my boss has violent tantrums and punches holes in walls

A reader writes:

I’ve recently started in a new company. It was a particularly exciting job to get because my division superintendent (think great-great-grandboss) is known industry-wise to be a genius, and being part of his team, even with such separation, makes a big difference in a resumé.

Well, I started working two months ago, while the Big Boss was on vacation followed by a month-long work trip. He came back last week and the first time I saw him at work was, literally, when he exited a conference room and proceeded to a table close to mine, picked up a coworker’s keyboard, and hit it against the table till it broke.

Worse, nobody batted an eye at this. My supervisor later told me, very casually, he usually breaks a keyboard or two per month, usually his but not always. Oh, and he might also punch holes in the drywall sometimes.

I am now feeling unsafe (even though he supposedly never attacked anyone), and worried that it might begin to affect my performance. I have some childhood traumas, and start to shake whenever I see him. Should I talk to my supervisor about this, or just try to stay away from him? Should I just leave and find a new job, even though this one could be such a great career boost? Any tips at all?

It is 100% reasonable for you not to want to work in an environment where someone — anyone, but especially someone in a position of power — regularly engages in displays of violence against objects. Repeatedly slamming keyboards against tables until they break and punching holes in walls are serious acts of aggression, deliberate attempts to scare and intimidate, wildly inappropriate for a workplace (or for any place, except perhaps a martial arts studio), and legitimately frightening. I’m not surprised you’re feeling unsafe — someone who behaves that way is (a) showing their anger is outside of their control and (b) behaving in a way so far outside the social contract that you’re got to wonder what other ways they might be willing to violate it.

(Also, what is up with this guy that he’s getting this angry so often? Even one instance of this would be shocking — but regularly? That says something scary about his general state of being in the world.)

What might be even more disturbing is that this workplace has normalized his behavior. People shouldn’t be nonchalant about this. They should be urgently meeting about it and insisting on addressing it. It’s a terrible display of how working in dysfunction can severely warp people’s norms and what they’re willing to accept as normal.

As for what you can do … possibly not much, unfortunately. This is someone multiple levels above your own boss, someone who is revered as an industry genius, and you’re new and junior to him and thus probably don’t have the standing it would take to get this truly stopped in an office that seems convinced it’s no big deal.

You can certainly express your alarm and unease to your manager, and to HR, and to other people around you. Sometimes having someone new come in and make it clear this is Not Normal And In Fact It’s Horrifying can shake other people out of their acceptance of it, in a sort of Emperor’s New Clothes way. But a likely outcome is one where people say appeasing things at you and try to convince you it’s not that bad and then you’re forever seen as high-maintenance and why is she making such a thing of this and ugh, is she going to be uptight about everything and … I’m not sure it’s worth it in the long run. I mean, there’s real value in being the person who stands up and says “this isn’t okay, and we shouldn’t be okay with it,” and sometimes that has reverberations far past what you see personally, but at the end of it I think you’re still going to be working in an office with a man who breaks people’s keyboards and punches holes in walls.

If this is a deal-breaker for you — and it is a very reasonable deal-breaker to have — I do think you’ll end up needing to leave. You can try to live with it, but you’re shaking around this man. Are you going to do your best work in that environment? Is anyone?

It sucks and it’s not right, but your best bet may be to be very clear with your manager and HR about how alarming this is (in case it does spur some action), then work on finding a new job (at whatever pace you’re comfortable with — if you want to stick it out for a year so you can parlay the experience into something else, go for it — and if you don’t want to do that, that’s okay too), and clearly tell people why you’re leaving when you do.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 581 comments… read them below }

  1. Smeralda*

    That guy is terrible. People will try to normalize his horrible behavior or justify it. Don’t let that change your mind. You are not wrong or crazy to be weirded tf out and disturbed by this awfulness. Get out and post a warning on Glassdoor.

      1. valentine*

        This guy is scary and the best thing you can do is leave. I would say that even if you had only heard him down the hall, but this was your introduction to him. It counts as violence toward anyone who witnessed it and is sure to get worse, not better.

      2. Annoymouse*

        I’ve worked in martial arts and can tell you that that would be wildly inappropriate at any school I’ve worked at from staff or student. The person responsible would be asked to leave and not return.

        Scaring, intimidating and aggression do NOT have places in any good martial arts schools. The good ones teach you about discipline, respect, calm and self control through learning control of your body and your mind.

        Seriously. Get out of this work place. It is not normal or acceptable anywhere except Sparta in the BC.

        1. Les Cargot*

          I think that what Alison meant is that in a martial arts studio, there are some things that it is okay to break, not that anyone should be destroying keyboards in out-of-control anger. In the same vein, cooks break eggs all the time, and that’s okay, too.

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      This. Even if you are able to deal with this until you move on, it’s going to warp your perceptions of what is normal, professional, and acceptable in a work (AND LIFE!) environment. If you can afford to, get out now. If you can’t be prepared to re-adjust your midset when you move somewhere else.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      Follow that gut instinct that you’ve developed.

      It’s just like any other form of abuse. There are people who can justify all sorts of behavior, even violence.

      Last week’s SVU is still too fresh in my mind, where someone “famous” and powerful hit a woman in front of a bunch of people and they refused to testify because the guy was “Just fine” and the woman “taunted him and got what she deserved.” It’s all too real, it’s not just a sensationalized tv drama, that sh*t happens.

    3. Des*

      I guarantee you, keyboards and walls are not the only problem with this guy. The whole workplace is likely covering up a whole bunch of other “minor” issues he has so as to preserve his reputation outside of the workplace (for the company/their own benefit).

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Yes, this. Who knows if physical objects are the only things he has broken or beaten up? I would believe there are some major cover ups in a company like that.

    4. Bad Bosses*

      The fact that people have normalized it is even more upsetting. One guy who does stuff, whatever. But when the entire group of other adult humans around him sees no problem with it, there be bees.

      Story 1: The best boss I ever had was a man who was incredibly hardworking and passionate about his work. One day, after I’d been there a few years, he lost his temper and threw a keyboard at the wall. Everyone knew that it was completely out of character for him, and his outburst was brought on by immense pressure and unfairness from the higher ups. It didn’t matter, it ruined his career at that company entirely AND made it impossible for him to get references for new companies. Because normal humans have a 0 tolerance policy for this stuff.

      Story 2: My next job, I had a tyrannical yeller of a boss. It was truly unreasonable and scary. But grandgrandgrand boss was his friend, so he got away with it and everyone who reported to him just hid like scared kids when he came around. As the project deadline grew closer and pressure mounted, something really scary started to happen: other men started to imitate this guy, especially managers, since ‘stuff rolls downhill’. They started losing their tempers in a way I’d never seen before, getting worse and worse with each unchecked outburst. One guy had to physically removed from the vicinity of a woman who simply questioned his budget estimate – she was sitting in her rolling chair and he ran over and put his hands on each armrest, keeping her in her seat, and screamed at her until he was pulled off by 2 other guys. It was terrifying. And no one even bothered to report THAT to HR.

      LW…. you do not want to work at company 2. I promise. It never end at “just” getting angry and throwing stuff. Sure, it might help your resume. But it will also ingrain weird social behaviors that you then have to unlearn. Personally, I’d rather do the hard work to succeed without the fancy name brand than live like that for years.

      1. Dragon_dreamer*

        I’ve recounted the story of the supervisor who trapped me in a small room with locked exits except the door he was physically blocking with his body, just to scream at me. HR told me I must have deserved it.

        Back at the pharmacy retail job, another supervisor was just as bad. (The one who laughed when the lil old lady made the nursing boobs comment.) He twice screamed at me so intensely that I had a full autistic, blanking out, huddled in a ball, rocking meltdown.

        No job is worth your mental health. Get out while you can and blow the whistle on this jerk.

        1. Dragon_dreamer*

          (To clarify, I am high functioning autistic, but mental stress overload like that will start a very bad spiral.)

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          “HR told me I must have deserved it”
          I haven’t experienced this in a work context but have been told this in my personal life several times about being on the receiving end of abusive behaviour (that’s what this is) … ‘you must have done something to provoke it’!
          Without exception, the people telling me this were prior recipients (I started to write the word “victims” but then changed my mind) of abusive behaviour from that person.
          I speculate that in your case the HR person telling you that… had probably also been on the receiving end of an outburst from that person.

          In my case it took me about 10 years from age 17 to about 27 to fully understand this.

          1. Dragon_Dreamer*

            The HR person in question had worked for the company for over a decade at that point, and had never liked me. The supervisor had been with the company for less than a year. I’d been there about 9 years.

      2. Nonprofit Nancy*

        It’s not a coincidence that this is someone whose treated in his field as special. The fact that he’s considered a rock star means both that there’s fewer people standing up to him and that he’s come to think of himself as someone for whom the regular rules don’t apply – because he’s such a great coder, or salesman, or whatever. If we want to cut down on abuse as a society we have to rethink how we treat the people we’re putting on pedestals, but I don’t have the solutions.

        1. Nesprin*

          Yep. The no a$$holes rule is all about this guy. He may be great, but the company does not rise and fall on him alone, and I can guarantee this level of behavior is detrimental to team function and productivity.

        2. GeoffreyB*

          In my more cynical moments I suspect that it goes the other way too: we’re so familiar with the “antisocial genius” trope that not only do “geniuses” get license to be jerks, but being a jerk can actually help somebody get a reputation as a genius.

          (also, being a jerk is a good way to drive away or hold back the people most likely to overshadow you… like those trees that manage to be the tallest in their neighbourhood by poisoning all the neighbours.)

      3. AlsoAnon*

        I feel like Story 1 went a bit far.

        Humans react to stress. If he’d reacted to the immense pressure and unfairness by hiding under his desk and having a mental breakdown then hopefully he would have got some help with that. Obviously throwing a keyboard at a wall is not acceptable and shouldn’t be condoned or rewarded so there would need to be some form of sanction but ruining someone’s career at one company and making it impossible for him to get references to work elsewhere seems a little…much. Especially if that was a one off incident and not a pattern of behaviour like with the boss in Story 2.

        1. Avasarala*

          I think it was justified. There are appropriate ways to deal with immense pressure and stress. Asking others for help, crying in the bathroom, talking to a therapist, yelling in a room, and yes hiding under your desk and crying. Throwing your keyboard at a wall is violent and dangerous. He damaged company property and worse could have hit someone. And if the company takes a “holistic” approach to violent outbursts, at what point in the pattern is it OK to fire him? The second time? The third?

          I’ve never worked somewhere where people threw things and nobody should have to.

    5. TardyTardis*

      RUN. NOW. You are better off living on collecting pop bottles than in a job where you have to be afraid.

      Put out your resume, check your savings, and consider how long before you are running screaming from this job. If you have past trauma, you will end up in the hospital, mental or otherwise, dealing with this stress.

    6. selena81*

      He is crazy and the whole thing kinda makes me doubt he really is such a big genius: sounds more like stockholm syndrom, or at least like powerless underlings reframing their suffering as ‘he must be a genius, otherwise i have wasted my time with this raging lunatic with the self-control of a toddler’

      I think Allison makes a good point: you are certainly well in your right to complain and maybe it will shake something loose, but if this job is really such a huge career-maker for you than the unfortunate reality is that speaking up might get you labeled as ‘trouble maker’

      If you decide to stick it out it might help to set a definitive end date to keep yourself sane (‘only 6 months, then i leave wether i have a new job or not’)

  2. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

    LW, I highly highly doubt you will be the first employee to leave in response to this behavior/environment. Stay safe!

      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        Hudson University is a made-up college that gets referenced a lot on TV, especially in crime shows – as others have said, each year about half of their (imaginary) freshman class are victims of (fictional) terrible, grisly murders on SVU.

        1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

          Similar to the reason why you don’t want to spend a relaxing country weekend Cabot Cove, Maine.
          (yes, I’m old)

          1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

            Reminds me of the time I was watching Midsomer Murders and said, “This would be an awesome place to live if it weren’t for all the homicides.”

            1. becca*

              There was a recent article on crime reads dot com about how to not get murdered in a quaint English village, if anyone is curious. I was amused.

            2. Lupe*

              My home town is one of the three midsommer murders ones! (It’s like, a combo of a few local towns)

              It’s the show that all the locals watch, because you ocasionally get to see that neighbour you hate as the extra who gets horribly murdered in the first 10 minutes

              1. Clisby*

                And in such great ways! My favorite is the guy who was killed by having bottles of wine trebucheted at his head.

              1. Lupe*

                I can attest though that one of the midsommer murders villages is a great place to grow up, and that hardly anyone was murdered.

                1. Free now (and forever)*

                  The number of murders in Oxford was concerningly high, as well. But it did keep Morse, Lewis and Hathaway fully employed for years.

              2. pamela voorhees*

                Back when it was on the air, I remember fictional Absaroka county, Wyoming was found to be the most dangerous place in the US to live, because the TV show “Longmire” had a murder every week, in a county that had about 2,000 people total.

              3. whingedrinking*

                My mother has been known to complain about how much violence there is in moves that I like. She and my father, meanwhile, are completely addicted to the kinds of murder mysteries that air on PBS.

            3. Duvie*

              Not to mention the neighbours watching you from the second story windows as well as the risk of being sideswiped by a copper who can’t drive. (Love your screen name – not many Kipling fans around these days!)

          2. Wintermute*

            or fly Oceanic airlines– whenever a TV or movie needs something horrible to happen to an airline, they use Oceanic because no one wants their name associated with a fictional plane crash or terrorist incident. Goes double for when they need actual flight details like flight number, because it would be the height of bad taste to use a potentially real future flight number for your fictional disaster, on the off chance something happened to the real one.

            1. annakarina1*

              I know that’s the airline from Lost, I didn’t know the name was used in other fictional media.

          3. Watry*

            Or Sunnydale, CA. “If we can keep focus, keep discipline, and not have quite as many mysterious deaths, Sunnydale is gonna rule!”

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              Llama grooming is a terrible field to go into, it has so many problem employees and bosses.

          4. scribblingTiresias*

            Murder She Wrote is getting a weird amount of love from younger people these days- I just got into it thanks to a youtuber I like reviewing some episodes!

            1. Caramel & Cheddar*

              Seasons 1-4 are on Prime in the USA and Seasons 1-12 are on Prime in Canada, for those looking to get into it.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                I am working my way through What’s My Line?, free on YouTube. I first looked at it as a historical artifact. Then I got sucked in because it is really good. Nearly the entire run from 1950 to 1967 is available. No modern ads. The period ads have mostly been stripped out, but the few that remain are amazing.

                1. PeanutButter*

                  I have a large collection of old George Page-hosted Nature episodes, recorded off of PBS when I was a very young child. I’ve been thinking about digitizing them, and I want to keep the ads in or at least preserve them in some way because they’re great.

  3. Miss May*

    How is something like that even begin to get normal? Holy cannoli. I cannot even fathom what his personal life is like if that’s the way he behaves at WORK. I’d definitely bring this up to HR, as it is an immediate safety issue.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Remember that (now convicted rapist) Harvey Weinstein somehow normalized his sexually predatory behavior. Violence is not any more acceptable. Add a big neon flashing “YET” to everything they say about him not attacking people.

      1. mf*

        Weinstein also had a reputation for being an abusive boss (throwing stuff at assistants, for example). Violent/abusive behavior often carries to other forms of bad and criminal behavior.

        1. selena81*

          There is a believe that people should ‘let out’ their violent tendencies in order to be calm again.
          That believe is mostly wrong: it may help to work out your rage at night in the privacy of your own home, but violating boundaries in public and not being corrected will only cause you to keep violating boundaries.

      2. Jossycakes*

        A lot of people talk about ‘geniuses’ or ‘rockstars’ but I doubt their all that special. There are a lot of talented and hardworking people who aren’t shit heads. The less we put an individual on a pedistal the easier it will be to stop abusive behaviour. There’s nothing Weinstein or Musk can do than someone else if given the power and money. They are just lucky.

        1. selena81*

          I very much agree: more lucky than special

          For every violent guy with some modicum of talent there are lots of non-violent guys with as much if not more talent who have a hard time getting noticed because everyone is gawking at the aggressive jerk.

      1. Lance*

        Sadly, this. This is basically a case study in ‘things the ‘experts’/’indispensable’ folks can get away with’.

      2. Lord Gouldian Finch*

        Yup. I’m sure someone’s going “Well, it only costs us $20 to replace a keyboard and $50 to patch the drywall once a month, and he brings in $100,000+ a month, so it’s a benefit” without contemplating not everything can be reduced to pennies.

        1. Krabby*

          Yep, and it’s especially true when the missing stair is the founder of the company. I’m in the tech industry and this is all too common.
          That said, most of what I’ve seen has been people getting away with Unnecessary Yelling or Uncomfortable Proselytizing. Very different than actual violence, which would be where I draw the line (though the other things are pretty awful too).

