted his holiday cards to match the ones everyone else was exchanging.

        1. Marmaduke*

          Of course! I grew up seeing his team a lot because he hosts a yearly barbecue for them at the house. Most of them only work with him for ten years at most before being promoted, but they still come to the barbecue. Several have mentioned to me or my mom that they credit him with starting their career and helping them make things work when they were first starting out.

          He and my mom built their first home with their own hands, and the house they live in now, my family physically built together when I was a child. He hasn’t forgotten where he came from.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Oh I’d take that challenge! I’m guessing it involves lots of chartered things and staying in castles on private islands (and where those don’t exist, building one).

        2. JustaTech*

          How? Take a vacation from the Nieman Marcus Holiday catalog, the most over the top ostentatious collection of material goods and experiences available to non-royalty.

          Seriously, it’s completely nuts, utterly outrageous. The only good thing is that most years they don’t sell whatever the most expensive thing is. Granted, one year that thing was a gold-plated LearJet, so….

      1. A Non E. Mouse*

        Perchik: Money is the world’s curse.
        Tevye: May the Lord smite me with it. And may I never recover.

        I volunteer as tribute to have enough money to take a million dollar vacation, and I will report back the results just as soon as the plane lands….

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Deedle deedle daidle deedle daidle deedle daidle dum, all day long I’d biddy biddy bum, if I were a wealthy man….

            Dammit now that’s in my head.

      2. Randomity*

        I’m glad I’m not the only person asking that question. I literally wouldn’t even know how to spend £100,000 on a week’s holiday, let alone 10x that. In think I’d struggle to even spend £10,000.

        1. Autumnheart*

          That’s what I was thinking! Check out “Crazy Rich Asians” and learn that you can spend $30K a head just on a one-way plane ticket.

      3. JKP*

        I would assume it includes the cost for everyone in the extended family to all go on vacation together, perhaps renting a yacht or island or something.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        Hmm… As a thought experiment…

        Fly first class, of course. Stay in a suite at a very ritzy hotel for, let’s say two weeks, eating at restaurants with at least four stars. Take in a show several nights. Let’s see… Family of four, we might be up to a quarter million. I guess you make up the balance with lots of shopping?

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            D’oh! I don’t know what I was thinking, flying commercial with the peasants in the back.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          I assume an entire wardrobe is purchased for the vacation (to never be worn again).

          Would salaries for staff that travel with them be counted?

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Hermes scarves as impulse buys at the airport. Designer shoes and gold jewelry as souvenirs.
          Private villas on piers over blue lagoons, with full maid service and gourmet meals delivered. Scuba lessons off the edge of your villa. Jetskis, parasailing, chartered helicopters…
          I could have fun scripting this as a reality TV show.

          1. babblemouth*

            Gold-covered gourmet meals. There are several restaurants adding gold to steaks or lobster. The gold doesn’t add anything to the taste, it only exists so you can say “I have enough money to just eat gold”.

        3. babblemouth*

          You forgot to count the nanny. Wouldn’t want to spend too much time with your kids during the holiday, would you?

      5. Amarzing*

        It was literally an assignment in elementary school for me as a kid to spend a million dollars on something- I choose a trip. I thought it would be easy. I was renting or buying the fanciest airplanes I could think of, staying at the fanciest places, eating expensive food…I got to like, I don’t know, a quarter million, and then I gave up and just said I bought art with the rest of it (donating to charity was not an option). I think I got a D. Clearly I don’t have as much imagination as the actual rich!

        1. pope suburban*

          The actual rich don’t have imaginations either. That’s why there are multiple publications devoted to telling them what they want/what “everyone else has,” and multiple industries working to separate them from their money. I used to work in one, and we’d get these huge, glossy magazines for our waiting area that really hammered home the points that money can’t buy taste, and the rich aren’t all rich because they’re vastly smarter than the rest of us. About half, maybe more of those things is always labeled ad space, then the rest is advertising that they tell you are “profiles” or “society news.”

          1. Massmatt*

            Take a look at the pics making the rounds for the mansion for sale by Dr. Phil’s kid. Hideous!

            1. pope suburban*

              Haha, I quote liked some of that, but then again I’ve always been a fan of capsule toys (The tree staircase, on the other hand…that was too Evil Dead for me by half). But your broader point definitely stands. I can picture exactly how every room in there went down, and honestly I applaud the effectiveness and chutzpah of every single salesperson and designer. They clearly knew what they wanted and got it.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I was once asked in a job interview what I would do if suddenly given $250,000 to spend on anything (i.e. not work related, even though this was for a mid-senior career position). Pretty sure I said travel, but at least I didn’t have to itemize!

          Although I like asking my kids how much they think things cost, it’s a weird assignment to *grade* a kid on.

          1. Nobby Nobbs*

            I suspect it’s about helping them build a mental picture of the “value of a dollar.” I had to plan and budget a Thanksgiving dinner in fifth grade, complete with a “field trip” to the grocery store next door for some fake shopping.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Yes, that’s what I was thinking. I believe he had to spend $10 million with no assets to show, in order to then get a $300 million inheritance, and he couldn’t tell anyone about it. So he just had to waste money.

      6. hbc*

        Ironically, usually one of the costs that us little people forget about is all the staff that’s not in the pictures. They’re probably paying for at least two people who aren’t family members to anticipate their every whim, and each probably getting 10x what their employees make.

        And then there’s the waste–you need to order enough Dom so that you have 6 or 7 uncorked bottles to throw away after every dinner. But you’d bet he’d notice if pens have to be ordered twice in a year.

        1. hbc*

          *Two staff per family member, that is. You need at least 20 people to cater to your family of 10.

      7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Very deliberately. Smells like someone with a private jet. Renting an entire property for the week. Then while you’re there, you’re jetting around to even more locations. Private islands perhaps, etc.

        So many folks think 1m is such a huge amount of unfathomable money. But seeing people spend money in huge quantities and all the “rich” people who go bankrupt quickly, it’s much easier than any of us would know!!

      8. Tan*

        Late to this one but I’ve seen a fair few TV shows detailing super high-end hotel rooms that seem to exist in every major city in the world, costing 50k+ per night. If they didn’t feature in the odd TV show I doubt anyone but billionaires and a few staff would ever seem them. Usually there are essentially large apartments on the top floor of an already expensive hotel. There are of cause a number of perks e.g. private elevator, personal butler, chefs on call, movie theatre rooms etc. So a week or two in one of these rooms plus travel and expenses is probably the answer

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Even apart from the tactlessness, if you have a spare million at the end of the year you could use it to buy investment rental properties, to provide for your family in future downturns.

      I suspect this guy was at least third generation money. The guy who builds up a family business from nothing doesn’t waste money like this. The guy who grew up watching his dad work day and night to build up the family business from nothing doesn’t waste money like that. The guy who grew up in luxury and whose main gripe is that he knows people with a bigger yacht that his? He will do this. This is why family businesses have a limited life expectancy. It is longer than for publicly traded corporations, which at any time can be raided and gutted by vampire investors, but nothing lasts forever.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        And this is why most family fortunes become lost. Was it in Forbes? I don’t remember, but years ago I saw a short article that said family fortunes are lost by one of two means: careless spending or apathy/neglect. The article did point out that most family fortunes go this way. It takes longer for some families than others, though.

        1. Armchair Analyst*

          Yes, I’ve heard that, too. But at some point the original builder has a family dynasty, even starting with only 3 kids could easily lead to 6-10 grandkids, and then their grandkids. Think the Hilton family. Paris, although in some respects an “heiress” of the hotel fortune, certainly is not the main shareholder and actually *has* to work in order to maintain her desired lifestyle. So of course the family fortune is “lost” – it is spread out.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I have read that the Rockefeller descendants are still receiving trust money, but it is spread pretty thin nowadays, such that they need jobs, too. This is the best case scenario for maintaining the family fortune.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            A history buff like me thinks of empires split among a ruler’s descendants rather than a single heir, as with Charlemagne’s holdings. If you bequeath your kingdom to three people, each of them will naturally have a much smaller kingdom than the original.

          3. Cathie from Canada*

            Canada used to have a department store chain called “Eaton’s” which was 150 years old, hundreds of stores across the country, one of the most respected companies in the country. And it all went belly-up in the 1990s, when they over-expanded and also let the Eaton heirs screw it up.
            But years earlier, they had also been known locally for doing things like firing long-time employees a few weeks before their pensions vested. So, really, their bankruptcy was a deserved comeuppance.

      2. PB*

        I suspect this guy was at least third generation money.

        Wow, dead on. I believe the owner was exactly third generation and trying to groom his disinterested sons to take over.

        1. UKDancer*

          My very working class grandmother used to say clogs to clogs in 3 generations which amounts to the same. I guess because factory workers like her wore them.

      3. Arts Akimbo*

        This is exactly my experience with working at a family business that was in the process of being handed off from the second generation to the third. The new owner was clueless, out of touch, too good to come downstairs, and generally was useless. IIRC she gave the accountant managerial powers and let her run the business instead. :P

  10. Nobody Here by That Name*

    Oh man. Only the vineyard keeps this from being a former c-suite I had to deal with. In their case it was taking groups of us to one (out of five) of the CEO’s homes while we got to look at his yachts (plural) as a “treat.” Meanwhile we’re being told there isn’t enough money to give anyone raises that year.

    Somehow being roped into justifying tax breaks on the CEO’s personal properties didn’t prove to be the morale boost they thought it would.

  11. Roonil Wazlib*

    I understand that we use aliases on this site, but I don’t understand how anyone can not recognize this situation.

    Your boss is obviously Gilderoy Lockhart.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      I was surprised I didn’t see this as the first post… it was totally where my head went!

      “Ron: “Look at these questions. They’re all about him.”
      Harry: “‘What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s favourite colour?'”
      Ron: “‘What is Gilderoy Lockhart’s greatest achievement to date?'”
      Harry: “‘When is Gilderoy Lockhart’s birthday and what would his ideal gift be?'””

      “Tut, tut – hardly any of you remembered that my favourite colour is lilac. I say so in Year with a Yeti. And a few of you need to read Wanderings with Werewolves more carefully – I clearly state in chapter twelve that my ideal birthday gift would be harmony between all magic and non-magic peoples – though I wouldn’t say no to a large bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhisky!”

      1. Alice in Wonderland*

        I specifically came to the comments for Lockhart jokes, it was the first thing I thought of reading the title, let alone the letter itself!!

        1. Massmatt*

          The hilarious thing is that Rowling was asked if she based characters on people in real life, and surprisingly she said Lockhart! And she said there was no way in a million years he would EVER guess, even if he was reading that very interview.

    2. Three owls in a trench coat*

      I remember seeing “pink, scented resumes” under the “You may also like” on last Friday’s open thread and my mind immediately went to Umbridge.

      Kicking myself for not making the Lockhart connection.

  12. Just J.*

    Dear OP – I think you have enough evidence that this workplace is toxic – or at least, toxic for you. Do you have your resume updated? What happens if they don’t fix the glitch and you are out? (Which I would consider a gift, based on what you have written.)