          1. Ama*

            Yup, there’s a nonprofit in my city into which the founder has poured a ton of money — they pay almost on par with private industry here (I could take a position with them which is basically two steps down from my current job and make 10K more). But I’ve heard enough stories about the founder and how he behaves in the offices (one being that he walks around the office smoking which is a violation of the law in our city), and also seen them post that 10K more job at least once a year for the past five years. I suspect they have a hard time keeping people even with the really good pay but they also can’t fix the problem because the problem is the guy providing all the money.

        2. Delta Delta*

          This. I left a job where the abuser was an emotional abuser and who would go out of their way to hurt everyone. The reaction was “they’re in their 40s so they’re not about to change now. Besides, without their income we’d have to do layoffs.”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            s/”Gee, I can’t understand why the health insurance premium keeps going up. And why do our employees have so. many. doctor appointments? And look at the statistics for counseling help. Why-why-why.” /s

        1. IT Guy*

          Elon Musk isn’t known for breaking inanimate objects. Shooting them into space, sure, but being a predatory rage machine, no.

          1. Entry-level Marcus*

            Yeah, to be fair to Musk, he doesn’t seem like the nicest boss but I’ve never heard anything about him doing anything physical.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Considering all the recorded losses by Tesla, I’m cackling over “generate money”. But similar to that, he’s great at shining a big ol’ turd and getting people to stay invested in it to keep it rolling along.

        1. Kat in VA*

          I wonder how many EAs he goes through. I remember seeing a funny tweet that was similar to the following (paraphrased):

          Musk: Talking refrigerators.
          Assistant: /freezes/ Should…should I write that down?

          1. TardyTardis*

            Actually, I read an SF story where the heroine had to argue with her refrigerator about that last piece of chocolate cake. Those fridges would suffer far more ‘sudden breakdowns’ than normal ones, I would think.

        2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          It wasn’t one-on-one violence but what he did to Martin Tripp could have gotten the guy killed and Musk is smart enough to know it.

    2. JustaTech*

      Or it can be the culture of an entire industry. When I worked in academia (not that long ago), we had not just sexual harassment training, but “general” harassment training, which started when a researcher went to the sexual harassment office to complain that a colleague had, in a meeting, reached across the conference table, grabbed the research by the lapels and shaken them. Only after reporting this did the sexual harassment office realize that they didn’t actually have any rules against, you know, assaulting your coworkers.

      My grand-boss there was known far and wide for making people cry in meetings, and not just private meetings. And this was after he had “mellowed”!

      All this to say that, some industries have been so steeped in aggressive behavior that it’s been normalized and is super hard to root out. (That awful boss? He brought in tons of money, so…)

        1. AGD*

          Some fields are more proactive than others, but Karen Kelsky has an entire spreadsheet on thousands of cases called “Sexual Harassment in the Academy.” And that’s without straying into other kinds of abuse.

        2. Artemesia*

          You haven’t lived until you have had to sit through a faculty Senate meeting where old codgers natter on opposing policy to ban dating undergraduates. It is a civil right apparently for old men to prey on 18 year old co-eds.

          1. whingedrinking*

            Oh, but didn’t you know? If you remove any of the young women (such as “only undergraduates from our university, which still leaves a healthy number of other legally-adult teenagers in the world”) from an older man’s pool of consequence-free potential romantic partners, something terrible happens. Probably involving spiders. Better not to risk it.

        3. WannaAlp*

          Yes. The problem is compounded by the academics that you might get harrassment from are often in an entirely different institution, so there is no official route for addressing the problem.

        4. DiscoCat*

          I so wish I’d known that before I got mired in a toxic, dysfunctional mess of university. I naively believed that academics are educated, intelligent and cultured people who do absolutely everything to not be that kind of person. It messed with my head…

          1. selena81*

            Yeah, that’s certainly how they try to advertise themselves: way too enlightened for petty squabbles over money and status.
            And it sickens me that it may oftentimes be part of the abuse (‘i am your father/mother figure and trusted mentor, and totally not a creep preying on vulnerable students’)

            At the other end of the spectrum: my aunt knows a priest who was a bank-manager in his previous career. And she got all starry-eyed telling me that it was ‘such a total change away from the horribly selfish life of finance’.
            And i was like ‘uuuuhh, i worked at a bank, and the vast majority of people who work there actually feel they are really helping society by keeping your money safe and by providing useful financial services. Only a teeny tiny fraction of bank employees are burning through millions in risky stock trades’

      1. Lorac*

        Yeah, I worked at a non-profit started by a Stanford professor. He was notorious for being verbally abusive and throwing notebooks/papers/pens in the general direction of his employees. Never at them, because he knew that was a line to avoid, but just in their general direction.

        That place was a toxic unholy mix of the worst of academia AND non-profits.

    3. Former Navy*

      When I was in the Navy, on a ship, my department head would break 2-3 phone handsets a month by banging them against the desk or the phone itself. Once I had to pick him up from work, and discovered he had a reloading table (i.e., for reloading ammunition) as his dining room table. He made me memorize the name of the type of gun he had. He once implied to me that he had brought a gun onto the ship (which would have been very much against rules).

      I was a brand new junior officer, and apparently my red flags hadn’t been installed yet, because I found all this to be delightfully quirky rather than terrifying.

      He never did anything violent beyond the phone busting, though he did make sure to use the department head email to sign up for emails from a variety of porn websites (Playboy, etc.) before he left and was replaced by a female officer. (And somehow, even as a woman, it didn’t occur to me at the time how f’d up this was.

      Which is all to say, yes, it’s easy to get your workplace norms all messed up when you work in a situation like this.

  4. Junior Assistant Peon*

    Your boss is a famous bigshot with rage issues, habitually smashes keyboard when he’s pissed off, and everyone just accepts this because they’ve gotten used to it? Sounds like a pretty typical grad school experience to me!

    1. The Original K.*

      In my early 20s I briefly dated a first-year BigLaw associate who worked under a partner like this. No one did anything because the guy was a rainmaker.

      1. Jdc*

        I had a coworker threaten to kill me, scream at me in a rage because i asked him to hold on a second as I was on the phone with our attorney. Attorney and other coworkers heard he whole thing. Coworker who was my best friend said “well you shouldn’t have spoken back to him when he started yelling”. I was telling him to stop screaming at me. My boss refused to fire him because he made the company the most money so I quit. Attorney told my boss he wouldn’t work with boss (owner) since he allowed that. Let’s just say due to HIPPA I shouldn’t know but I do know that he is a narcotics and cocaine abuser and has been to jail for assault more than once. Nope! Walked right out the door.

        Ironically FCC shut them down 48 hours later and i was blessed with not being part of that mess.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          It’s stupid how the companies that enable these abusers never factor in the cost of high turnover and losing clients…

      2. becca*

        Whenever I read stories like this I wonder how many potential rainmakers have left whatever industry is under discussion because a company insists on keeping an abusive asshole around.

        1. aebhel*

          ^ yep. It’s kind of assumed that these people are such geniuses that they have to be retained even if they’re awful, but nobody considers the potential talent that they drive away.

          1. Tink*

            I wish there was an anonymous site, similar to Glass Door, but specifically for these bullies where one could post their names by industry, perhaps with an example of the behavior……

            1. selena81*

              sadly it would probably turn into a place for bullies to haunt their victims (by pretending the victim is the bully)

          2. selena81*

            my theory would be that a lot of times it merely *seems* like there is no other talent because any talent that happens to wander into the door flees before coming into full bloom (only the people with no other career-options stay for longer periods, and they will feel extremely demotivated)

        2. queen mab*

          Ding ding ding ding ding!!

          “Oh if we hold him responsible for [sexually assaulting women][being an abusive boss][causing harm to marginalized groups] we’ll lose such a ~tAlEnT~”

          well, what about the talent of the multitudes of people who were driven out of industries by assholes like this??

        3. polkadotbird*

          I wonder this too! And also… are they the rainmakers more than other people because they get given more resources and don’t do any other useful but non-income-generating work? If that makes sense.

          1. selena81*

            probably: easy to be f.e. ‘the doctor who sees the most patients’ if you ignore rules and pass all the difficult paperwork to your under-qualified assistant.

      3. Lemon Ginger Tea*

        Law firm urban legends… one time a paralegal told me about this new hot shot attorney who had just started working at the firm and threw a fit because she’d used the wrong tab dividers – not thick enough bond – and he FLUNG the bad divider across the room at her, it hit her in the face and she got a paper cut.
        I worked with him; can confirm he’s a YUGE a-hole.

    2. Lockstep*

      Sounds like this guy is being put up with just like how Apple employees put up with Steve Jobs; because he’s a genius and a rainmaker. Jobs was biggest asshole to work for and I’m sure that anyone who reported him to HR was escorted out of the building.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          no, but that doesn’t matter. He did scream at people, he did fire people with no notice and little reason, he insulted and harassed his employees regularly. Screaming at someone is intended to scare them just like being physically violent with equipment is, because in both cases the abuser is trying to make the target think it might escalate to physical violence against the target. In both situations, ‘physical violence against a person’ is a next step that happens regularly.

        2. Candace*

          Someone I know who worked at Apple during that time saw him throw an employee’s monitor down the stairs. So, yes, similar behavior.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah, there are so many cases like this in Big Tech and Hollywood. And our current president.
      Capitalism. Means. That. As long as crazy rage liars generate MONEY they are tolerated.
      As peons, there is nothing we can do about it but leave. But we unfortunately cannot leave the system that encourages it.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        Except it’s not just capitalism, right, because if you could put a dollar cost to all the intangibles the Angry Rainmaker costs the company, I bet it would outweigh what he brings in. It’s not just the $20 keyboard and $50 drywall, it’s the $UNKNOWN from clients who see Angry McRageFace and back away, $UNKNOWN_2 from all the promising up-and-comers who see Angry McRageFace and leave, $UNKNOWN_3 is the lost productivity from people who have to work for Angry McRageFace for all the hours they spent calming themselves down, or otherwise managing their emotions, so they don’t have a total meltdown at work, $UNKNOWN_4 — the difference in quality and productivity between employees who can’t find work elsewhere away from Angry McRageFace vs the employees who can easily find other opportunities.

        But no one sees those unknown costs, in part because of the inevitable human ability to ignore externalities and intangibles, but also, because patriarchy and the cult of the Big Strong Leader warps people’s perceptions of Angry McRageFace.

        1. Tellulah*

          I think this is definitely something that should be recognized more. Places could be losing a lot of value because of all the people these angry geniuses drive away or keep from developing. These externalities are real.

        2. Wintermute*

          The problem is companies have trouble seeing intangible costs. There’s a paper (and a book if I recall) about this exact phenomenon called “the asshole tax” which goes into the actual economics of employing rageaholics. When you look at costs holistically, in terms of the entire picture of costs– training costs, hiring costs, etc– the business case for employing these jerks is a lot more murky.

          But there also the correlated costs: health care premiums because your employees tend to have stress-related illnesses, mental health days and so on. The intangible costs like “ideas not capitalized because someone was too afraid to speak up” and “inability to attract and keep top talent forcing us to settle for lesser-quality employees”. And people rarely even THINK about accounting for the potential of unlikely but major costs; if someone has a 2% chance of losing you a 200,000 dollar lawsuit by his behavior, you should be carrying that on your books as a 4,000 dollar loss, after all.

          When you do ALL the math not just look at their net income as their only cost to the company it’s clear employing an asshole is financially a terrible decision unless they are truly a savant, and even then you’re putting so many eggs in one basket it’s risky, sustaining such costs to support one massive income source.

        3. selena81*

          it’s capitalism-as-an-ideology (‘you should never have any moral judgement over people, moral judgments are for filthy socialists’)
          as opposed to capitalism-as-a-tool (‘use whatever tools you have at your disposal to optimize overall profit, with the understanding that long-term succes often depends on building trust’)

    4. GrumbleBunny*

      This was exactly my undergrad experience when assigned to a senior project with a “genius inventor.”

      Luckily, after the guy threw a keyboard at a teammates head, we went to our professor and he was so horrified that he kicked that student out of our group and made him start a brand new project alone, from scratch.

      He’s an engineer at Google now, so…

    5. Anonz*

      This x 100000.

      I’m still recovering from my grad school experience. Gave me a PTSD diagnosis. OP, I think the cons highly outway the pros in this situation.

      1. Somewhat Sane Cat Lady*

        I’ve been out of grad school for nearly 3 years and am still recovering as well. My thesis supervisor was one of those who liked to throw/kick/slam things. What made it worse is that he could be super nice at times…and then horrible and unreasonable the next day. I talked to other people above him about it, and very little was done. Academia is a cesspool of dysfunctional personalities.

        1. whingedrinking*

          That is literally one of the patterns of an abusive relationship. It’s an effective tactic because it messes with your head – if you know that someone’s going to be awful all the time, you can develop strategies to cope with it, and maybe even work out a way to get out of the situation. When someone’s unpredictable, you’ve got the anxiety of not knowing what today will be like mixed with hope that maybe yesterday was the last bad day and now things will be fine all the time, oh god please please please. And that mixture of emotions is exhausting and leaves you no time to think about other stuff.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            Yes, that’s what my verbally and emotionally abusive father was like. About 4 times/year he would treat me like a person, and that would confuse me and give me the expectation he would do that more if I could figure out the formula to avoid his abuse…
            Of course that never happened, and I eventually stopped having a relationship with him.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I don’t have a diagnosis, but I’ve been out for more than 15 years and I still have recurring nightmares about grad school.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I figured out from reading articles I had PTS and told my therapist at the time. I didn’t get an official diagnosis or EMDR treatment till much later.
          I’ve had very good results from EMDR therapy if you want to try it.

    6. Atalanta0jess*

      But still, not at all acceptable. NOT ACCEPTABLE. This is perhaps a “typical grad school experience” in the way that sexual harassment is a typical grad school experience. The horrible, abusive, unacceptable, please-don’t-think-this-is-ok way.

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        Sexual harassment is another great example. I’m friends on Facebook with a bunch of grad school classmates who are now professors. On Facebook, they’re constantly saying things like “women in science, yay!” In private, the same people are saying “we need to sweep these complaints under the rug because Professor Horndog brings in a lot of funding.”

      1. AnonPi*

        Yup. I thought I was just unlucky to pick 2 awful undergrad depts, so figured grad school would be better. Nope, just all kinds of different messed up, and came to the realization after my first year that this is typical of academia, and this was not the kind of work life I wanted and jumped ship.

      2. The Academic*

        Have been in academia for 7 years, can confirm.

        Honestly though, I got lucky with my current position. I’m actually quite happy here and while there are some ‘personalities’ no one is remotely violent and I know our leadership wouldn’t stand for it no matter HOW much money they brought it.

    7. Artemesia*

      Yeah universities will force grad students to abandon their programs before they rein in big shots who are grant getters or famous for their research.

    8. Tau*

      Counterpoint: I did a PhD and my supervisor – and department in general – was absolutely lovely the entire way through. There was no yelling, no violence, everyone was incredibly supportive even when I was struggling badly. My brain breaks even imagining my supervisor raising his voice, let alone smashing things!

      Like, I know academia is its own beast, often dysfunctional, and that in grad school you’re really vulnerable to a power-tripping supervisor, but I dislike framing this as “a typical grad school experience” because it makes it sound like this is the price of admission, no point in complaining – or in trying to find a department that treats its grad students like human beings when you’re applying. But really, this behaviour is still unacceptable in academia, and in some places you can absolutely go to grad school without being subjected to this sort of thing.

      1. selena81*

        good point: framing it as ‘just the way it is, everywhere’ allows it to go on. This stuff should get reported and students should try to seek out non-abusive departments.

  5. Smeralda*

    Also, culture starts at the top. If someone else is violent or aggressive, who is going to handle it with this being the example?

      1. Anonymous Observer*

        Get out now. Start job searching, give your two weeks notice, lie low, and don’t bring it up in an interview. It won’t get better. People will cover for him. If you complain you will be seen as the problem. Some people do not care about bad behavior, and will even enable it, as long as they feel THEIR jobs are safe. Management cannot be trusted because they already know it exists and they dismiss it.

  6. Anonymous for obvious reasons*

    I’d be looking to leave. There was a much milder incident at my office (coworkers got in an almost-physical confrontation) and even after I sought reassurance from my boss that this had been addressed, for months I literally wanted to hide under my desk every time I heard the instigator in the halls.

    1. Letter Writer*

      These comments are so good to read. At least it brings into perspective that no, I’m not the crazy one, and it’s not that unreasonable to feel like I am. Thank you very much for sharing that!

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        You are not the problem.

        I’ll bet they put the new people in places where he tends to lose his temper, as a test. Be very cautious about approaching this with HR, have your exit plan in place first. See if you can switch seats to someplace more out of his way using some other reason.

        1. Anonymous Observer*

          HR knows about it and won’t do a single thing. Except maybe label LW as a troublemaker for stirring the pot.

      2. Observer*

        No, you are most definitely NOT the crazy one.

        They are going to try to make you look like the crazy one, but you are NOT. Read up about gaslighting – this is the kind of thing it refers to.

      3. lulu*

        Prediction: one day he will cross a line, and he will have to face consequences. People will start talking, and you will look extremely reasonable for having gotten out as soon as possible.

        1. Ancient Alien*

          This. Given enough rope, people like this always hang themselves. It’s just a matter of time. And you don’t want to be anywhere nearby when it happens. And it’s not just this guy’s behavior. Say something finally does happen and they fire him. Great. He probably does bring in a tremendous amount of money, so now he’s gone and there goes your job anyway. This guy’s behavior is understandably the focal point but, really, this is a deep-seated company issue.

        2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          Sadly my prediction is that one day he will cross a normal people’s line and rather than have to face consequences it will get justified as “Big Boss doesn’t normally react so fiercely but [blah blah mitigating factors]” and so the cycle will continue.

          Because I can’t see who he will be facing consequences *from*, here.

      4. Bostonian*

        OP, read the “I bit my coworker” letter linked at the bottom of the letter on this page. Workplaces like this will warp your perception of normal. I’m on Team Get Out If You Can.

      5. Just my 2 cents*

        You are 100% not the problem LW. I dated an abusive man who did similar things at home, behind closed doors. He was a nightmare to live with, but even he kept his sh*t together in public. I can’t imagine what this man is like in his private life if he’s openly being this aggressive at work. He sounds extremely unbalanced.

      6. Not So NewReader*

        OP, you are so not the crazy one.

        So at a nearby hospital there was a doc with a reputation -oh- 9 miles wide. I called to check on my dying father and he said, “Who are YOU?” I ignored the tone and answer the question. “I have never heard of you before now, how come? Why haven’t I met you yet?* You aren’t much of a daughter. You aren’t much of a human being. You really don’t deserve to have a father. Actually you are not much more than dirt.”

        *Docs rotated through CCU. My father had 28 doctors in 30 something days. I called them all “Doctor Du Jour”. The guy had probably been on my father’s case for- oh- 6 hours or so.

        So I did some talking around. It turned out that when nurses saw him coming down the hallway they ducked into the ladies room or the supply closet, as he would not walk into either one of those place. He was known for reducing even seasoned nurses to tears.

        I informed him that he was not God and therefore lacked the quals to judge me. I said he should limit his remarks to my father’s health issues. He did answer my questions about my father’s current status.

        I hung up the phone and cried like I was two years old.

      7. selena81*

        You are absolutely not crazy. But anybody who ‘indulges’ him is crazy. (they may frame it as ‘helping him get it out of his system’)

    2. Rob aka Mediancat*

      At the office I worked at 25 years ago, two of my co-workers got into a literal fistfight at their desks while I was in the bathroom. (One of them sold clothes as a side business, the other was Not Happy with a recent purchase and wanted a refund, trouble ensued.)

      The fight had been subdued and the employees were in the process of being fired and tossed from the building by the time I got back.

      The next day I had a new desk.

      1. allathian*

        One more reason to ban advertising for side businesses at the office! Yikes. Never mind that some people find it difficult to refuse to buy stuff from a coworker.

  7. Julie in Ohio*

    Wow. No, this is not at all normal, and a perfectly valid reason to leave. You can even use it (without names) as a reason for leaving, something like “physical violence toward inanimate objects was seen as routine.” Or depending on how long your stay is, feel free to leave this off the resume altogether.

    What is it with the asshat genius stereotype?

    1. TootsNYC*

      I say this every time a comment like this comes up:

      No matter how reasonable your dramatic reason, you don’t want it to become the focus of your interview.
      It will not help you.
      In this case, especially since this guy is so well known and leaving early may set off alarm bells, i think you might need to hint at it, but I wouldn’t get that dramatic and that specific.

      And always make it be about what you want to move TO instead, and not about what you want to move AWAY from.
      Why are you leaving? “I’m looking for a collegial atmosphere without a lot of drama, and I’ve realized GrandBoss’s company isn’t likely to provide that.”

      If he’s famous, they know. If they ask for more, say, “Well, he’s a little volatile, and I need more calm around me.”

      1. Sara without an H*

        This is good phrasing. If GrandBoss Awful is well known in the industry, OP won’t really need to be explicit.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          I’m not sure that it is well known in the industry, though (I’ve posted a separate comment about this) given that OP didn’t already know about it and seems already involved in the industry. Maybe OP is out of the loop but then hiring managers in other areas of the industry could also be out of the loop about that.

      2. Letter Writer*

        This is a great tip, thank you! I’ll be sure to use it if (most likely when, I guess) I start looking for a new job.

      3. Just Another Techie*

        Yuuuppppp. I did a fellowship in a lab in Japan once, with Sensei Angry Hotshot. Working for him was a w f u l. He would go on these rages, call people names and humiliate them in the middle of the lab, he once kicked over a bench with ¥11,000,000 worth of electronics on it. Later, I came back to the US, and my group ended up hiring someone from Algeria. This guy, the new hire from Algeria, heard I worked for Sensei Hotshot and immediately was like “OMG THAT GUY, I’m so sorry, and so impressed you toughed it out for a whole year!” Sensei literally had a _worldwide_ reputation (at least in our narrow field) for being a horrible boss.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Oh, so much this. I was given a non-voluntary internal transfer once where my new manager was an abusive bully. Everyone knew. The reason they needed to transfer me was because the previous person in the position I was going to fill had filed a report and refused to work for this person. My then-current supervisor had worked for her and witnessed her abusive behavior. my then-current grandboss had worked on committees with her and seen some of her volatile behavior. But the decision to transfer me came from higher up than either of them and they had no choice in the matter. But neither of them warned me. I found out about their experiences after I had worked for the abuser for about a year, and had locked myself in a supply closet to cry entirely too many times. I wish so hard that one of them had given me a heads up about what I was in for.

            1. Rob aka Mediancat*

              Your new boss was a bus and they threw you under it. No way were they going to warn you; if they warned you, you might have fought back.

            2. Tidewater 4-1009*

              If they warned you, you might have quit and they’d have no one for the position. I think they should have done it anyway, but they might have been directed not to.

            3. Hey Nonny Anon*

              After my first maternity leave, I was laterally transferred into a department that could not maintain clerical support because the temp agency we used refused to send their staff to work for the department director. He was sexist and manipulative, and belittled us all (while using the many good ideas we generated to make himself look smart to the higher-ups). He brought in business, though, and it was only getting caught in some semi-shady dealings that he got called on the carpet for anything.

      4. Lora*

        Yes. Exactly this.

        Had a professor who was a Bigshot. Known for similar behavior – throwing things, often at students, screaming meltdowns, breaking things, sexually harassing and occasionally having affairs with students then getting into monster arguments with his wife (who worked at the university in an admin role). But, dude brought in the grant money, so he was untouchable. He eventually became the head of the department, due to the grant money rolling in. Multiple lawsuits and settlements did nothing to dampen the university administration’s enthusiasm for his work. So he’s going to keep being horrible until he dies.

        Even when I’ve seen characters like him sent for training sessions and workshops to learn how to act like a goddam person, it never actually works. Habits of a lifetime, sort of thing. I’ve seen it from both men and women.

        Just leave. Vote with your feet. There are genius rainmaker bosses who are NOT giant jerks, who are kind and personable at work. They exist, I have seen them.

      5. Diahann Carroll*

        I would leave out the “without a lot of drama” bit for the very reason you told the OP not to tell a potential new employer exactly why she’s leaving – it’s vague and sounds gossipy. Like you said, if this guy is as popular in the industry as OP says, they already know he’s a nut, so she can just say she’s looking for a more collegial environment that her current company doesn’t offer and leave it at that.

    2. Dragoning*

      Because asshats that aren’t geniuses get shut down faster (usually).

      And geniuses who aren’t asshats aren’t sucking everyone’s energy into a black hole void they way asshats do.

      1. J.B.*

        Unless there’s someone picking up the elephant poop so the powers at be don’t know that the person really is not all that productive.

    3. mark132*

      I suspect in this case this person succeeds in spite of his anger not because of it. To succeed at the top often a certain level of “ruthliness”/drive helps but that’s different than anger,

      For a while a lot of people attempted to emulate Steve Jobs. He’s an a**h*le so I have to be one too to succeed. IMO Steve Jobs succeeded in spite of his behavior not because of it.

    4. Reality.Bites*

      You know, I’m not sure if it’s all that different from the person who runs the smallest of ordinary small businesses and is a tyrant making ludicrous rules. When the whole endeavour literally would cease to exist without you, and you have asshat tendencies, they’re going to come out.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      “What is it with the asshat genius stereotype?”

      I think of the old expression there is a fine line between genius and insanity.

      Once in a while I find articles that point out some qualities necessary for leadership are also qualities that dominate in certain mental illnesses.

      While I can make myself act like an extrovert, I am happiest as introvert. I can see where it takes something for a person to put themselves out in front. You have to have something moving you, you have to have certain strengths and so on. I think that unless you really know a person, it’s very possible to have no idea what kind of leader they will make until they are actually in the leadership position.

    1. CL Cox*

      Trust me when I say that this will not matter. If he’s this violent, he’s probably also prone to yelling on the phone and verbal abuse.

      1. Olive Hornby*

        I actually think this is a pretty reasonable solution, at least while the OP job searches–since she’s not his direct report, she probably won’t be on the receiving end of many phone calls from him, and it will remove her from an environment that’s bringing up bad memories.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This. And if he throws a fit over a call that she happens to be on, she can always lower the volume so she doesn’t actually have to hear it.

      2. Why are there onions on my pizza?*

        This was my experience with an abusive boss. I mean, I didn’t work remotely, but after a full day of work and probably enough time to eat after getting home, I’d get a phone call asking why I was laughing with fellow-coworkers and not him. And then a flipping laundry list of minor things I’d done “wrong.” For weeks.

        This boss liked me, and decided that we were dating. He was also prone to anger, and didn’t understand why I was horrified that he’d punched the vending machine as a way to psych himself up to talk to me.

        Like, there’s so much more to this ridiculous story, and I spent the better part of a year afraid to go to work, but I just wanted to echo that not being physically present will not stop you being exposed to this guy–especially if there are conference calls, email chains, etc. that he will be on. If being near his violent outbursts causes you stress, your body can begin to assume every time you see/hear him will be violent, and you will be miserable.

        Please please get out of this toxic environment if you can. Use the cache of having worked there to find something better

    2. Letter Writer*

      I’m afraid I can’t. The way confidentiality settings work in the company, only high level managers can work remotely at all, and even then it’s only allowed very occasionally. This was explained to me early in the interviews phase, so there’s no wiggle room there.

  8. RC Rascal*

    I have worked for a boss with anger management problems. Mostly they were verbal tirades. Everyone knew he did it, and while it wasn’t exactly condoned, no one sanctioned it. Then, the business took a downturn. Once he was under pressure at work, the anger escalated and he started throwing things at people, and then viciously targeting people he wanted to take the blame.

    Look for another job now. It’s isn’t worth putting up with the Brilliant Jerk. If you start talking to your manager and HR, they will see you as the problem, not the Brilliant Jerk. You may not even make it past your probationary period. As an aside, I question how Brilliant a high level Jerk with anger issues can be. Anger and adrenaline cloud decision making processes.

    1. Caliente*

      Yeah – I always roll my eyes when someone says someone is a genius and that’s why they’re an asshole. I mean if I’m smart enough not to be an asshole…I think I’m more of a genius.

      1. AKchic*

        Exactly. I’m smart enough to control my temper. I may not always have a handle on my smart-a$$ commentary, but I certainly keep control of my temper.

        *Abusers* do not control their temper unless it suits them. So, why are these “brilliant assholes” allowed to victimize these particular people? Are they deemed expendable enough? Are they not seen as valuable? Are they seen as canon fodder? What makes them less in the eyes of management that abusers are allowed to abuse them (and their belongings, even if company-purchased)?

        1. RC Rascal*

          In my experience, it’s because the people over them are too chickenhearted and conflict avoidant to actually manage them.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          And, interestingly, they generally *can* control their temper, when needed. So they may tell you they’re lashing out uncontrollably, but then you notice they never lash out at anyone above them, or at investors, or at reporters, etc., and you realize they can control it, they just choose not to.

          1. Coder von Frankenstein*

            Exactly. People who are truly unable to control their tempers are rarely found in positions of power.

        3. Jess*

          Yes! You’ll almost always find that these people with “””uncontrollable””” tempers because of their “””genius””” are actually perfectly able to control their tempers when it comes to people in more senior positions to them. It’s a blatant exercise of power and I have zero time for it.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I’m guessing this guy did something significant decades ago in the early days of whatever industry this is and has been coasting on his reputation and the collective work of his underlings ever since.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I’m curious what eventually happened with your “Brilliant Jerk” boss? 1) be brilliant and engage in verbal tirades 2) be put under pressure, escalate the behaviour, 3) ???

    3. Anonymous Observer*

      HR or anyone who currently has any power to change it or expose it, won’t. They have already been enabling it for years. OP will be seen as the problem. Existing upper staff has already shown they won’t do anything real about it. “That’s just how he is”. “Ignore it”. “Don’t be surprised if Big Boss throws a tantrum. He’s just that way”. “Get used to it if you want to work here”.

  9. TootsNYC*

    Do you work for Harvey Weinstein?

    He didn’t just use his industry leverage to try to coerce women into sexual relationships or sexual situations.
    He was an effing asshole to everyone in the company.

    Job-search, as fast as you can.

  10. Anon and on and on*

    I read the headline and realized my eyelids were so high up in my eyes, I could actually feel them.
    Genius: an eccentric man child who gets the end product he wants because nobody will tell him no. Or that his end product sucks.
    Eccentric: a euphemism for a violent man who has no regard for others.

        1. Amy Sly*

          Though I think “violent” is the wrong word. “Solipsistic” is probably a better fit; other people aren’t real to them, but just NPCs. That certainly can manifest as violence, but it can also manifest in non-violent sociopathies of manipulation and exploitation.

  11. annakarina1*

    “wildly inappropriate for a workplace (or for any place, except perhaps a martial arts studio)”

    Since I take martial arts, I can say that even in the MA world, nobody would tolerate a violent jerk who doesn’t follow sparring rules or is breaking things or hurting anyone outside the established rules of combat. People get called out if they try to fight dirty or disobey rules or don’t show good sportsmanship when practicing martial arts.

    And the fact that they seem just ok with him punching holes in walls or breaking 1-2 keyboards a month makes me almost think they have an emergency fund that takes care of the damages caused by the the boss’ rage moments, and just put up with it.

    1. BadWolf*

      Indeed — when I did weapons classes with martial arts, we had strict instructions on how to handle them both when using them, how to passively hold them and how to pick them up. There was no smacking things at random.

    2. hbc*

      Yeah, I think the only place where this is appropriate is a Rage Room, and even that’s not really equivalent because it’s under controlled circumstances. I’m sure the people setting up the room don’t have to deal with surprise destruction.

    3. Havarti*

      Yes, anger has no place in the dojo. I took some martial arts/self-defense classes a long while back and we were taught that actually punching people was a last resort when all other options (avoiding, de-escalating, or running away) had failed. Basically you learn to defend yourself in the hopes you never actually have to.

      LW, here’s my vote: Get out! To heck with how good this dude’s name will look on your resume. It’s not worth the inevitable PTSD.

    4. Peaceful Martial Artist*

      Also a martial artist, and this is 1000% behavior that I would tell people to avoid if they saw it in an instructor or senior student. Safety is a huge thing in training, and the general population just doesn’t get it since they just see the physical actions.

      I was kind of irked at that parenthetical, if I’m honest.

    5. Bostonian*

      I was wondering how long before someone brought this up… I think this was meant to be a bit of levity rather than Alison really thinking that this kind of behavior goes on at a martial arts studio.

    6. Double A*

      Yeah even if you know karate.
      You have to both agree to use karate.
      It can’t just be one guy using karate.
      You gotta have some ground rules.

      Real Life Fighting is Awkward

    7. Tellulah*

      Yeah, my dad accidentally kicked a hole in a wall in a martial arts class and the instructor made him do push-ups. Pretty sure you got kicked out of class if you did that on purpose.

      1. annakarina1*

        My gym has a half-joking “You break you, you buy it” attitude when it comes to the wall mirrors or the punching bags being broken. Sometimes there are people sparring who keep throwing/pushing each other against the mirror and the trainers have to call them out to keep it in control and not break the mirrors.