    1. OP*

      Since they managed to extend my contract at literally the last day, except surprise it was fixed two weeks before that and no one bothered to tell me. I am actively planning my next move and my resume is now up to date.

      1. Sparrow*

        Oh wow, what a nightmare workplace. Good luck getting out of there asap (and without strangling anyone!)

  13. AltLW*

    “Is there anything that you would like us to know about?”
    Yes, I would like someone to correct the end date of my contract so that I am not terminated 9 months before I was supposed to be.
    Warm regards, cheerio, pip pip.
    – LW

    1. Havarti*

      By Jove! The sheer nerve. The peasants have always been revolting but now they’re rebelling!

    2. Girliusmaximus*

      LMAO @ Cheerio and pip pip
      But seriously, I was going to suggest the same thing, LW should definitely put their impending early departure on the next survey so it can be amended.

  14. RC Rascal*

    As a horse person, most of us choose to share our horsey blather only with other horse folk. We know we are boring that way.

    This guy just sounds like a narcissist.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      +1 from fellow Horse Person. Though I will also be horsey at those who express interest in Horse Pictures. He is the cutest darn floofnugget ever, after all.

      I think there has been a grand total of 2 people I’ve legitimately discussed Horse Cost with. One being a fellow Horse Person who was comparing barn costs in the area with me, and one with Not Horse Person whose family was thinking about purchasing a horse for Youngish Child.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Dis him https://www.instagram.com/p/BvM2pfZAkjQ/

          And also I will shamelessly plug someone else’s much better insta that is just horse floof @life_through_the_ears because Ears is the cutest and it makes my day much better when he posts and everyone needs floofy horse ears in their lives.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              The best conversations have fluffy horse ears *and* fluffy dog butts. Of course with pictures.

      1. RC Rascal*

        May I add that if you happen to be an unrelated third party present when someone else shows interest and knowledge of horses, I will bore you to death. And I will not apologize.

        Also, yes to pictures.

    2. fposte*

      I was thinking it might be entertaining to actually provide judge-type feedback on the horses, though. “Blazing Star was the cobby mare with the straight shoulder and weak hip; Thunderboy was the weedy bay; Prince Stardragon was the underconditioned feed ‘n’ leader desperately in need of gelding.”

      1. RC Rascal*

        Ha! Like when the KHP used to put John Henry in the Police Conformation Clinics and he would score last!
        Lighting has the ewe neck. Thunder is upright in the pasterns. And OMG you paid what for Willie the Warmblood? He looks like he should be pulling milk wagons back in the old country!

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Any hobby interest, really. Want me to bore you with 19th century baseball history? I thought not. I attend a conference every spring in Cooperstown for fellow hobbyists, where we can geek out at each other to our heart’s content.

      1. Alexandra Lynch*

        BTW, on the strength of your posting here, I bought your book for my boyfriend for Christmas, and he was delighted. He’s said enough interesting stuff about it that though I am not a sportsball person, I may read it nonetheless. (I AM a history nut.)

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          It’s odd. On the one hand, I don’t want to be that author who pitches his books to random strangers in the elevator. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean I hide my light under a basket. It is my interest, and some other people find it interesting, too, so let’s talk! I never anticipated, however, book sales via the comments at Ask A Manager.

          And thank you.

      2. mrs__peel*

        This is very random, but I think we have a mutual friend (Philip), who’s a musicologist/pianist and attended Indiana University– he’s mentioned you many times and your baseball interests!

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I have known Philip since we were in fifth grade together. This was not recent. Keep in mind that he is much, much older than I am. Just ask him.

          And yes, it is a small world…

          1. mrs__peel*

            I certainly will! He’s been a good friend of mine for 20+ years now- I’m also a silent film enthusiast, and I used to work with him at the Eastman House. He’s always spoken very highly of your family, and I had the pleasure of meeting Monica not too long ago.

            Very nice to run into you here, and I hope you have a happy new year!

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              The entire family is very proud of her ability to get a tenure track job. We no longer need hold our heads in shame at having a musicologist in the family.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        That’s a bit steep really, its probably $5.25 an hour but hey he gets last nights leftovers for lunch so really he should be paying.

    4. Free Meercats*

      I can (and have) shut down horsey blather with 6 words, “There’s good eating on that critter.” Used to own horses, before I ever did that again, I’d buy a racing sailboat – AKA, a fiberglass lined hole in the water into which one pours money.

      1. Rocket Surgeon / Brain Scientist*

        And not just a sailboat, a racing boat. That’s a whole ‘nother level of feed-the-beast there! Sail on, sailor!

    5. Artemesia*

      This is the iron rule of niche interests — no one else cares. They don’t want to hear singers discuss singing technique, or knitters discuss knitting projects etc etc — find a fellow enthusiast to share that discussion with. If I could imagine someone could fail to see showing off the farm as tone deaf, I literally cannot imagine anyone finding C suite types trading estate gifts on a stage in front of the peons as anything but appalling.

      1. JSPA*

        Eh, I geek on other people’s geekery. Well…so long as there’s some legit shareable / learnable component. I did get a mite bit prickly with an old friend recently who’s gotten very into meditation, and was doing their darndest to share that. It was a valiant attempt, but after the second half hour foray, I begged off. If it had been someone random, I’d have noped out a lot sooner. But knitting, goats, model trains, tabletop gaming, metal detecting, roadkill taxidermy, apiary, card counting, competitive hula hoop judging? Sure! If there’s enough to it for you to spend your imagination, free time and hard – earned cash on it, I’m curious enough to listen.