        One guy did accidentally kick a punching bag to the ground (it got loose from the ceiling hook) and he goes “I’m not THAT strong!” It was an obvious accident, so everyone laughed about it.

    8. Sandan Librarian*

      Just chiming in with the others: this would absolutely be inappropriate behavior in any dojo I’ve ever heard of. That said, I’m pretty sure Alison intended the remark to be humorous. It just happens to also be super inaccurate.

    9. Rockin Takin*

      I do Krav Maga, and one of the biggest rules is you never start a fight, but you finish them. If I was running around the building breaking stuff it would not be cool with anyone in Krav, and I would likely be kicked out.

      You’d think this company would be concerned that a boss is damaging company property. In a previous job, someone slammed a door into a wall hard enough to break the wall. It was a big deal that it went unreported (it was in an aseptic clean room so the dust from the dry wall was a serious problem) and they asked around to try and figure out who did it.

      1. annakarina1*

        I had to replace a library book from work when I brought it home and my cat chewed it up. It was a low price to pay compared to if I damaged more expensive company property.

    10. Karen*

      I manage and train staff for a multi-location martial arts studio and was coming in to fully agree, this behaviour is wildly inappropriate for a martial artist as well.

    11. whingedrinking*

      I used to tutor, and you’d be amazed what kids will tell their tutors that they don’t want to talk about with parents and teachers. In one case, I had a student who was majorly into martial arts – judo, I think. There was another student at the dojo who was older and bigger than her, and she felt like any time they were sparring together, he was being unnecessarily rough. She believed he was doing it on purpose to scare her and she was worried that one day he was going to really hurt her. She hadn’t told her sensei about it, though, because shortly before this started she had accidentally injured another student in the class and she thought the sensei would be unsympathetic, or just tell her it wasn’t a big deal.
      I replied by telling her that she never, ever had to spar with someone she didn’t feel safe with, for any reason. If she told her sensei that she was scared and the sensei didn’t listen, she could still refuse to participate if she was paired with this other kid – and she should. Because, I stressed, it was absolutely not worth the risk of her getting injured, and any adult who got butthurt because a twelve-year-old girl felt unsafe was not someone she wanted to be taught by anyway. (And of course to tell her parents, who should have her back on this.)
      It was more than a little heartbreaking how much of a revelation it obviously was for her to be told that she had the option of not agreeing to let someone else beat her up.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Unfortunately I left that tutoring center shortly afterwards and I never did find out. But if I had the option of what she remembers from tutoring, either grade seven math or that she has a right to protect her own safety, I know which one I’d pick for her.

  12. Peter*

    Get out of there as fast as you can. This kind of situation is a time-bomb. One day someone will raise the issue in the public eye (or at least in the industry in general since you said he’s a well-known genius).

    Then if you tolerated this, you’ll have to explain why you did nothing.

        1. Properlike*

          No they won’t. Anyone who’s worked in this industry for any length of time will have heard the rumors. OP won’t have to explain anything. I was hearing about Harvey Weinstein’s temper and tactics 20+ years ago.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Exactly. Nobody’s going to ask someone who worked for this man’s company for only a handful of months, in what I’m guessing is either an entry-level or mid-career individual contributor role, why she didn’t try to stop the Big Boss from being a raging loon in the workplace – that’s way above her pay grade.

        2. Sara without an H*

          I disagree. Remember, OP is very, very junior here. At most, people might ask her what it was really like to work for Glassbowl the Genius, but I doubt if anybody would hold her accountable for his behavior.

          1. Wintermute*

            Bingo! There’s a level on the org chart where “oh man you worked with Joe Glassbowl, oh man, my condolences” gives way to “it’s criminal how they let him treat those poor interns, how dare you”– and that level is about the level above OP’s grandboss.

          2. Antilles*

            Especially with four levels of difference – that’s enough separation that many people would assume your interactions with Glassbowl were infrequent and superficial. Like at the “we nod in the hallway every now and then” or “once I had a minor role in a project he was supervising” level of interactions.

        3. Caliente*

          Come on, that would be total victim blaming. And if someone did hold it against the OP for some reason, that’s just another place with a bunch of jerks that she doesn’t want to work with.

        4. Lance*

          If they do ask such a question, they deserve a response like ‘why are you asking? you know I don’t even come remotely close to having any influence over this person, right?’

        5. Sharbe*

          Yeah, they’ll ask. Doesn’t mean the question is at all legitimate or helpful. You don’t blame subordinates for the bad behavior of their superiors – not when they hold the subordinate’s pay and career advancement in their hands. The question isn’t “Why is she doing nothing about this?”, they question is “Why is he treating other people like this?”

        6. Observer*

          No, they won’t. The only people who will “ask the question” are trolls and people trying to distract everyone from their culpability.

        7. Retro*

          I think an important distincion we need to make is that the first priority should be for OP to feel safe or get out of an unsafe situation and not to stop the violent boss. Correcting the behavior is secondary and not always something you can realistically do. Especially in OP’s case where everyone around her has normalized violent behavior and she doesn’t have the leverage or power to make the bad behavior stop.

          We never know what sorts of situations people are in and whether they can realistically weather the storm that it takes to call out a superior’s bad behavior especially one that holds much more power than OP. Putting the blame on someone who cannot stop the bad behavior is taking blame away from the person exhibiting the bad behavior in the first place.

        8. Eternally Yours*

          Wow. I hope you don’t work for EM. This sounds very much like how people have described him in the past. Regardless, no this is not normal. I fully understand why you want it on your resume, but this is not worth the mental toll it will take on you. Good luck!

        9. Not a Blossom*

          No one is going to ask why someone several levels down the food chain didn’t stop the lunatic in charge.

        10. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          What sane person would ask? “Why did you not exercise some kind of nebulous authority to change the behavior of someone several levels above you with enormous industry clout?” Come on. That’s a stupid question for anyone to ask.

        11. TootsNYC*

          they will not.

          People might ask why Harvey Weinstein’s assistants funneled women to him, but they were actively assisting. And they aren’t really being asked that much anyway.
          And not by very many people (except this woman, as reported in Vanity Fair):

          Zoë Brock: He called up one of his assistants, Rick Schwartz, and they drove me back into town. Rick was ashen. As I said in the class action lawsuit, he turned to me and said, “I’m so sorry. Of all the girls we’ve done this to, it shouldn’t have been you. You deserved better.” He admitted to my face that it was a pattern—that they worked together in unison to do that. It was organized crime.

          People are angry with Weinstein’s board members and fellow executives–but not THAT angry.

          The OP is not helping this guy commit crimes. And she is NOT in any way his equal, nor has she been appointed to provide a check or supervision (as a board of directors is). No one is going to ask her why she didn’t do something about him.

        12. Annony*

          If the. OP was this guy’s boss that might be a fair question. But no one is expected to stop their grandboss from having violent outbursts. Only assholes will be asking that.

        13. Anonymous Observer*

          Doubtful because he/she is an observer not engaged in same bad behavior. It would be different if OP were enabling said behavior or tried to pretend it didn’t exist when everyone knew it did.

      1. Wintermute*

        You’re 100% right that it’s not the OP’s fault or any blame, but I think it’s fair to point out to them that this may raise questions and cause people to wonder– There is a sort of implication of what I like to call “radioactivation”: you put most materials in the center of a nuclear reactor, and they end up highly radioactive isotopes themselves; when your workplace becomes a byword for dysfunction and bad management, people start to wonder how that’s affected you.

        That said, the further down the org chart you are, the more this is in a pity kind of way than a wary kind of way. Once you reach a certain level people are going to start assuming you were part of the people enabling the boss, but if you were just a low-level, relatively inexperienced employee then you’re probably going to get more “oh man, did you have to work for Joe Glassbowl? Oof… I bet you’re glad to be in the job market!” sympathy than anything else.

        1. Arabella Flynn*

          I call it “asshaberdashery”: When someone is such a colossal asshat that the people around them have to behave like asshats as well, just to deal with the original offender.

      2. Bostonian*

        I’m with AAM on this one. Let’s not forget she’s very much familiar with the amount of distance from a brilliant asshole before people start asking questions about why you didn’t do anything to stop it.

        This guy is OP’s, what, great great great grandboss? The power difference is just too much.

    1. Observer*

      Thanks for a perfect example of concern trolling.

      Also for the kind of tactic that is routinely used to silence victims and bystanders.

    2. pamplemousse*

      Someone should be asked that question, but it’s his bosses (which could be the board if he’s the CEO), not his underlings.

      1. Anonymous Observer*

        Right. Bosses, the Board, anyone who enabled for years, anyone who had any power to blow the whistle on it. Not random newbie who is simply an occasional observer.

    3. Sleve McDichael*

      If anyone asks why you tolerated this, then that’s a really easy way to know you don’t want to interact with them in future. So it’s not a problem, it’s a feature. Any interviewer who asked me this would be struck off my list, any friend would be moved to acquaintance status. It’s so handy when people show you their true colours so you don’t have to find out the long way!

    4. Anonymous Observer*

      No. If OP gets out quick no one will even remember. If not, people will know OP was just a cog in a machine and not able to change anything. It doesn’t sound like sexual harassment and OP is not working there long-term aiding and abetting illegal and immoral behavior or knowingly covering it up. That’s the kind of thing people rightly question. Not being witness to a temper tantrum.

    1. Anonymous Observer*

      Smashing a keyboard and being an occasional arrogant jerk is a long way from a systemic sexual abuser that people covered up for for decades. The female agent who knowingly sent women into his den should also have been prosecuted. The people in power who ignored or minimized the complaints of sexual abuse are complicit. I suspect most of them were covering their own hides and didn’t want to jeopardize their paychecks.

  13. Falling Diphthong*

    Also, what is up with this guy that he’s getting this angry so often?
    It would be totally fair to take this as a bad sign about the state of the company. As an outside observer, maybe one destroyed keyboard is a bad day–the second says that these meetings are about massive revenue shortfalls, or similarly terrible news.

    1. CL Cox*

      Nope. Given the frequency with which these apparently happen, this could be his reaction to any bad news. Or criticism. Or someone getting his lunch order wrong. People with anger management issues don’t tend to differentiate between big things and small things.

      Unless this is a very calculated action designed to keep people “on their toes,” which is a whole other level of abuse that could be escalated at any time that he feels he’s not getting the reaction he wants any more.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Honestly someone with this level of anger issue doesn’t even need the excuse of bad news, criticism or a wrong lunch order; someone could have worn a color he hates, used a blue ink pen instead of black to sign their name, has an iphone instead of android or any number of totally normal and not-anger-inducing things. The unpredictability of what might set him off is part of the control tactics.

        1. MistOrMister*

          I agree with this. There are times I have been absolutely infruriated at work and what I do is vent to my friends. I would never for one moment think to destroy property, whether mine or someone else’s. I take that back….I have received some much needed satisfaction by tearing up papers (which I get from my recycle bin!!). One in a while I throw a paper to the floor to emphasize my disgust….and then I promptly pick it up and but it in the bin.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        Exactly. It’s a colleague’s keyboard smashed on a table today. It could next be a coffee cup flung across a doorway that someone unknowingly walks through right as the cup is there. Or it could be her laptop with her presentation that’s not saved/backed up, and she gets blamed for not backing it up.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          It could next be a coffee cup flung across a doorway that someone unknowingly walks through right as the cup is there.

          Oh, I bet this company’s legal department and insurers would love this. He’s opening them up to so much liability here – it’s only a matter of time before he hurts someone and the company gets sued.

    2. Antilles*

      I don’t think so, since this is a long-standing pattern.
      If it had come out of nowhere that he was previously genial but then suddenly started being super angry and irritable, it would be fair to wonder if there was something going on about the meetings that has been suddenly setting him off…but this has apparently been going on long enough that they can actually quantify it as “oh, one or two keyboards a month”. That’s well beyond just a bad month of sales and firmly into the territory of being unable/unwilling to manage his anger.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Agreed, it seems sort of an “open secret” that Big Boss is like this and people are resigned to it.

        With my “sensing signals that go under the radar for most people” hat on I’d be inclined to wonder how I could differentiate BBs outbursts from genuine business problems (or if I need to).

        I posted in another thread challenging the “unable/unwilling to manage his anger” framing, though — essentially saying that I know of people in my own personal experience, and it’s possible BB is like this, — for whom expressing physical violence on keyboards etc is a calculated move and they are fully aware of what they’re doing, rather than having lost control.

        Now that I think about it again, I’m not sure which one is more frightening. The one who consciously uses violent acts to subjugate and intimidate? Or the one who truly loses control?

    3. Not So NewReader*

      People who blow up like this do it most to manipulate others, just my opinion.

      There is also a school of thought that says, the angry ones don’t know how to manage, so they fill in their knowledge gaps with anger.

      Personally, I would just tell myself that this is what severe constipation looks like in humans.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        My father used to blow up almost every day and it was because he suppressed his anger.
        His anger came from his even more abusive parents. Understandable, but he made no effort to get over it and avoid hurting his family with it.
        My impression was he was angry all the time but managed to suppress it to get along at work and in social situations.
        As someone else pointed out, when a person doesn’t blow up around their boss, or in public, or other situations where they would get in trouble, it means they can control their outbursts when they choose to.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Actually, I remember at least once he did blow up in public. All the other customers left and the manager took him aside. I asked what happened and he said we wouldn’t be going there anymore.
          Years later I put it together the manager had banned him from going there.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I so get this.
            I also notice the ability to deflect. “We won’t be going there anymore….” leaving out the part, “because I have been banned from the place.”
            I get what is happening there also.

            I am very sorry you went through this stuff.

            1. Tidewater 4-1009*

              Thank you! I got away and have a much better life now. :)
              My father and mother are both still in denial, decades later.

  14. Witchqueen*

    He’s not really an industry genius. Not if he acts like this. Eventually this is going to bleed through and one day he’ll display his anger in front of the wrong person. Stars rise, but they fall, too. The sun always sets.

    Just peace out and be honest (but also matter-of-fact!) about why you left, “One of the leaders displayed irrational and alarming anger issues and I didn’t want to work in a place like that.”

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Yeah, at some point someone will record one of these outbursts and publish it. Or a reporter may be interviewing co-workers right now and an expose may be published soon. It’s not like to old days where this kind of behavior can fester until the executive retires, it gets exposed and the company collapses. The OP needs to leave because of the abuse, but also because a company that allows this can fall in an instant.

      1. Ancient Alien*

        Yep. It’s just a matter of time before this guy becomes Internet Famous. And then it comes out which company it is. And then the CEO is going on the news to explain the new $50 million culture program they are rolling out.

      1. Galinda Upland*

        Did not expect to see a reference to my industry this fine morning (but also, yep, perfect example).

  15. Dust Bunny*


    This a-hole is getting a pass because “he’s a genius” with a lot of clout in the industry, but it’s beyond wrong that people like this don’t get called out until they do something super illegal, if ever.

  16. JM in England*

    How much longer before his rage is taken out on people instead of inanimate objects?

    RUN, OP. RUN!!!

    & I also second Smeralda’s suggestion of putting this behaviour on Glassdoor….

  17. Skyto*

    I worked at a place like this. The big boss was known for screaming at employees and throwing things. I once turned the corner to find him with his hand around another employee’s throat, pushing him against a wall. The boss was playing it like it was a joke, but I could see the employee was freaked out. It was completely normalized because it was a place that hired people that might not have been able to get jobs elsewhere (lot of ex-cons and just generally people with very VERY lax professional standards). If you were a warm body and could show up and do the work, they’d pretty much hire you. So nobody said anything because they didn’t want to jeopardize what they had going on.

  18. AndersonDarling*

    Besides how horrifying the behavior is, the OP is working in an environment where no one can can say anything that may upset the superintendent. Is this guy really a genius, or is he surrounded by yes-men who have to agree or else their property gets destroyed?
    Any company that allows this behavior will allow anything. Sexual harassment, racism, fraud, abuse, theft…HR is at the beck and call of the executives and won’t step in the day the OP need help. Leave. Leave now. It will only get worse.

    1. Dragoning*

      Sounds like my property would get destroyed anyway. There would be a small part of me growing every day I worked there trying to summon the courage to say something based on that alone.

      But I don’t know if I could ever bring myself to do it.

    2. Celeste*

      Totally agree. People have this idea that, if this is as bad as it gets, I can take it. Reality: it can always get worse, and you do not want to find out how bad it can get.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        And I bet it is worse but the OP hasn’t been there to uncover it. I worked for a guy that screamed and threw things and he was cooking his accounts and stealing from the company. But anytime there was a suspicion of wrongdoing, he would scream away HR and the auditors and the higher ups didn’t want to deal with it. So he got away with everything.

          1. AndersonDarling*

            I was forced out when I tried to bring up the stealing and that was over 10 years ago. I bet it is still happening.

      2. emmelemm*

        This, very much. Something happens and the world doesn’t end, so you think, “OK, it’s bad, but not that bad.” IT CAN ALWAYS GET WORSE.

  19. CL Cox*

    I am willing to bet good money that this guys is revered by people who have never worked for him and/or others in the upper levels of management. HR managers (and secretaries, we often know what’s going on) have probably heard horror stories from those employees who left and are well aware of his anger issues.

    It really sucks that he’s getting so much praise when he’s obviously such a horrible person.

  20. EPLawyer*

    ” (a) showing their anger is outside of their control ” I’m going to disagree with you just a tiny bit here Alison. Sadly, he is completely in control of his anger. He knows EXACTLY what he can get away with. It’s a power move, not an out of control anger. In his mind, beating up keyboards and punching holes in walls keeps everyone in line. It makes people worry he MIGHT hit someone, but he never quite does. Because he knows if he actually hit someone he would be gone.

    This company has decided that having the genius of the industry work for them is worth any turn over from actually having to work with this abuser. Everyone works around it because that’s just the way it is.

    The only way to rationally deal with it is to leave, I’m sorry to say.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      This. Guarantee you he doesn’t do this with clients or professional contemporaries, only people who don’t have the power to help him.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I completely agree. The guy knows what he can get away with and will keep pushing the line as far as he can. His high is making people scared and he will never stop.

        1. Krabby*

          Yes! I’m glad I’m not the only one who reads some of the stories on AAM and thinks, “I’m so glad I get to be alive /after/ we finished with feudalism.”

    3. pope suburban*

      This. He’s destroying things- other people’s things, he can pick what he smashes up- to send people a message that it could be them, or to be thankful it’s not them. The behavior is a threat, and a common example on domestic-abuse checklists. I mean, I very much doubt he’s pulling stunts like this in front of people he sees as on his level, or people from whom he needs something he perceives as important. He’s got control, and he’s choosing to be like this. OP needs to run.

    4. annakarina1*

      There’s an old PSA against domestic abuse where the abuser is shown at work beating up his boss or in a diner beating up a waitress, and the title cards is like “You wouldn’t do this in public, it’s not ok in private.” Also pointing out that someone who claims they can’t control their anger can control it when it affects their job or public image, or if they would face personal consequences for it, so they pick easier targets (domestic partner, children, subordinates at work) to abuse and control.

      1. ellex42*

        And people like this are really, really good at picking out who won’t (or can’t) fight back. They never show this side of themselves to anyone who will stand up to them.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      YES THIS.

      And this is really important to know, and to internalize: this guy is abusive, and he’s doing it on purpose. He’s not out of control. He’s using violence to manipulate the people around him.

    6. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      Yep. I grew up around someone with a temper like this. The claim of “Oh, I can’t help it” or “Oh, I just lost control” is 100% blame dodging bullshit.

      People who really cannot control their outbursts don’t generally rise to positions of power, because they have an outburst around the wrong people early on. If someone has made it, you can bet that their temper tantrums are 100% under their control and they just know that it’s safe to lash out where they currently are.

      1. WS*

        +1. I have worked with people with acquired brain injury who really couldn’t (before a great deal of time, medication and therapy) control their outbursts. None of them were bigshot business people. None of them had jobs at all, at the start. All of them had criminal records. Bigshot business guy is abusive because he likes it.

    7. Havarti*

      Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why Does He Do That?” pretty much covers that. He’ll destroy other people’s things but never his own so he’s not as out of control as he appears. His keyboard technically belongs to the company and is easily replaceable.

    8. Observer*

      It really doesn’t matter is he can actually control his anger – that’s the excuse he’s making. And if it WERE true the company would have to take is seriously because it could then endanger the company in ways that they might not want to deal with. So, it’s important to call this out.

      “Oh, he really can’t help it? What happens when he does this in front of a client? Or destroys a client deliverable just before deadline?”

    9. Nanani*

      Ding ding ding.

      This is Abuser Control Tactics 101. Just applied to a whole business instead of one romantic partner.

    10. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I posted a couple of comments below alluding to this, and I hadn’t read yours. Sorry! You already made the point! And I fully agree: tl;dr often these people’s behaviour is actually calculated and manipulative rather than actually “losing control”.

      It can be hard to tell the difference between actual damage of physical objects that could escalate to violence towards people (or could have already, but been rendered non-disclosable by some kind of NDA and settlement agreement) and ‘strategic’ keyboard-smashing etc to keep people in line.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think there is any real difference. Someone who resorts to “strategic physical damage to keep people in line” (and it’s not just keyboard damage, it’s punching holes in drywall), is NOT someone who I would trust to keep within bounds. This is someone who has gone so far past the bounds of reasonable behavior, that the ONLY thing that would keep this kind of person in check is the conviction that he’s not going to get what he wants by doing damage. The current high profile example is Harvey Weinstein. He wasn’t “out of control”, but he committed plenty of violent acts.

  21. Random commenter*

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he deliberately did that in front of the new employee to make the first impression one of fear.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Or that HR puts new employees in an area where they’re likely to see this behavior to test their willingness to go along.

  22. IT But I Can't Fix Your Printer*

    Get out. Even if you’re able to find a way to deal with this long-term, you’re risking your future job satisfaction & performance because it’s so easy to forget how to function in a normal environment after a dysfunctional one like this.

    1. Copier Company Admin Girl*

      1. This! Not only will this erratic/insane/alarming behavior jeopardize your performance at this job, but it sets you up to carry all sorts of f’d up ideas into your future workplaces. This behavior, and the blase attitude towards it, is Extremely Not OK on every level.

      2. Unrelated to OP’s question (apologies Alison- please delete if need be!) but I specifically replied to this comment because I work for a printer dealer and our amazing-but-perpetually-too-busy IT specialist is constantly redirecting our clients network questions (disguised as printer questions) to their respective IT departments lol.

  23. Reality Check*

    I always wonder, in situations like this, what does one say at the next interview when asked why they’re leaving the job?

    1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      Just say “The leadership style wasn’t a good fit. I’m more interested in collaboration and analysis, while senior management emphasized violence.”

      1. RC Rascal*

        Do not say “senior management emphasized violence”! Nooooo….

        If you must talk about how your present leadership behaves, say the leadership style seems to be emotional and impulsive.

      2. CL Cox*

        LEave out the violence part. Because the new company will call the old company to confirm employment and this could well come up during that conversation. And if the old company denies it, the OP will not get hired. Leave it at “I realized that the job/culture wasn’t a good fit for me.” And then pivot to what they are excited about with the new company’s culture. Like, “And I have heard great things about working for Teapot Design Inc., especially the opportunities for professional development.”

    2. RC Rascal*

      You don’t talk about what you are leaving, you talk about what you are seeking.

      I just started at Firm X. Now that I am here, I don’t feel like I fit in very well. I value an environment where decisions are made in a calm manner as a result of careful evaluation of all relevant data. I am very analytical and want to make sure I am considering all relevant variables when I make a decision. How does your company go about making decisions?

    3. AndersonDarling*

      I said exactly why I was leaving. “I worked for a manager that would scream, throw things, and all the employees walked around in fear every day. I did my best to keep my head down and just do my work, but I realized that there wasn’t any reason to stay there. I want to work somewhere where I am part of a team and can speak openly. I want to be honest why I left because I don’t want to end up in similar environment.”
      I don’t know if that was the best route, but it got me a job in a great environment that was collaborative and supportive.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        I’m glad things worked out.

        Personally, I like your approach. It included what you’re seeking, but it also drew a perfectly reasonable boundary.

    4. AJ*

      @Alison is there ever a time where mentioning violent behavior in the workplace is ok in an interview? This has come up a few times and I still struggle with the suggestion that its never ok to say “my current job has turned violent so I’m looking to leave”.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        To actually get her attention, you should leave a link in your comment so it goes into moderation. Otherwise she only skims comments for the most part and misses these. this isn’t twitter/facebook so @ won’t ping her!

      2. No Name #1*

        I think this approach would be understood if the boss’ behavior became publicly known. For example, someone who worked at Harvey Weinstein’s company would probably not be perceived as overly dramatic if they were honest about what occurred, and if anything, it would look suspicious if a former employee of his skirted around the issue. Obviously Weinstein is incredibly famous, but on a smaller scale, if your previous employer was arrested for assault or lost a lawsuit, to be it would be extremely reasonable to say “my previous employer, Asshole’s Name, was sued for creating a hostile workplace for women and lost. I had trouble focusing on my work in this environment, and as a result I am seeking opportunities at an organization that values respect and the safety of all employees.”

        I worked at a non-profit under an executive director/founder who was extremely verbally abusive and prone to screaming and extreme paranoia. She was essentially a textbook narcissist, and her behavior and decisions impacted her employees. Because we worked directly with clients in a marginalized community, the instability ultimately impacted them. I worked in a small niche field and have heard from multiple people who are respected in this field that ED was notorious for her behavior. Still, she is publicly lauded for her work. I wouldn’t know if a potential employer was aware of her antics unless the interviewer or potential boss told me.

        It really sucks in a lot of ways that her behavior is enabled and I do hope that someday someone blows the whistle. Until then, in interviews I will focus on what I hope my future employer does to support employees and I will convey this by asking questions and expressing why I think it is vital for employees to be supported in a field with high potential for burnout and vicarious trauma.

        1. Krabby*

          I was interviewing someone in a similar situation recently (not Weinstein, think Amazon), and we had heard a lot of stories about how employees there were treated. So, we probed a little when we got to the question about why she was looking for a new job. Her first answer was about what she wanted to move toward (a good strategy), but as we asked her specific questions she was honest about how bad the working conditions were. Her answers were very unemotional and non-judgmental (think, “We were expected to be reachable at all times, including weekends,” instead of, “The working hours were insane and I had no personal life”). It actually helped her candidacy.
          But, you have to be careful. It’s a fine line to walk down and people usually recommend you avoid the topic because it’s so easy to make yourself look bad.

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        It’s not that you’re not allowed to mention violent behavior in an interview, it’s just that something like that has the potential to overshadow the rest of your interview. When you walk out of the room, you want the interviewers to remember you as “AJ who had that great idea about how to roll out the new widget upgrade,” not “AJ whose boss screamed and threw things.”

        I think it’s okay to skate close, but you don’t want to give so much detail that it becomes a whole thing. For this situation, I’d probably say something like “Tempers run high more often than I’m comfortable with, and I’m looking for a more collaborative environment where staff feel comfortable and empowered to share their ideas.”

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          “Tempers ran high more often than I was comfortable with, and hands closed into clenched fists which intersected with walls a bit more often than I thought was productive.”

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I always just say that it was a bad “fit”.

      Then when they ask me about what I require from an employer or something similar to that, I make it clear I don’t tolerate screaming or throwing things. They look at you like “Wait…what?” and then it clicks in their head that you’ve seen The Crazy Sh*t.

      I never pin it to a certain experience because of the age old “Don’t bad mouth your former employer.”

      Just like how when I quit because of egregious safety issues, I just said that it was a bad fit. And then I work in how I’ve always worked directly on safety committees and take safety extremely serious, including properly attending to employees who are injured while on the job. That way if they’re the kind of scrubs that like to worry more about their WC rates over their workers safety, they can just go ahead and save us both by not extending me a job.

      1. Ancient Alien*

        Yes. You can get the message across loud and clear without having to make any direct accusations.

    6. Lora*

      “The job was described as X, but when I got there they really needed Y”

      In jobs like that, you interview for whatever the job you actually wanted was, but when you get there you spend 75+% of your time trying to clean up your boss’ messes, whether they are with customers or other departments or your colleagues. So, the job was presented to you as X but what they really needed in the role was Public Relations / Interdepartment Coordinators / HR support / Regulatory Management for the department, which is really not your thing.

    7. J.B.*

      I went back to school and focused on the reasons I went back to school. I couldn’t avoid entirely talking about the behavior with the bigwigs, so I focused on simple factual things that are really not.normal in most workplaces. Don’t know if it worked or not :(

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Many times they already know.

      My husband worked for years for The Raging Screamer. At his new company another man was hired. The new hire also worked for The Raging Screamer. New hire said to my husband, “YOU LASTED EIGHT YEARS WITH THAT DUDE??”, right out loud and right in front of the current boss.

      It was a beautiful moment.

  24. hayling*

    Run run run! Staying at a place like this will totally warp your sense of normalcy and also leave you with horrible anxiety.

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

    OP, I’m so sorry. I knew someone who was like this and it was a massive anxiety trigger. He banged his desk with his fists constantly, threatened a coworker who was given access to a database without his approval, shouted at a coworker who had tampered the QA environment to hide her blunders (not ok!), among other stuff. Despite his technical level, he’s definitely not suitable for any kind of team work. When he left due to payroll irregularities, he reported them to Microsoft’s representatives for using unlicensed software.

  26. Celeste*

    Your instinct to ask for help here was 100% CORRECT. This is not the only place you can advance your career. Start looking as soon as you feel you can, and get out. Do your best to make this place nothing but a memory.

  27. C*

    That’s horrifying, I am so sorry this opportunity that looked so promising turned out like this. I wish you all the best for whatever your next steps are here. Hopefully you can be out of this situation soon.

  28. Myrin*

    I’m feeling somewhat obtuse right now but do we know for certain that the “division superintendent (think great-great-grandboss) [who] is known industry-wise to be a genius” and “Big Boss” who is apparently an unhinged Rambo are the same person? Doesn’t change the advice or the view of Big Boss in any way but I actually thought OP simply mentioned the superintendent to explain why on paper, this is an awesome opportunity. But then Alison mentioned how Rambo is viewed as a genius and some comments do, as well, so I thought I’d ask.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Legit just made a very similar comment. Glad it wasn’t just me who read it as them being two different people.

    2. Claire*

      I don’t think it’s explicitly stated in the letter, but I’d also assume that someone who gets away with behaving so terribly A) doesn’t have anyone above him and B) has a lot of clout in the industry, so people are willing to work with him anyway.

    3. RabbitRabbit*

      I assumed they were two different people. That LW is stoked to work under great-great-grandboss for the reputation, but this Big Boss is an unhinged lunatic that is making the job terrifying.

      1. Librarian1*

        I think they’re the same person. The great-great-grandboss comment was to explain what level the boss is at and then Big Boss is a shorter way to refer to him in the rest of the letter.

    4. blink14*

      Pretty sure it’s two separate people – reading between the lines, I don’t think the OP would feel safe mentioning this to Big Boss, especially after that was their first interaction. Likely talked to the supervisor they have had since starting the job.

      1. Myrin*

        Ah, no, the Violent Big Boss and the supervisor are definitely two different people – I was referring to Violent Big Boss on the one hand and the “industry genius” mentioned in the second sentence on the other hand. Or am I reading you wrong? Maybe my reading comprehension is just not the best today.

        1. blink14*

          ah! I see what you’re saying now – I’m reading the Big Boss and industry genius as the same person.

      2. Daniel*

        I hope LW can clarify this…but it doesn’t matter. If Industry Genius works under or alongside Crazy Big Boss, they won’t be able to do anything about it, and if CBB works under IG, then IG is just facilitating all of this by turning a blind eye.

    5. Goldfinch*

      I assumed they were different people based on the switch in reference adjectives (great-great vs Big), but I am abnormally invested in parallel sentence structure, in general.

    6. Nessun*

      That’s how I read it too. It’s not clear if the genius is the violent boss; or the genius is the reason the job was a good idea initially and a mid-boss (above the supervisor but below the genius) is the violent one. It could be read either way.

      That being said, I agree with all the insight that says leave – whether violent boss = industry genius, self-care, safety, and wellbeing are more important. Get out ASAP.

    7. Letter Writer*

      They are the same person, yes. In theory, I wouldn’t need to interact that much with him, but my desk is right in front of his office (we have an open plan space, and upper level managers have glass-walled offices), and it’s giving me some extra anxiety.

      1. Krabby*

        You’re right outside his glass-walled office? Get out of there!
        You will 100% become a target for his ridiculous rage. If he is reading an email he doesn’t like and looks up, he’s going to see you. If he walks out of his office to grab someone’s keyboard, it will be yours. That’s probably why that desk is vacant in the first place.
        For what it’s worth, I think you are safe from violence (as others have said, he can control it, he’s just using the outbursts to control the people who work for him) but I would start job searching again asap.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        The fact that you have to sit near him where you are more likely to have to see and hear him tells me you should give your notice and leave as soon as you realistically can. Especially as this is a trigger for you personally, it doesn’t seem worth it.

        If you were on another floor, or really didn’t have to interact with him at all, I’d say you might be able to ignore it somewhat longer.

    8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      It wasn’t explicitly stated but I feel fairly sure that the ‘superintendent’ and ‘big boss’ are the same person, yes.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Oh sorry I didn’t see the LWs reply before I posted, but happy I was right!