        I don’t resent the boss for wanting to share his love of horses. The problem is that he was effectively also sharing his utter and total disregard for “his” people. (Who are clearly not actually his people, just people with the misfortune to be employed in slots below him on the organizational chart).

    6. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I am a fan of pictures of animals, so at least this schmuck brought pictures…that’s the nicest thing I can say about him though.

  15. WorkIsADarkComedy*

    Too bad the employees/contractors can’t put on their own event for the C-Suite (attendance mandatory) so that the execs could get to know them better.


    – Here is the eviction notice Mary received because her salary didn’t cover ordinary expenses
    – Here is a picture of the medication Rashad cannot afford because the company provides crappy health insurance

    Then quiz the execs on all of it.

    1. Trek*

      This is awesome!! I think whatever company intranet page that shows pictures from this event should be hacked and replaced with your recommendations/suggestions above.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Pictures of the tiny over stuffed apartments in unsafe areas that everyone is squeezing their families into for the slide-show.

      Snacks will include Cup-O-Noodle and day old donuts to show them how their staff is eating as well.

      1. Junger*

        And they get one donut, to share between them as they see fit. Because we’re feeling generous.

    3. Grey Coder*

      Oh, this kind of happened on one of those “Undercover Boss” shows. CEO of a fast-food chain was brought in (incognito) to various front-line jobs in his empire and met a number of workers who were barely keeping their heads above water because of medical expenses and debt. In the “heart warming wrap up” section of the show, the boss revealed his identity to each of them and said he’d pay off their debts. He conspicuously did NOT say he was going to provide sufficient insurance to prevent everyone else in his company from having the same problem…

      1. annakarina1*

        That’s a good point. They more just like seeing themselves as the rich CEO throwing money at the poor people to solve their problems and feel good about themselves rather than actually raising hourly rates or providing health insurance for everyone.

        1. Oranges*

          A novelist (that I can’t remember) says this is the King Coffetuta complex. Basically you’re giving people things (which they may or may not need) only to feel better about yourself.

  16. stitchinthyme*

    Was I the only one who read this and was reminded me of Gilderoy Lockhart’s “quiz” in the second Harry Potter book?

    “1. What is Gilderoy’s favourite colour?
    2. What is Gilderoy’s Lockhart’s secret ambition?
    3. What, in your opinion, is Gilderoy Lockhart’s greatest achievement to date?”

    (For those who aren’t HP fans, Lockhart is a very conceited teacher who is famous for a whole lot of daring deeds…which, it turns out, were actually done by others and he made them forget what they did after they told him the details so he could write books about what “he” did. His class lessons primarily consist of him getting the kids to act out scenes from his books. He’s played in the movie by Kenneth Branagh.)

    1. Not really a waitress*

      We have a running joke in our house that Branagh isnt really a talented director (his Henry V, omg) its is just him using a memory charm.

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        His Wallander is so bad I only watched some episodes for Tom Hiddleston in all his Golden Retriever glory.

      2. Amy Sly*

        Except what was Lockheart thinking to cheat on Professor Trelawny with Bellatrix LeStrange? To quote him as Hamlet, “Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed and batten on this moor?”

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          They are both magnificent women. I’ve always been a little surprised about Branagh’s relationships, he always seemed to be outclassed.

          1. Amy Sly*

            True. And in the context of Branagh’s Hamlet, if I were Gertrude, I’d pick Derek Jacobi over Brian Blessed. Of course, the way Jacobi swings, he’d pick Blessed over me …

      3. mlk*

        YMMV! I was hearing about this wunderkind director doing Shakespeare so I went to see Henry V in the theatre…I was riveted and made sure to see many of his movies from then on.

  17. Archaeopteryx*

    “It’s really tough wearing solid gold clothing every day… the gold gets really heavy and sometimes I scratch myself on the diamond buttons.”
    – Your boss, probably

  18. Diahann Carroll*

    I assume that in Alex’s mind, this whole presentation (and quizzing! quizzing!) about his horses and spouse and children and vineyard and magnificent flowing hair



      1. Mandatory reporter*

        I didn’t say he was going to win, nor would I put any amount of money on him doing so.

        But the sheer narcissism on display here is mind-blowing

      2. OP*

        While it was a hilariously terrible day, I am generally far away from this person and my day to day is quite pleasant so, yeah, not the worst boss, I would say.

        I even got a fair amount of overtime for attending that trainwreck so they’re welcome to waste my time (at time and a half). I just needed some cathartic confirmation that this surreal nonsense was, in fact, not normal. There were maybe a hundred people in that room who all responded either as is it was totally normal or as if they’re spirits are so crushed that this doesn’t get a rise out of them. I’m leaning toward the latter.

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        Earlier I referenced the boss who interrupted the eulogy at the funeral of an employee’s relative to ask a work question. I refer to it again here.

      4. Zahra*

        Yup. I’m betting for one of the most popular and/or most commented on, though. Although 1020 comments for the 10th most popular last year? That’s a high bar.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      We can do categories, how about most disconnected boss of the year?

      Someone should ask him if he knows he is running a company.

    2. JamieS*

      I’d hardly call having a survey that includes options to ask a new executive personal questions and some trivia about them that included prizes worthy of worst boss contention

  19. Aggretsuko*

    Hahahah, this reminds me of the time when we all (and this was a GIANT meeting) had to sit through a slide show of a high muckety muck’s European vacation and then we got sent a survey request after it. However, that was sufficiently large and anonymous enough for me to feel comfortable responding that it was really tone deaf and a waste of our time to have to look at his vacation snaps when most of us are too overloaded to go on vacation at all, much less a European one.