  29. Properlike*

    I worked for someone like this (more verbal tirade than physical), which was status quo for Important People in the Field. If I had to do it now for a job, I’d have more persepctive probably on what I should take personally and what is simply an interesting sociological observation. I was afraid to leave for too long because I thought it would hurt me — but it was actually a badge of honor for other jobs afterward. “I can’t believe you worked for her for that long.” Putting up with abuse was a seeming positive… but it resulted in a lot of bad mental gymnastics for my career trajectory that persist to this day.

    Know that this guy is *not* an Industry Genius, but he’s using that as an excuse for his performative rage because it lends to his mystique and he gets off on people being afraid of him. If you can view him through that prism and simply not engage and not react, he will either hate it or respect you for it. What’s the worst that can happen — you get fired from a job? I bet for every person in your industry who salivates at his bad behavior because it’s “mark of a genius!” (no), there is an equal if not larger number who know exactly what’s going on and wouldn’t expect you to tolerate that.

    1. un-pleased*

      There are worse things than getting fired that can result here. For people with pre-existing trauma, this could create serious psychological repercussions that last far belong this job.

      As someone with PTSD, I’m doing pretty OK most of the time now, but this would be so bad for me for so long. And, truly, there is nothing honorable about having to endure this kind of environment. That kind of thinking is pretty toxic, too.

      1. pope suburban*

        Agreed. I grew up in a very volatile household where one parent used me as a receptacle for all their frustrations, insecurities, and bad days. Working in an environment like this, where people would yell, place blame, lie, and engage in generally underhanded behavior was ruinous to my mental health. I have been out of that job almost as long as I was in it, and I am just now getting to a place where I don’t have those thoughts and reactions. I even knew that my old workplace was toxic and insane when I worked there; I had at least some perspective and did my best to fight normalizing it or internalizing my colleagues’ nastiness. But the end result of sticking it out there was exactly what you describe. There’s no merit in throwing yourself into the meat grinder (I mean beyond making sure you have the funds to cover your living expense, I’m not being unrealistic that OP may need to grit their teeth until they secure a new offer).

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I think situations like working 8 years with Raging Jerk happen by accident – the person has a background that makes them able to tolerate it, or they have a colleague helping/supporting them, or they only have to see Raging Jerk once in a while.

          Then when they move on, other people say “Wow! Good job”, etc., but the person didn’t stay in the job to impress others, it was for their own reasons.

          Staying in a toxic job at high cost to your safety and emotional health just to impress others in your industry is most definitely, 100%, not worth it.

  30. emeemay*

    This is giving me hardcore “Lassiter the Harasser” vibes, where women in animation were intentionally excluded from meetings and not promoted or advanced specifically because Lassiter was too handsy with them, and he was so high up in the company/ies. It took ages for it all to come out.

    OP, if you feel safe enough to tell someone or make a big stink, I think you should. But if you don’t, or you have career fears about reporting (which are absolutely valid concerns) just get out as soon as you’re able. There’s absolutely no shame in that.

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

        The Kick Vic movement is so problematic I take both sides with a pinch of salt.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          I don’t, after I got to witness him getting handsy with one of my college friends firsthand.

  31. Detective Amy Santiago*

    Maybe I’m reading this wrong since everyone else seems to have the same interpretation as Alison, but I had the impression that “Big Boss” who is violent is not the same person as the “industry genius”.

    1. Teacher K*

      I had that impression as well. Thank you for saying something because I was beginning to question my reading comprehension……

    2. Observer*

      I could see it either way. The thing is that if the “genius” tolerates this, then he’s complicit and not so “genius” himself.

        1. Observer*

          If he doesn’t, then that says something about his management. I mean this guy is breaking multiple keyboards a month and punching holes in the walls- How could he NOT know about that?

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, I read it as Violent Boss is the report of Grand Boss, who’s boss is Big Genius Boss. So he’s down the report structure quite a few steps. Violent Boss is a nobody in reality.

      Most of these people aren’t always known up the chain for these behaviors because it’s the “kick down” syndrome, they kiss up and hold it together. But the Violent Bosses reports assume that the other bosses just don’t care, so they internalize it and then try to rationalize it, etc.

      Depending on the Genius Mega Boss, he very much has no idea how his management down there is acting. He has this suspicious toxic waste dump of a boss just out in the big old business universe.

      All I can think of is “Marcus Lemonis would never accept this…”

    4. Heidi*

      Hmmm…there is a reference to the “division superintendent” who is the genius “great-great-grandboss.” There is also a “Big Boss,” who is the guy who is throwing tantrums. I also assumed that “Big Boss” was the division superintendent, but I guess you could also interpret is as “Big Boss” being the same as “grandboss,” which would make him two steps lower than genius boss and two steps higher than OP. I guess it made more sense to assume that all these titles were the same person because it seemed more likely that people would put up with this bizarre behavior from a “famous genius” than a random middle level person. Either way, it’s pretty messed up.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Oof yeah, like everyone else said – get out.

        I’m sorry that it turned out so disappointing.

  32. MissDisplaced*

    Steve Jobs, a person I greatly admired, was known to scream at people as well as practicing something called “scream therapy.” Obviously, he had anger issues. Unfortunately, many of these so-called business or technical geniuses are like this. I’m not saying it’s right, but they get a lot of leeway due to… their genius and ability to make money.

    Someone really should have mentioned the fact that the CEO is very high-strung (to put it mildly) to you during the interview stage! Especially, if this is a known and accepted thing in this company. It is completely understandable if this is upsetting (it would be for anyone–but some people are more accepting or willing to tolerate it than others as long as it is not directed at them) but more so if this is triggering for you personally. I think you should bring it up, but I’m sorry to say it might not do much good in this case. But I don’t think you’d be treated poorly if you decide to leave over it.

    1. Faith*

      If the other people working there are as normalized to it as OP’s letter suggests, it’s possible it wouldn’t have even occurred to them to say something during the interview stage.

  33. SometimesALurker*

    I would be inclined to be very clear (and calm) in future interviews when asked about this role. I’d aim for something along the lines of “I really like the work I do at Llama Groomers Inc, but one of the higher-ups is prone to frequent, violent displays, such as breaking one or two keyboards a month by smashing them in rage. I’m looking for a position that’s similar but in a more typical work environment.”

    If you only work there a few months, of course you’ll leave it off your resume once you get your next job, but I think while looking to move on, I wouldn’t want to leave it off, I’d want to be clear I was currently employed. What are other people’s takes?

    Of course, this could backfire if other people in the industry want to protect ViolenceBoss too, or their own ViolenceBoss, but that type of backfire is… something you’d want to know about?

  34. Myrin*

    OP, let me just say this – I am not someone who is easily frightened or intimidated, especially not by physical displays of dominance (it’s the psychology that sometimes gets me); I’ve worked no problem with people others found scary and imposing. But even I would not be able to deal with the situation described in your letter – it’s unsafe and threatening and I’d highly encourage you to hightail it out of there.

  35. tinybutfierce*

    Oh, OP, I’m so sorry. Seconding many others, I’d get out ASAP if you’re able. Aside from the toll being so stressed and afraid at work will take on you, as Alison often points out, staying in this environment will warp your perceptions of normalcy so hard (see also: everyone else at this job who doesn’t even blink at regular property destruction).

    Several years back, I worked for about nine months for a boss who, while never physically threatening, was basically a huge bully and emotional terrorist. She would be incredibly cruel and insulting over the smallest things (usually not doing things the way she would have or how she wanted you to do something, despite never giving any instruction), would turn on you and verbally eviscerate you on a dime, and then act like she had no idea she’d done anything remotely out of the ordinary. One employee quit with no notice after having put up with one vicious tirade too many, and Boss was utterly flabbergasted the next day, and then immediately turned enraged that said employee had left because of her and told those of us left that we should just say something if we didn’t want to be there (… LOL). I don’t know how many times myself and my friend/coworker stress/rage-cried in an empty room, because there was just nothing you could say or do that wouldn’t make things even worse. After I finally left, it took me a couple more jobs over several years to stop being genuinely afraid of raising issues to management/my own supervisor, because I just expected to receive the same sort of awful treatment (I’d had a number of terrible jobs & bosses before this, but she just seriously took the cake… and then threw it on the ground and stomped on it in front of you). Please please please, if you’re able, get out ASAP.

    1. fogharty*

      I’ve had that boss, although she didn’t act surprised when people left… she deliberately bullied them out. She used to brag how she bullied one poor person into a mental breakdown, then doubled down when that person came back to work.

      I went head to head with her on a few issues; got HR involved, and she would pretend to comply, then turn around and go back to her mean spirited, evil ways. She was supported by the upper management, who only knew her as a gratuitous butt kisser. Her HR folder (of course I never saw the contents) was inches thick (it was brought out at our meetings and placed on the table.)

  36. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

    Run far far far away! This is not normal.

    Also, how has no one noticed/commented on the sheer number of keyboards this guy has ordered as replacements? Shouldn’t that be a clue that something is wrong. Even if it’s someone in purchasing miles away. No questions have come up?

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Keyboards commonly come with computers, so they’re not purchased separately, and there could be lots of old ones sitting around as spares. Plus basic keyboards are so inexpensive (like, $10) that they could easily be getting folded into general office supply purchases.

    2. Ninotchka The Intrepid*

      Years ago I had a boss who grabbed the (personal) mug of coffee off my desk and threw it against the wall. I got up, cleaned the coffee off the wall before the clients arrived. Then I went into his office where he was sitting and grabbed the mug off his desk and walked out with it. Godsmacked, he came to me and asked why I’d taken his (personal) mug. I said “it’s the replacement for the one you broke.” He never broke anything in my presence again. Yeah, he could have fired me on the spot but my confidence stopped him in his tracks. I put up with way too much at that job and it nearly broke me. But he was not going to get away with that nonsense.

      As I read the story, I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if the employee whose keyboard was trashed then walked boldly into the Jerk’s office and appropriated the Jerk’s keyboard. Or, in the alternative, what would happen if someone just stood there laughing and pointing at Jerk next time he pulls his shenanigans. Shock and shame can do wonders if you don’t mind risking getting launched.

    3. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I presume that most of them are other people’s keyboards which then get submitted to IT as “spilled coffee on” etc if they are even tracking this stuff.
      I get the sense IT also reports to this Big Boss so wouldn’t really question it.

  37. Librarian1*

    I really hate how people who are considered top of the their field or geniuses or whatever get a pass for bad behavior. REALLY hate it.

  38. XtinaLyn*

    I worked in the tea and herbal supplement world for one year with a company owner who was completely out of control. Yelling, rampaging, throwing things, cursing at people–it was a regular occurrence. I ended up quitting when the lead salesperson came on to me on a work trip. I reported him to HR, and they determined that it didn’t qualify as workplace harassment because it didn’t happen in the office.
    That whole company was pants-on-head dysfunctional…and yet, you would think that people who drink tea and source herbs for supplements for a living would be fairly mellow. NOPE.

  39. CW*

    Yikes! No, this is not normal. I would start looking for a new job immediately. Leave before your mentality is severely damaged. I have heard of bad bosses but this one takes it to a whole new level. And as someone who suffers from anxiety, there is no way I would be able to handle this. Run and don’t look back!

  40. Atalanta0jess*

    Also please be aware that this is probably the tip of the iceberg. This is not the worst of what he does, would be my guess.

  41. Jennifer*

    Can law enforcement get involved here? This is destruction of property. He doesn’t own these keyboards. I’m normally not someone to rush people to call 911 every time they are uncomfortable but I think this qualifies. This isn’t a safe situation.

      1. Jill*

        Punching drywall can also be considered “an act which places another in reasonable apprehension of receiving a violent injury,” so if someone is around him or he’s on a tirade about a person, or perhaps scaring someone to the point of shaking/physical reaction, it might also be assault.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          I don’t think the OP is going to get a lot of mileage out of that, frankly. Most cops are notoriously bad at responding to this kind of stuff, especially when the person being violent is in a position of power.

          1. Jill*

            I don’t think it’d get anything “done,” but at least there might then be some record of it serious enough that HR would have to intervene.

        2. Jennifer*

          Yes, you explained it much better than I did. If this was a romantic partner that went on a violent tirade like this whenever he was angry with the OP, many people would tell her to call 911. Why is this any different? Danger is danger whether you’re at work or not.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            And in a terrifying number of cases, this would result in the police doing nothing and the abuser being alerted to the fact that the police have been called. If this was a romantic partner, we’d more likely be telling her to get out *first*.

  42. Lady Heather*

    This reminds me of NCIS’ Agent Gibbs – and there is a reason I stopped watching that show.

    Please get out of there.

  43. Deja vu*

    You have my complete sympathy – you could have been describing my former boss. Unfortunately, Allison’s assessment/prediction of the outcome was what happened for me. I was this guy’s only employee and I reported it to my grandboss (who involved HR) – several others had already reported feeling unsafe at work. After so many reports, they finally acted: they required him to take anger management classes. …but this resulted in him pacing right outside my office door with his face red in anger (because he was trying not to break anything inside my office??), which made me even more scared. I went back to my grandboss and their next solution was to remove me from the project… but there were no other projects for me to work on, so I was given notice to find somewhere else to work. It’s unfair and not right, but finding another job was the best possible decision I’ve ever made. I’ve been blissfully happy and have always felt completely safe at my new company, and I haven’t spent one second in regret. Because really, do you want to stay somewhere where they go to such lengths to keep someone who clearly doesn’t belong in a room with other people?

      1. Deja vu*

        No, a few weeks after I was given notice, my grandboss came back and implied that they were afraid of a lawsuit and suggested that I might not be let go as originally planned. But that still left me with two options: stay in the same building with that guy, have nothing to do every day, and have an uncertain future at the company OR leave and find another job. Seemed like an easy decision – plus I had already gone on several interviews at that point.

    1. hbc*

      OMG, the pacing thing. There’s something so very unsettling about someone who’s being coached to act like a decent human being, and you get to watch them struggle to keep the monster contained. It wasn’t anger with my former boss, but there would be these huge pauses (like up to two minutes) in our conversations where I could see that I’d stepped on some landmine and he was figuring out a way to respond that didn’t show his knee-jerk contempt. But the emotional impact between spewing contempt at someone (or smashing things) versus visibly having to try very hard not to spew or smash is pretty darn small.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        When my father yelled at me I could tell he was holding back – he wanted to hit me.
        It was still very, very terrifying.

  44. Claire*

    Definitely get out now, but does the organization have any sort of anonymous ethics hotline? If so, I highly suggest you report this behavior, not because that will make it stop—unfortunately, if he has as much influence as you describe, he can probably get away with damage to property, especially if it’s usually his own—but so that it’s documented in case his behavior continues to escalate and he ever harms a person. But most importantly, take care of yourself and be safe.

  45. Ryn*

    Breaking things out of anger has always been a red line for me in relationships cuz who knows how that’ll escalate and if I saw this I would literally walk out and never come back AND call everyone I even vaguely know who works in media, reputation be damned. This is violent and toxic and shouldn’t be allowed to continue. I’m sorry but it’s just a matter of time until he hurts an employee, either accidentally or on purpose, if he hasn’t already.

  46. Junior Dev*

    I don’t like to compare everything to domestic abuse but this is classic domestic abuse behavior. He already has power over you to fire you or discipline you at work. The destruction of objects like this makes me afraid for your safety. The point my ex was trying to make when he’d throw my books or let the air out of my bike tires before work or dump my furniture off a balcony was “I could do that to you, you know”—and he eventually did. You are scared because he intends to scare you.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I don’t think that’s too far of a stretch– an abuser is an abuser. I worked for a guy like this. He would scream, he would belittle people, he would berate them in front of their colleagues, he would deny that he ever said something he most definitely said… you get the picture. Even if he doesn’t target you physically, you are in the line of his fire.

      I was at that company for about 16 months. I left with nothing lined up. He blamed me for all of the problems he had with me. It took years to recover from that, including plenty of therapy. And I didn’t even work in the same office. Don’t feel like you have to stick around if you feel threatened.

    2. Close Bracket*

      I really wonder how he behaves at home, or at least outside the office. Alison says this:

      (a) showing their anger is outside of their control

      But she is wrong, as are all people who say this about abusers. Domestic abusers don’t typical abuse people at work. I bet this workplace abuser has situations where he doesn’t show abusive behavior.

      1. Sleve McDichael*

        Yeah, would he be doing this if the Queen was visiting? Would he be doing it if he was surrounded by other bigger, more violent people he was afraid of? Would he be doing it to his grandparents, or a man with a gun? No no no no. He 100% has control over this.