    You maybe could use the excuse of “As a contractor who’s about to leave, I don’t feel it’s my place to respond to an employee survey since I’m not really one,” I suppose?

    1. JustaTech*

      I was recently looking for some documentation of a site visit some folks in my group (long gone) made about 7 years ago. When I found some photos I was all excited thinking they would be of the plant and the manufacturing process. Nope. Pictures of the group on the beach, or at famous tourist attractions.

      Guuyyysssss…. not helpful!

        1. Jedi Squirrel*

          +1 for the fellow biology major who mentioned prions!

          “Soylent gold is rich people! Don’t eat it!”

        2. Oranges*

          Technically the eating of humans won’t cause prion disease I thought? It was just that Kuru– the first recognized prion disease–spread through cannibalism?

          1. Oranges*

            Yeppers, just looked it up. Prion diseases will spread through cannibalism but are not actually caused by cannibalism. They are caused by a) random prion misfolding or b) genetic mutation which makes the folding of the prion more likely to be misfolded.

            However, since their main infection route is eating diseased flesh and it was first really identified via kuru; It makes sense that it’s linked in most people’s mind.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Naw. He gave HIMSELF a slide show of his horses for Christmas. It saves him from actually, you know, walking out there and taking care of them.

  20. Amber Rose*

    Wow, and I thought our upper management were tone deaf that year we laid off a bunch of people and then they hosted a company camping trip that prominently featured a pig roast and “who’s got a better fancy camper” discussion.

    Money just erases people’s brains sometimes.

      1. TechWorker*

        I honestly think these people never learnt it – they spend so long around other rich people they think they’re ‘normal’ and simply do not have the awareness that they sound like awful humans…

        1. JSPA*

          That’s part of how they get where they are. Building a successful company while making a consistently good product and consistently treating your people well, takes backbone, principles, talent and luck.

          Effectively sucking the marrow from the bones of the corpse of previously successful corporation takes a lack of remorse, a modest head for numbers, a dose of sociopathy. Plus some combination of good teeth, a firm handshake, dirt on people with money, outsize skill at brown-nosing, and / or a weak grasp of ethics. Or a lot of coke.

        2. Hope*

          Even the ones who weren’t raised that way and try to stay grounded, if they spend enough of their time only surrounded by other rich people, they still end up doing/saying things only rich people do. Like my relative who married into money and has completely forgotten that the rest of us can’t just up and buy plane tickets/go on international trips at a whim. Normal people have to plan/budget.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t think it does at all.
      They tend to live by the mantra “If you’re poor, it’s your own fault”

  21. Myrin*

    Well, this was certainly a wild ride. (And oh mY GOD I’d written this before I recognised the maginificent pun but HERE IT IS. Oh vey.)

  22. ToS*

    We just re-watched Ready Player One as a family…and there is that scene of *sign the contract* and the best response is “wait, this is a test”

    You could make this more fun and say to TPTB: “These are going to be clues at the next Employee Escape room event” -or- The Boss must be really concerned about the care of HorseName – is has The Boss signed on for an Undercover Boss episode? -or- are we on Candid Camera (yes, I’m oldish).

    So…this is actually a test. To see who has discretion and can play along well. Don’t feed the snark, it will be more miserable for you. Double down on knowing who you are. Make your own plan. There doesn’t seem to be an easy opportunity to find common ground. Surely there are other ways to share largesse from well-compensated leadership – if the leader is a horse person, have horse rides at the next Employer-funded picnic. If you want access to that level, have an ask. Ask for training or tuition remission. Ask for access to mentoring. Find the bridges and bring people along.

  23. another anon*

    “We’ve been asked to add coverage to some areas during planned strikes” — do you mean the team that’s striking is planning for coverage of essential functions (assuming you work in, say, healthcare or for a power company where the essential functions are essential)? Or do you mean the company you contract for is asking you to be a scab? If the latter, please look at your finances and decide whether it’s really necessary that you stay. Otherwise, you’re throwing people under the bus, people who have to work for Alex long-term. It’s an INCREDIBLY crappy position to be in, and it should be Alex and not you paying the price, but strikes are one of the few ways people have to fight back against the Alexes.

    1. OP*

      As a contractor I’m exempt for this but some of my team were asked to fill in for essential functions. My plan is to take a sick day that day.

    2. Batgirl*

      This jumped out at me too. That they are asking colleagues to betray their striking counterparts is one thing (they are always going to try that and the colleagues either strike too, do a go slow or don’t show up) but when they go that far, they should at the very least show some awareness that times are tense and keep their heads below the parapet.

      1. JSPA*

        they’re just a likely looking for excuses to blow heads off. They’ll prod people until they downside themselves, so the vultures can claim that downsizing was successfully done through attrition and voluntary departures. They then clap each other on the back, for the picture in the annual report.

  24. X. Trapnel*

    Oh wow, I thought this kind of thing was limited to the farming industry. I’ve worked on farms for years – it’s a dirty, physical, minimum wage gig. Farmers tend to be tone-deaf employers the way this chap is – it’s not uncommon to be spun a sob story about how it’s been a bad season and they can’t afford your promised grade-free bonus boo-hoo, then a seamless conversational segue into how “the wife” just has to have her latest Italian designer kitchen or “the daughter ” just has to have a $20,000 eventing horse. I just wanna get all Lenin on their sorry arses.

    1. Quill*

      I had a boss who would, at every conceivable opportunity, talk about the time he went to a friend’s summer home and they all got horribly sick off the toxic roe of Gars and Sturgeons they caught… both of which are endangered species in the state I worked in and the state he was vacationing in. He was convinced that this was relatable.