  47. AndersonDarling*

    I don’t want to take this so far, but…this is the kind of situation where an employee may one day reach their limit of abuse and decide to stop it on their terms. HR needs to stop abusive behavior because it sows the seeds of workplace violence. It’s gross that HR is looking the other way, but it’s also outright negligence. What happens the day an employee is triggered and fights back? How can HR sit back and say, “Yeah, we knew the superintendent was having violent outbursts, but we had no idea that it could upset someone.”

    1. Leela*

      Unfortunately having worked in HR, the most likely outcome of that would be the employee fighting back getting in trouble.

      And people ask how HR can sit back and allow something but HR is almost always completely hamstrung by the companies they work for; they can’t just do whatever they like or whatever is best even if they really disagree with what they’re being told to do, or they’ll be shown the door. It’s possible that HR at this place is job searching like crazy due to this as well.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      To me, one of the scariest parts of OP’s letter was when everybody just shrugged like “Oh, that’s Steve, he breaks two keyboards a month, it’s what he does”.

      1. Stormy Weather*

        Exactly! They’ve become inured to it and nobody’s so brilliant they should be able to get away with such things.

  48. Hiring Mgr*

    Do you work for Dr Bruce Banner? that’s about the only way this would even come close to being ok..

    This is so bizarre…I know he’s a “genius” (though i question that..) but does it really help your resume THAT much? Leave forthwith..

  49. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I wonder if the people who tolerate this just envision him as enraged Scrooge McDuck throwing a tantrum and squeaking like an enraged duck…I mean that may help get over the past this grown ass man is acting a sloppy mess so often…

    Seriously, this isn’t normal, it’s not acceptable and I’m sorry you’ve found yourself in this position. I would just launch out of there, this is an environment that most likely won’t change and will cause you major setbacks mentally. Your health is worth so much more than trying to fix this broken AF disaster of a company/department.

  50. Observer*

    OP, fund a new job. When you leave, tell everyone (you manager, your grand boss and HR) exactly why you are leaving.

    This is about the guy with the anger issues. But it’s also about an organization that is fine with tolerating utterly bad behavior. This goes beyond inappropriate – it is absolutely BAD. And no one gives a flip. Get out.

  51. cheeky*

    I would change jobs, explain that this is why you are leaving. This guy may b a genius, but he also sucks.

  52. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    Run. It’s not worth your mental health or physical safety. I do not believe for an instant that he hasn’t physically harmed someone. Run away now. Good luck.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      If he hasn’t physically harmed anyone at work, I bet he has elsewhere. Whether his partner, his kids, random people at a bar or some such….

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Oh, definitely. He knows he can get away with it outside of work.

        The whole situation is terrifying and I hope OP gets out and quick.

  53. ADeA*

    I worked for an attorney, an associate, who was workhorse and regularly threw things against the wall of his office, stomped and screamed. It got to the point where he started being aggressive and abusive towards me, his assistant. I asked my boss, his boss to talk to him twice, he never did and said I could handle it and so I went to HR . HR took me away from him. But my main boss, his boss, yelled at me in his office saying to never put anything in writing again. So now I document everything. But b/c I reported the associate, he hasn’t gotten on the partner track yet and it’s been two years since my reporting and he’s been here 6+ years.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Your boss blaming *you* for your boss’s failure to require reasonable behavior is a solid example of how abuse warps everyone around it. I’m glad at least the central abuser faced some consequences.

    2. Deborah*

      I love it that your warning to never put anything in writing has resulted in you putting EVERYTHING in writing.

    3. Arts Akimbo*

      I hope you put in writing the fact that the grandboss told you never to put anything in writing again!

  54. foolofgrace*

    What would happen if you visibly cringed, and maybe shook, so that he would see it while he’s having his tantrum? It’s a long shot but it’s better than reporting it (to people who already know about this behavior) and it might be just what he needs to see.

    1. Blueberry*

      I wouldn’t recommend this. In my experience drawing such a person’s attention can well direct their outburst towards one. Eveen if that doesn’t happen one will be scolded for one’s “attitude” later on by one of the people enabling the abusive violent person.

      1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, same. Showing more vulnerability to someone who is in a state like that — I would feel the risk of it ending poorly would way outweigh the possibility that you could… I don’t know, shame them into good behavior?

    2. Observer*

      What in heavens name do you think that would accomplish? You think he really doesn’t know the effect he’s having? I mean he is BREAKING THINGS. He KNOWS that.

    3. Ryn*

      Nooooo abusers are really attuned to vulnerability in others. His goal is to make people feel small and scared, and by doing this all you’d signal is that it’s working. This could easily make OP a more visible target for boss’s rage.

    4. Leela*

      I’m going to guess you are not a domestic abuse survivor. I hate to make that guess about people, and I could be wrong, but as someone who IS, this is 100% the wrong way to go AND puts the focus back on OP to be “less abusable” (even though the outcome will be the opposite).

      1. boo bot*

        Yeah. I do understand the thought process behind the suggestion! Basically, “let this man see how his actions are impacting you,” because most of us would take it as a reality check to examine our behavior… because most of us aren’t deliberately trying to dominate, control, and frighten the people around us.

        But this man IS doing all those things, and showing a strong fear reaction to him is basically a sign of submission. It’s also a signal that, contrary to what everyone pretends, his behavior isn’t normal and fine and justified. Which, in abusive-world, means HER reaction is irrational, a sign of her emotional instability, and, most importantly, an unjust and unfounded personal attack against him.

        This is not to say anyone reacting with visible fear is doing anything wrong – that’s a reasonable response; it’s just not going to be useful to deliberately manufacture it.

        TL;DR he’s going to react exactly the opposite of normal, and she’ll be a target.

  55. The Ginger Ginger*

    If you’re able and willing, I’d just pack my stuff up and walk out when he started doing this again. Straight into my boss’s office, HR office, or just right out the door. Just – stuff in bag, calmly walk out the door. You can quit on the spot, or you could try prepping your boss with, “I can’t stay in the office while this is happening. I’ll be back after 20 minutes whenever he does this near me.” You don’t have to match his intensity, but you can 100% show it’s not okay or normal to be happening in an office.

    You could also just get up and go into the restroom every time, or something similar. You don’t have to leave yourself hostage to that behavior. You don’t have to go into why you’re not able to stay with your manager, but you could explain that for health reasons (no details), you’re not able to stay around a situation like that.

    I would want to hear them say to me in specific words that I was not allowed to leave when I felt threatened or unsafe. I would greatly relish forcing those words out my “reasonable” boss’s mouth. But…that’s also me. In no circumstance would I be confronting or talking to the person with the anger issues though. Not beyond leaving their presence whenever they went off.

    1. boop the first*

      I like this plan so much more than the usual “there’s nothing you can do, so don’t even bother to try” sentiment that usually goes around. I also hate the idea of never bringing it up with anyone because “everyone has been conditioned to accept it.” ORRRR maybe they’re just waiting for someone to stand up for them and it could be you. Maybe they need to meet a quota of complaints, you don’t know. Maybe the boss doesn’t realize how deeply it affects others since everyone has to act so cool all the time. For every negative possibility, there is a positive one.

    2. Carlie*

      That’s along the lines of what I was thinking. OP is probably stuck there for a while… it takes a bit of time to find a new job! If they said that they didn’t have prior trauma, my suggestion would have been to stare down the boss during the tantrum. If you can remain calm and not show any reaction at all (or look slightly condescending), they eventually run out of steam.
      But that doesn’t sound like an option for OP, so a better way would probably be to walk out. If you can, I’d practice total avoidance – go somewhere else any time he comes by, in a fit or not, just in case. If you can get out before the tirade starts, that’s the best case scenario, especially if you’ve prepped your immediate boss like The Ginger Ginger suggested. If you’re worried you’d be in trouble for time off the clock during the tantrum, go straight to HR to sit it out; if not, just hang out in the bathroom or go for a walk or whatever.

      1. The Ginger Ginger*

        Even without prior trauma, I’d still walk out. It’s not on me to stick my neck out to manage their violent behavior or do anything that might escalate or cause him to come over and bust MY keyboard. And please be clear this isn’t just anger; it is violent behavior. I’m not going to risk myself doing that. I can make plenty of a statement without saying anything to or getting anywhere near a person being violent. Me pointedly leaving is plenty of a statement on the behavior, AND it has the added benefit of being the safe thing to do. Me being calm (in stark contrast to the violent behavior) and just walking out is a pretty strong commentary, that I’d be completely comfortable making because it’s also me ESCAPING. There’s no escalation, there’s no confrontation. You have to be a little brave because everyone else is frozen, but you don’t have to be confrontational. Which, who would want to be in this situation? I meant that’s…brave? But also very risky. And why assume that kind of risk?

      2. The Ginger Ginger*

        When I prepped my boss, I’d also make sure I used the word violent. Not just angry. As in, “I’m not able to stay in proximity with someone who is being violent. I’ll need to leave the area while this is happening.” Don’t let them soften it to anger or frustration. Name that behavior loud and clear.

    3. The Ginger Ginger*

      You also might find that you feel less helpless if you have a plan and can execute. You’re not stuck or trapped. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO LEAVE. And if you ever think you’ll be in a meeting with this person where this might happen, rehearse leaving the actual meeting room in your head so it’s easier to do when you have to. It’s easier to feel more trapped when you’re in a smaller space. Just practice saying “I can see you need a moment. I’ll give you that” then walk out. Feel free to leave your stuff in that case. It’s more important that you get yourself out. I’d just make sure that you always sit nearest the door in any meeting you sit in with this person.

        1. The Ginger Ginger*

          I mean, for me, he only gets to do that once. Then I am having STRONG conversations with HR and my manager.

    4. The Ginger Ginger*

      In the movie in my mind, you walking out of the room gives everyone else in the room permission to follow you out and leave this guy alone in the room surrounded by the shards of his broken keyboards and swelled ego without his captive audience. But the actual measure of success here is that you feel able to leave a situation that makes you feel unsafe. You taking care of yourself is the most important part.

    5. Deja vu*

      I like this plan, too. In a similar work environment, I used to go and hide in the restroom or in my car, and while it helped me calm down, it didn’t resolve anything (but is still a good backup option when you just need to be safe). Whenever possible though, I’d recommend going TO someone (in management, HR, or even a friend down the hall) – because if someone else can understand the frequency with which this behavior occurring AND how it’s impacting your ability to do your job, you’ll have a stronger case for change. I think you should also be prepared for others to try to downplay your concerns – so be resolved to hold your ground that this is not acceptable behavior in the workplace.

    6. Shirley Keeldar*

      This is a better plan than mine, which was for the OP to ask her boss that she never be left alone with this person. I mean, if her supervisor is going to tolerate this insanity, he/she should at least feel some inconvenience from it. But simply walking out when a grown man throws a tantrum is better, will keep her safer, and lets her take back some of her power.

    7. Letter Writer*

      This is a great sugestion, and I think I’ll try it! I do think, considering how casually my supervisor was in the “it happens” conversation, that I’ll be thought of as the office wimp. But still, you’re right, at least I won’t be a hostage to his behavior until I can leave this job.

      1. The Ginger Ginger*

        I feel like this is one of those times for Alison’s patented – show the shock – responses. “It’s normal for him to be violent?” “He’s frequently violent?” “This company accepts someone in the office who is regularly angry enough to be violent? I find that pretty shocking.”

      2. polkadotbird*

        I entirely understand that you don’t want to be thought of by the office wimp, and I would handle that by reminding myself that I don’t respect their judgement on those matters given how they are assessing Keyboard Tantrum Guy, who is behaving like an unpleasant toddler.

        Also I would remind myself that no-one wants to hang around people throwing tantrums. That’s not being a wimp.

    8. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I’m reminded of a small factory I worked in that had one aspect of the work that was not safe enough. One day an unsafe event happened (no one was hurt, but someone could have been) and so one of my colleagues looked at the result for a moment, put on his jacket, and clocked out. Just matter-of-factly walked out for the day. It was very cool.

  56. Jill*

    I’d be calling the police if I saw someone in an office setting punching holes in drywall. I’d quit and call the police.

  57. almost empty nester*

    You are fearful because he intends for you to be fearful. When someone is trying to show you who they are, it’s usually a good idea to believe them. Please get out!

  58. Blueberry*

    Letter Writer, you are absolutely not overreacting to be disturbed by this behavior. I’m sending you all my best wishes to find better, safer employment as soon as works well for you.

  59. Rebecca*

    This guy is a ticking time bomb. It’s only a matter of time before he escalates from hitting a desk with the keyboard to hitting a human being. Document, document, document, but by all means, get out of there. I can’t believe people actually condone this behavior by not firing this person on the spot, yesterday. And wow, what a huge liability to the company! They know he’s like this, won’t handle it, so when he hurts someone, man, their attorney will have a field day.

  60. Ilima*

    If this guy is so famous someone needs to leak a video of one of his tantrums. That might get leadership’s attention.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      He doesn’t even have to be famous in general, leaking this in his field might help. But it also may be illegal, and would certainly get someone fired.

      Don’t do it unless it’s legal and you’re ready to go.

    2. JJ*

      Yeah I was thinking this too, but looking at how whistleblowers are treated now, she’d be doxxed, harassed, and likely become infamous, which would bar her from all sorts of jobs and other things. Much as I’d love to say “That’s a hot tip, call your local journalist now!” it’s going to have to be someone with considerably more power than OP to take this public.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Except, it doesn’t. Look at our current “president.”
      The guy basically holds hate rallies where he bullies, berates and eggs on violence towards judges, jurors and young activists girls. NOTHING HAPPENS

  61. button*

    Oof. I echo all the other comments that this is not ok and you are completely justified in wanting to leave, OP. I would also think long and hard about anyone who considers this guy, or someone who continues to employ him, an industry genius.

      1. Observer*

        Yeah. Keep in mind that before he saved apple, he nearly destroyed it. The only reason it worked the second time around was because he moderated some of his worst behavior AND there was a buffer between him and most of the rest of the company – he gave his lieutenants a lot of leeway.

  62. Lyda Rose*

    I was in an almost identical situation. I was broke so I stayed far longer than I should have. Eventually my performance began to suffer and I was fired. Now I’m in treatment for PTSD. Start working to get out NOW.

  63. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    GET OUT.

    Seriously. The shaking isn’t going to get better. Please start job hunting–it can take forever, but even if it takes you a solid year to find a new job, just knowing you are doing the work to get out can make a HUGE difference for you mentally.

  64. anon4this*

    Yikes! Another industry “titan” who turns out to be cray-cray. Another young millennial disillusioned that the measurement of success in America tends to be $$$ and not much else. Welcome to reality.
    OP, if your safety really feels compromised, I would leave. Immediately. No job is worth your life or sanity.
    I wish I could say “just record him acting like this on your cell and leak the video, it will ruin him!” but if he’s well connected, powerful, and rich, he will try to destroy you, bankrupt you or maybe hurt people you care about, with a lawyers and judges giving him the thumbs up. Rich folks can just afford better lawyers and increase their odds of “winning” a court case and make this all into a cat-mouse game.
    Good luck with navigating this.

  65. Fikly*

    Or, worse, his behavior is 100% under his control and he’s doing it because he enjoys it and no one calls him on it.

    Let’s not promote the idea that all abusers are not in control of their behavior. Many of them know exactly what they are doing and do it deliberately.

    1. pamela voorhees*

      Absolutely. He does this because it has a specific benefit to him (usually emotional satisfaction of everyone catering to his needs for fear of angering him). He does this on purpose. That’s what abusers do. He will never break the things of a person he doesn’t have control over (which includes emotional control, like when you have bosses scared of their reports).

  66. Anat*

    How awful. Since the OP has such a traumatized reaction to this guy, I wonder if she can frame this as an accommodation issue? Does she have / can she get a mental health diagnosis that would kick in ADA? Because this could be easy to fix; maybe all they need to do is move her desk so she’s not in his line of fire? I doubt there is a great business need depending on her working directly with him.

    And actually, maybe she should just ask for this informally first, from the point of view of being able to maximize her productivity.

    1. Anat*

      Just to clarify… of course you shouldn’t have to do this! When he is the one who is batshit-crazy!
      This is just something to consider if you really like the job otherwise, and are looking for a way to stay.

  67. Not Australian*

    I’m not sure I’d agree that this guy’s temper is ‘out of control’. In my experience – which has unfortunately contained more violence than I like to remember – people who behave like this are generally perfectly under control, and their behaviour is completely manipulative. The fact that everyone knows he’s likely to smash keyboards is good evidence of this; it’s predictable, and therefore it’s absolutely not out of control.

    The OP might like to consider talking to their union about their work environment. (Could it *be* any more hostile?)

    1. Observer*

      Legally, this is not a “hostile environment” because it’s not based on the OP’s race, gender or other protected class.