      You know, because he had to fill the role of fancy international businessman by eating endangered fish, I guess.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My only ever truly toxic boss straight lied to everyone that we were in such a bad spot he took a pay cut.

      He didn’t. He was just trying to pretend layoffs were that much of a necessity. Dude drained everything for himself (granted it was very little since the place was dying due to leadership and archaic fumbling marketing practices but whateverrrr)

      1. Artemesia*

        I know a case where a boss tanked his small business by taking money out and paying his lover a big salary to do nothing and thus making the cash flow not work anymore. His heroic COO had managed to land more business that year than ever before and if the boss had been making any rain or his lover had been producing any income they could have made it through the draught. So a modestly successful operation was destroyed and he went back to personal consulting; everyone else got laid off with no severance.

    3. NewReadingGlasses*

      I read that as “evening horse” and actually thought that might be a thing for minute.

  25. ToS*

    For OP, there is new leadership, and there is a real problem to get resolved – getting the contract error resolved so that the 9 month are still very much on the horizon. OP could work with their people to get beyond the “sorry, it is what is it is” and explain that resolving the question will improve morale and, by extension, productivity, increase retention, and lower re-hiring costs, if the process is globally improved so People’s Literal Employment is not actively threatened by a glitch that cannot be seamlessly patched.

    This can be Item A of New Leadership, First Improvements, regardless of habits of conspicuous consumption and expensive avocations. You really need to know your people, and emphasize that you are improving a process, not throwing anyone under the bus for the cause of the glitch.

  26. TM*

    I don’t even think this is entirely money related. In my organization, the top are making good salaries, but certainly not horses, vineyards, and multiple yachts good. Yet, their tone-deafness to employee needs and concerns could rival any stated here. Groups at the top just become insular and echo-y. They have literally no idea how their words and deeds and landing with the folks below them. It would be totally fascinating if it weren’t so completely infuriating.

    1. Frankie*

      At my organization, there was an HR error at the beginning of the year (you know, when people are maybe cash-poor from holiday/general winter expenses) in which some people missed paychecks.

      The clarifying email that went out had a couple of lines that said, essentially, “don’t worry, this problem was minimal, the only people affected were temporary employees.”


      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, I’ve had so many really bad payroll errors brushed off as “Whatever, no biggie.”

        My response it to say “So if we just stopped giving you a check, you’d be okay with that? I doubt that.”

  27. AuroraLight37*

    Good grief. I find Alex’s lack of clue alarming, and right now I’m definitely feeling rather “Eat the Rich.” And I’m not even employed by him.

  28. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Bullshht that he’s caring for his own horses. Getting up early to say hey to the hired hands perhaps. How obnoxious.

    1. madge*

      And caring for his vineyards/winery. As a winery owner, no. No, you are not, Alex. The amount of work required almost makes me long for the 80s when cocaine was an acceptable energy boost, at least until one’s heart exploded.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I know some [not good business people] who bought a winery thinking that’s the perfect business…they love drinking wine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

        As you know, that’s like opening a restaurant because you like to eat food.

        They pulled out within months because “it’s too hard!” I still snicker about it because damn, that level of utter self absorption and failure is “laugh or you’re going to cry” type of material.

        He’s seriously just an investor in horses and a winery, say it like it really is, Alex.

        1. JustaTech*

          When I was a kid my parents tried to start a vineyard at our home (we lived out in the exurbs so we had some acerage). They worked their butts off for years and it never went anywhere (ice storms, weird bugs, vines damaged in shipment, etc etc). I think we got maybe 20 grapes the deer didn’t eat first.

          Anyone who thinks that any business related to food or agriculture is *easy* is going to have a rude awakening.

  29. Dust Bunny*

    . . . I mean, there’s tone-deaf, and then there’s cartoonishly 1980s-movie tone-deaf, right? I feel like this scene was cut from a National Lampoon movie.

  30. CL Cox*

    I am speechless, I have never seen anything like this. And I worked for a major DC law firm during the Reagan/Clinton years.

    1. Observer*

      You haven’t been following the news, then.

      WeWork is a mess, I’m sure you know. Neuman fired a bunch of people and followed up with a part including tequila shots. At least the remaining staff got some of that.

      Marcelo Claure, the guy who is supposed to be in charge of the turnaround posted pictures of his high end pasta tasting days after laying off 2,400 employees. Enjoy your golden pasta, but please don’t post pictures of it for the world to see!

  31. Chronic Overthinker*

    I swear, the wealthier one gets the more tact and empathy is lost. I hate vulgar displays of wealth. Why don’t you show me where you volunteered your time, or organizations where you made charitable donations? That’s a better display of wealth and generosity, in my opinion.

  32. Ancient Alien*

    Ugh. I feel this on a deep level. I work for a major, and highly profitable, corporation that is quite stingy in terms of salaries and benefits. Our SVPs hold quarterly town halls and love to “connect” with all of us little people by using up most of the time to show us pics of their vacation homes and recent trips to Europe. It goes over like a lead balloon with people that work 60 hours a week and haven’t had a real raise in years. I hope to be moving on soon…

    But, anyway, yeah, I’d respond to that survey in the most non-controversial way possible.

  33. Absurda*

    OMG. The vineyard reminds me of an Exec we had here when I first started. He owned a walnut orchard and for years would only talk about that orchard. Our team renews existing contracts and when asked by reps how to do it better all he would talk abut what getting his orchard off the ground and going door-to-door selling his walnuts to restaurants and shops. Not exactly helpful. Everyone in the org knew all about his orchard by the time he retired. And no one cared.

  34. Kate*

    I feel like there’s too much identifying info in this post? OP, you’re so clearly a federal contractor . . .

    1. Armchair Analyst*

      “Somehow it’s not surprising that your company is having labor disputes and being protested.”

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        I think this is a joke about the current regime, but I can’t imagine our glorious leader doing anything physical, much less care for a horse.

  35. Aquawoman*

    “How universal he imagines that struggle to be is hard to imagine.”

    Snort-laughed at that and then most of the comments

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        They did! Alex needs to do better. We are going to need that wine to be of the very best quality! Somebody tell him to quit screwing around with his horses and concentrate on what’s important.

  36. Observer*

    Somehow it’s not surprising that your company is having labor disputes and being protested.

    That is the best summary of this situation that is work safe.

  37. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    It never ceases to amaze me just how out of touch higher-ups in a company can be. Just this past October we had a large departmental meeting with over 300 people, and a lot of it was focused on people’s stories in huge multi-national company. A lot of these were how these people started as bellboys and worked their way up and there were some actual inspiring messages there. Then one person gets up to talk about ‘making time for what’s important vs urgent, work-life balance’ and the like. Her solution to work-life balance and handling the important things in life? – She had a nanny who handled all the non-fun aspects of raising children, so that mom could just do fun thing like vacations, story-time, etc. It was incredibly tone deaf to the level of the room, most of whom are making $45k or less a year.

    1. Anonya*

      Out of curiosity … was this person a speaker from the outside, or someone from the company? Because if it’s a speaker, I have a pretty good idea who this is and why I stopped listening to her podcast. I just cannot with the advice to “outsource everything that’s not fun!” That is … not reality for most of us.

      1. HugsAreNotTolerated*

        It was an internal employee, whose title is “Sr Mgr HR Consulting”. So you know add in the extra kick in the face, that this person was HR-adjacent and probably could have figured out that a room full of ‘Coordinators’ isn’t in the same salary range.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Eh. People who outsource too much end up not being able to do much except hire people to do their work for them. Which begets an endless loop of not knowing how to do something and having to hire someone else to take care of new thing also.

    2. TechWorker*

      Tbh even the stories about how people worked their way up from being a bell boy I don’t find massively inspiring. They often (not always, but often) come with a heavy dose of ‘if I can do it, anyone can!!!’ which is clearly epic confirmation bias. The bell boys who worked hard but never made it, or tried to start a business but failed are not asked to come and do motivational speaking ;)

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        This a million gazillion times. Unfortunately some of the least compassionate and most self-aggrandizing rich people are the ones who didn’t start out that way and love to preach about how anyone can do what they did.

        The whole setup of our economic system only allows for a fairly limited set of “winners.” Besides, we can’t all he C-suites; who’s going to mop the floors or run the registers or ship the products?

  38. Hiring Mgr*

    It sounds like the horse and vineyard talk was annoying, but OP seems to have a much more serious problem with the contract mistakenly ending soon and nobody helping her out? I would focus on that (assuming OP wants to stay) and forget about the other stuff

    1. Budgie Buddy*

      I also got the sense that much of the contract rage was bleeding into the tone deaf problem.

  39. irene adler*

    “Let them eat cake.”
    We all know how that turned out.
    Gotta pay attention to history.

  40. Anon Here*

    I would be so, so tempted to take screenshots, and print things out, and then something *just happens* to fall out of my pocket as I walk by the protesters.

    I know. Laws and professionalism and my own future. But the fantasy would be there.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Or post some of those pics online anonymously, or leak them to a popular and snarky blogger….

      1. Anon Here*

        Right. The thing is, people DID do that to a former employer after working there, and they were tracked down. Legal action was taken to the fullest extent. Sneaky IP addresses and other ways to identify people. Nothing is anonymous on the internet. I didn’t follow the legal cases, but they probably have to live with lawsuits and/or serious convictions for the rest of their lives.

        I wouldn’t even do the paper thing. It would be harder to proove any wrongdoing, but why take the risk?

  41. RussianInTexas*

    This is worse than my at that time director was telling us (all under $45k peons) that our customer service should be as smooth as the Lexus dealership she takes her second car to.

  42. Uldi*

    LW, you’ll have to swallow your (righteous) disgust and submit the most unsalted, spiceless, bland survey as you can possibly manage if the next one is mandatory. I’d suggest asking someone who knows nothing about this Alex for tips.

    Personally, the very evil and bad side of me would be tempted to go full creepy stalker on it. I wouldn’t actually do it, but I would certainly entertain the thought for a while.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the sudden desire to re-watch the Hannibal TV series for recipe ideas for when rich people will be on the menu.

  43. HereKittyKitty*

    Lord, reminds me of my last job where one of the owners took the lowest paying employees (including me) to tour their 12,000 sq/ft mansion they were building. It set the clock ticking for us to find new jobs.

  44. Lonely Monster*

    It’s seems like you need to hire Ricky Gervais to come to your next mandatory meeting. I’m sure he’d have a few choice words for your executives.

  45. compost the rich*

    Ooooh, this reminds me of a college internship where I had to help the communications department shoot a video of the CEO. He was doing an intro for a training video that would be shown in the stores to the largely minimum wage employees.

    He insisted, despite being flat-out told by the communications director that it was a bad idea, on shooting said intro while he was sitting on the deck of his boat.

    Just a summer internship, so I never heard back about how that went over, but I can’t imagine it was well-received. This is INFINITELY worse though.

    1. Quill*

      One summer I worked for my college doing research and there was a business student doing “research” who had to join our presentation schedule. Her “research project” was a local private school complaining that enrollment was down but apparently anything at all could be done to fix it BESIDES lower tuition or scholarships… the presentation was not well received, and started a fight amongst two faculty members about whether or not private school was inherently elitist, and we students took the poor presenter out for ice cream because apparently the professors could not figure out that “sorry, I’m just doing a job!” was an appropriate response to their grilling her about the ethics of private schools.

  46. Batgirl*

    This shin dig sounds like the perfect set up for a comedy movie. You create sympathy for the eye rolling hero to overcome it all, and the bosses’ lifestyle and showboating is so ludicrous it would make comedy gold. I can’t decide on the lead though.

  47. Kevin Sours*

    It really seems like they should be passing out the wine before you fill in the survey. It would make the process easier to deal with.

  48. Three owls in a trench coat*

    OP, if you should ever hand in your notice at this place before your contract ends, make sure you say “I need to see a man about a horse” as you leave for the last time.

  49. Trixie*

    A few years ago we had a new VP come in and proceed to tell us his life story in a presentation – it was awful. He said he had three kids but spoke only about two…his crazy ex wife got the dogs and some other crap…how amazing he was etc. He lasted 9 months and I was stunned he lasted that long. Apparently he was talked to right after that meeting by the CEO who supposedly told his Assistant he’d made a huge mistake within 30 days. Let’s hope the “leaders” at the contractors company all get the heave!!

  50. LGC*

    there was a slide show showing Alex on many horses and wandering through a vineyard

    …sounds less like a vineyard than an herb garden to me, but okay. (RIP Deadspin.)

    Anyway LW, I’m sorry you’re in this situation, but I’m so glad Alex exists. He probably thinks a banana costs ten dollars. I want to get to know him (because I am fascinated by his terminal case of affluenza), and I want to know if his wine is distributed in the Northeast US. Please give yourself the gift of not giving a damn about Alex’s opinions because you don’t even (technically) work for him.

    And, like – okay, it’s easy for me to say because I’m not a week from potentially losing my job because of a whoopsie from my customer. But also…I want to reinforce that as a contractor, Alex is (formally) your crazy client, not your crazy boss. You don’t have quite the relationship that a formal employee would have. And you don’t “owe” him anything.

  51. Anon in MN*

    What a bunch of horse shit! (By the bosses, not the OP)

    I’m here all night! Tip your wait staff! Eat the rich!

  52. Chocolate Teapot*

    I take it Alex’s horses are not called Dobbin or Big Red or similar? Presumably he has chosen something posher like Marengo, Copenhagen, Pegasus etc.

  53. CM*

    I’m being completely serious when I say this: Alex wants to be liked, Alex wants to be friends. And, right now, you need a friend who can help you get your contract fixed. So, if there’s even the smallest chance Alex can pull some strings to move that along, go meet with them in person and tell them you appreciated how they tried to reach out and the effort they’ve been making getting to know everyone. And then also say that right now you’re stressed because you have this deadline looming over you, and it feels like nothing’s happening. And ask if Alex can help you figure out how to make something happen.

  54. Sharrbe*

    “What don’t you know, but would like to know about Alex (personally or professionally)?”
    Does Alex shovel really his own “horse (bleep)”?

    “What do you believe are Alex’s expectations of us?”
    Alex wants us to praise him for his amazing ability “to shovel horse (bleep)”.

    “What has surprised you thus far?”
    That Alex is so full of “horse (bleep)” this early in his tenure.

  55. QuinleyThorne*

    This is…[i]cartoonishly[/i] tone-deaf. Like, to the point of parody. This is some [i]cringe-level[/i] WASP shit. It would almost be funny if your livelihood weren’t on the line.

    I grew up in a heavily-moneyed suburb; I knew plenty of folks whose family owned horses (though to be fair, I live in Texas, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯), and folks who were those kinds of wine aficionados, but would be aghast at the notion of pulling something like this, especially in the context of an [i]ongoing labor dispute[/i](!) As far removed from middle-class and lower life experiences as they were personally, they were at least self-aware enough to consider the optics.

  56. Jennifer Juniper*

    For my last job, we had to write an essay about “Why I Admire Company and CEO” as part of the onboarding process. I stayed there nearly six years.

  57. moneypenny*

    This sounds like an old-school, HUGE separation between worker bees and owners type of company. I worked for one of those once too and the only times they got everyone together was to do the same thing. Brag about their riches and possessions, and slap each other on the back. When it came time for workers to express the desire for a looser dress code or better access to wifi or remote work, we were roundly shot down. Morale was not a concern in the least. Companies like that don’t change until the leadership does, and I vowed never to work for one again.

  58. Elizabeth West*

    I’d be so tempted just to make up the names of horses, like:

    The paint’s name is Pay Me.
    The Arabian is Why Is My Contract Still Up In The Air.
    The dun is named Dun Give Me No Sh*t.

  59. Anon Here*

    I worked for a company that was protested and widely criticized. It was tough because they mistreated their employees, yet outside the company, anyone who worked there was seen as The Enemy. It was isolating. I still deal with the stigma of having worked there. It’s one of many reasons that I’m self-employed.

  60. Chriama*

    What is with people trying to make themselves seem more “relatable” by talking about themselves? The best way to make yourself relatable is to get the other person to talk about themselves and chime in very infrequently. These guys are ridiculous.

  61. PJ*

    Also keep in mind that covering the role of a person who’s on strike makes you a scab and thus, a bad person!

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