  68. RUN*

    Yikes. This is bringing up bad memories of my first post-university job, working for a dude who would routinely yell at me over the phone, berating me with rhetorical questions such as “Are you an idiot?” and then screaming for me to patch him through to his assistant (who surely got much worse). In person, he’d simply march through the doors of the office and look through me, as if I didn’t even exist, and then go on to scream at everyone in the office. To my knowledge, he never broke anything, but he was definitely verbally violent on a daily basis. Definitely get out, as quickly as you can. It’s not worth your mental health to work for someone who acts this way, and whose behavior is simply taken as normal because no one will stand up to the workplace bully.

  69. ElleKay*

    …I’m not actually clear that the “industry genius” division superintendent and the freaking out “Big Boss” are the same person?
    I also don’t think whether they are or not necessarily changes Alison’s advice (read: Run. Run Now.) but it might change my perception of the industry if a guy like this is an “industry genius” because there’s no way the industry doesn’t know of this behavior.

    Actually… if it is the same person: *does* he behave like this outside the office? Like on that month long work trip or at conferences? On calls with outside-of-work people? Because if he *doesn’t* then you *know* he *can* control himself and chooses not to in the workplace. THAT would mean this is 10000% a power move that he’s intentionally using at work.

    1. Letter Writer*

      It’s the same person, yes. And I don’t think he behaves like this outside the office. Through my college years, and during my last couple years at work, I went to lectures he gave, or conferences where he was a speaker, and he was obviously very well respected by everyone. There were none of the rumors that usually follow bad bosses in these situations, and I’d never heard a whisper of this until, bam, broken keyboard!

      1. Not So NewReader*

        He may not act this way outside the office, at this moment. There seems to be a line, and they sometimes stop being able to control it after a while. I tend to believe this type of person is even worse at home behind closed doors. They are already showing us they think this behavior is okay. I hope this guy does not have little kids.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Ah give it time, usually the shoe finally drops and he’ll make the news about being outed eventually for this behavior. This is not uncommon for well known, well respected individuals. It takes time and space before someone is going to spill the tea or he’ll snap at the wrong person and it’ll end up viral.

  70. aunttora*

    Heh. When I was very young I worked part time at the office of a very prominent personal injury lawyer. He was extremely successful and in later years served on the state’s supreme court. Once he got mad about something and took a heavy duty stapler and smashed it down on the glass of a copy machine, breaking it into smithereens. Another time he got mad about how people left the kitchen, and banned everyone from it from then on. All we had was a card table with a Mr. Coffee. No advice here, just memories….

  71. Nina Carras*

    How about when your boss – the managing director – who you report to on an ongoing basis brings his hookers to the office after 8 PM. How about when your colleagues tell you don’t get caught in the office on any project past 7:30 PM we are likely to run into Marvin and his hookers. That was on top of the temper tantrum’s that made this 64-year-old adult look like a four-year-old child. It was shocking and frightening and scary and I did not last long.

  72. Employment Lawyer*

    That’s…. odd. I don’t know if it’s objectively evil but you should certainly leave if you don’t like it.

    As for my advice: this calls for the “kid test” a/k/a “what would I tell my kid if they worked there.”

    First: figure out the reality.

    The simple explanation is “people who don’t like it tend to leave; a lot of people know the details and are familiar with it; they don’t think it is so bad, and they tend to stay. If you’re one of the latter group, you will probably be fine; you can verify this by talking to people.”

    The complex explanation is “everyone there hates it and everyone basically recognizes that it is horrible and entirely wrong. But even in a bustling economy and even in a high-paying field with lots of turnover, every single employee has re-calibrated this as normal behavior, and has, consciously or not, grudgingly resigned themselves to a lifelong career of receiving abuse and enabling bad behavior. This creates an internal conspiracy of abuse which can never be disproven or verified, because any support of Boss is false and biased.”

    I tend to lean towards the first explanation, most of the time. If you do, then you should ask around and maybe leave. Also, if you’re thinking of staying, make sure that it isn’t focused on a particular group (POC / men/ women/ etc.)

    If you like the second explanation then you may as well leave, because asking around won’t change your mind anyway.

    Second: Make your own call.
    I don’t know if this represents an unusual degree of objective safety risk, without more details… but who cares? It’s your life. If you feel unsafe, leave. if you can’t handle the potential to be yelled at, leave. If you simply don’t like it, leave.

    Whether or not you HAVE to leave is irrelevant, if you WANT to leave.

    Third: If you think about staying, evaluate objective risk.
    Most of the time this kind of objective risk is low. I don’t subscribe so much to the slippery slope; people are usually pretty consistent. If BigBoss has never laid a hand on anyone else and if people who know him do not fear being touched, and if people stick around at the company, and if he likes to break office equipment in empty rooms, that’s probably his future MO as well, and the objective likelihood of him touching you may be pretty small.

    And depending on what happens, the objective risk of harm may also be small. I don’t want to get pushed by a boss, of course, and I don’t want anyone else to get pushed either. Pushing Is Bad. But I can always quit when/if it happens, and as horrible things go in life “getting pushed” isn’t actually all that bad. So if my kid wanted to stay and thought the worst that could happen was that she might get pushed someday and then quit, I would not get nightmares about it.

    Again, ask around. My own way of looking at objective risk, which you can certainly ignore, is: Do I see physical aggression which is directly aimed at people? If BigBoss is breaking a keyboard because he is angry at that co-worker, it’s aimed at employees. Similarly, if the employee is sitting there and he takes their keyboard and breaks it in front of them, that’s aimed at employees. If he is in a meeting with you and gets so angry that he openly has to leave and break things, that’s aimed at employees. Those are probably “advise my kid to start finding a new job” scenarios.

    But if he gets worked up in a negotiation with another company and storms into an empty office to smash a keyboard of an absent employee, in frustration at losing $500,000, so that he can avoid being directly aggressive to employees that is objectively a different scenario, at least in my mind.

    Anyway, good luck.

    1. Observer*

      Based on your own dissertation, this is ab “advise my kid to leave”.

      The OP says he exited a conference room and proceeded to a table close to mine, picked up a coworker’s keyboard, and hit it against the table till it broke.

      In other words, he did not ” storms into an empty office to smash a keyboard of an absent employee”. He walked into an office where SOMEONE WAS SITTING and broke the keyboard in front of them. He was NOT trying to ” avoid being directly aggressive to employees”.

    2. Old Admin*

      That is a really interesting take on the industry cray-cray, and if and how to deal with it.
      I don’t say it’s necessarily wise or good for one’s mental health to stay, but the analysis was a good read!

    3. J.B.*

      There is always a slippery slope, for the employee in such a situation. If you start thinking this behavior is normal it warps you. And the speed with which things can go from ok if you’re not a target to awful if you are can be astonishing.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        I don’t think that’s true. Most people are surprisingly consistent, whether they’re nice, assholes, friendly, distant, or whatever. Of the inconsistent folks there is no real pattern to whether they get better or worse.

        The slippery-slope argument focuses on something you don’t like, and assumes that it will change, and assumes that it will change for the worse. But on average that isn’t true. And w/r/t employment conditions that is even less often true.

        Take this situation. Boss hits walls but does not abuse individuals. Ask, which is more likely:

        a) In the future, Boss will abuse the OP
        b) In the future, Boss will stay the same; or will improve.

        To me, (b) likelihood is much higher. Not only because it combines both “”improve” and “stay same” options–but also because there are many paths to improvement or staying the same, and only a few paths to getting worse. For example, Boss gets sued: improve. Boss gets bought out: improve. Boss gets talked to by people he respects: improve. Boss installs a heavy bag in a closet and starts punching that instead: improve. Boss retires: improve. Etc.

        By all means leave if you want. By all means continue to dislike the things you dislike. But a lot of posters here seem to assume that bad things will always get worse, and I don’t think that is really accurate.

        1. fposte*

          I think you’re making an interesting argument there. I’d add to it that our narrative often starts when somebody new *encounters* the problem. That makes it seem like a rising trajectory when the problem can also be something that’s been stably the way it is for a decade.

          On the other hand, though, I’d say that it can be hard to know if a problem is stable from the outside. That’s why you don’t want peeling paint on your For Sale house–it makes people think there are other problems. If Fergus punches walls, that’s so far out of the norm that I don’t know what he will stop at, and I can’t really trust anything about him.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Thank you for this.

          Reckless behavior that’s geared towards objects rarely escalates to human abuse.

          The boss isn’t abusing animals or showing other disregard for life, so the likelihood of it going there is really slim. Most people don’t cross that line but it can still be damaging to the psychological health of someone, which is why they should leave but don’t sit there thinking he’s going to start picking people up by their shirt collars at any given moment.

          1. Anon for this*

            Cite? It seems more likely that the abuser will downgrade people to objects, which are then targets for violence. He is already treating other people’s company issued assets as abuse fodder. And it is downgrading it to term it “reckless behavior”. Reckless behavior is having hallway chair races and taking a chunk out of a wall.

            Deliberately slamming a co-worker’s keyboard until it breaks is a power demonstration focused both on the person now without a keyboard and any witnesses to the deliberate demonstration of how much this person can get away with at this workplace.

            Run OP, like the wind! Having a co-worker that is certifiable crazy and takes it out on people below but never on those above them is crushing. Ask me how I know…

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Respectfully suggesting to you, OP, why does it have to get worse for you to leave? What is going on right now stands well enough on its own to merit leaving.

          I’d also like you to think about my friend’s dog. This was a happy boy and he would wag his tail with all his might and all the time. He slammed that tail into walls, furniture, doors and everything else imaginable. The tail got bruised. The hair fell out. Then he had an open wound that would not heal. The dog was in pain and no longer happy. The vet amputated most of the tail because former happy boy was in serious pain with the wounded tail that never stopped bleeding. So this dog went through the rest of his life with a much shorter tail.

          Save your tail here, OP.

          One broken keyboard is one instance. A broken keyboard every day or every other day over a period of a year or longer is a waaaay different story because of a cumulative effect on you that we cannot predict. How many times can you go through this and still believe in your company and believe in yourself as a professional? What are your load tolerances, when does the bruising start and when does the figurative bleeding start?
          We are talking quality of life issue. Do they pay you enough to make this worthwhile? I stayed at one job because I thought they did. My plan was to stay for a bit then move on. They wore me down. I had no energy to job hunt when I came home. Weekends were for housework and getting ready for the upcoming week, so no time to job hunt then either. I felt trapped. If this is sounding like something that could happen to you, then your answer is to get out now.

          We shouldn’t have to wear a suit of armor to get through our work day. While some people can, some people also can lose some discernments that are needed in life. For example, I have a friend who toughened up for her work. It’s a tough field and everyone is tough. Yeah, okay. She became disconnected from other things such as health symptoms, financial issues and so on- these problems became BIG before she realized they were traps. She got good at “letting things roll off her back”, then one day she realized too much had rolled off her back and rolled away from her. In effort to toughen up to cope in her field she let go of some other pretty important things.

          You know you best, OP. Put yourself in places where you will succeed and flourish. Always.

        4. J.B.*

          I don’t mean that the level of the attacks will change. I mean that going from being not a target to a target of those verbal attacks can be another level.

    4. Zennish*

      My own view is that people in a position of power who either can’t or choose not to control their anger are dangerous by definition. What they happen to be taking it out on will change with changing circumstances. In many offices, this behavior would lead to the police escorting them out of the building, fairly immediately.

  73. NerdyKris*

    I don’t want to sound like I’m being “I am very badass” here, but some day he’s going to do that next to someone who reacts violently out of a sense that they need to defend themselves and someone is going to get hurt. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already happened and that person was just quietly let go.

  74. Hilda Dion*

    LW, do yourself a favor and leave as soon as you can. No one should have to put up with that kind of behavior. It is unprofessional and characteristic of a toxic work environment. Don’t let bizarre behavior like this become a professional norm. I struggled with similar workplace bullying in my exjob and in hindsight was relieved when I was “forced to resign.” Good places to work will be full of people wanting to see you succeed and building you up, not people making you afraid and tearing you down.

  75. EmKay*

    Holy wow. Get out of there ASAP, OP. Do not walk to the exit, run as if your life depended on it. Nothing good will come of you working around this guy.

  76. ProdMgr*

    Get out. Some people can handle working with angry, violent people. It’s totally okay if you’re not one of them and there are lots of companies where this behavior wouldn’t be tolerated.

    I interviewed with a company whose Glassdoor reviews were all “asshole CEO.” I decided to go in with an open mind, but it quickly became apparent that all the interviews had a “how would you deal with our asshole CEO?” theme. The last interviewer of the day really wanted to make sure that I understood that all the Glassdoor reviews were true. He attempted to reassure me that the abuse people took from the CEO was only verbal, never physical. The way he was talking about it just snapped something in me and I felt shaky on my drive home. I declined to come back for a second round because the thought of setting foot in the office again made me feel sick.

  77. If you’re concerned*

    His behavior is over the top for sure. But I think the office’s general reaction is very telling. He isn’t regarded as a legitimate threat. Public displays of aggression aren’t the same thing as aggressive acts towards another person.

    That being said, if you ever feel trapped or unsafe, you should protect yourself. The most appropriate action here would be to leave. Honestly, given that you believe he is a legitimate threat, even if his displays were to completely stop, it is absolutely your imperative to protect yourself. HR cant protect you for you. Quite your job today.

    1. Zennish*

      I think the office’s reaction is telling mostly in that they’ve normalized extremely violent behavior because they don’t see an alternative. He isn’t doing it because he just hates that keyboard. At best, he can’t control his anger, which is dangerous in and of itself, and at worst it’s also a tactic to intimidate and terrorize the employees. Definite agree on the leaving.

    2. Ryn*

      Public displays of aggression may not be the same thing as aggressive acts, but when they come from a person in a position of power they have the same effect: to scare, intimidate, and control. Either everyone at the org has just fully normalized this behavior (cuz we’re all living under capitalism and sometimes you allow yourself some cognitive dissonance so you can keep paying the bills) or they’ve decided that allowing it to happen is the safest route so that the anger doesn’t get directed towards them.

      I agree with quit your job today.

  78. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Sheesh OP, is your boss Kim Jong-Un? Think about defecting before he Game of Thrones you!

  79. Goliath Corp.*

    I used to work in an office that had a manager like this, and instead of firing her they shuffled her from one subsidiary company to another. She only got fired after she escalated to slapping one of her subordinates in the face. She was quietly let go and the company never addressed it.

    Get out.

    1. KoiFeeder*

      It always ends up with violence against a person. The objects are just substitutes for harming a real person.

  80. Coder von Frankenstein*

    It would not be appropriate in a martial arts studio either. In any responsible studio, someone behaving like this will be told to leave and not come back.

    When you’re teaching people how to kill with their bare hands, you do NOT want students who can’t control their aggressive impulses.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, martial arts is about being able to harness this energy and using it only to defend yourself. Even for training for fights, you don’t get away with unleashing that unbridled anger. That’s not the point of the art/sport.

      The only place this is acceptable is inside a “rage room” and those keyboards wouldn’t be attached to someone’s frigging desk in that situation! It wouldn’t be acceptable in the office itself, only in the designated rage-room itself.

    2. DustyJ*

      Came here to agree with you! My local MMA gym has turfed students out and told them not to come back if they’re aggressive. And as for smashing stuff … his feet wouldn’t even hit the ground on his way out the door!

  81. Sun Tzu*

    It has been said 1000 times in the comments but I’ll chime in and be the 1001st: OP, get the hell outta there.

    The kind of behavior shown by your boss is not justifiable. He may be a genius, but he’s also an asshole.

  82. Zennish*

    Acting out in such an extreme way, and being otherwise healthy or normal to deal with are mutually exclusive. Run.

  83. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    Just because he’s never been violent with another individual, doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. I know jobs don’t grow on trees, but I’d be looking ASAP and get the heck out of there. The fact that the rest of the company has normalized his behavior is a big red flag to me.

  84. ENFP in Texas*

    For reference on “how not normal this is” – I work in a Fortune 50 company and just completed our mandatory “Workplace Violence” training last week.

    At my company, this person’s behavior would be REQUIRED to be reported to my manager, HR and also Corporate Security.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      But in that case (if your company’s policy applied to OPs Big Boss) OP would be reporting BBs behaviour to his great-grand-report (?!), HR who likely are also in the BBs chain of command… (I’m not sure where Corporate Security sits in this equation.)

      As a manager I’m not sure what I would do with information that my great-grandboss had e.g. smashed keyboards.

  85. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Get out now. This guy is not fixable, the rest of the company has normalized his violence (which means the organization is not fixable), and you are shaking (understandably) at the sight of him. Save yourself.
    Also, the boss who pours his urine into the sink is starting to look better.

    1. Letter Writer*

      Wait, what? There’s a boss pouring urine into the sink? How did I miss that?!
      And yes, I’m going to start looking for another job pronto! Thank you very much for your support!

      1. Ms. Ann Thropy*

        Search the archives for that one-it’s a doozy! And the best of luck to you in your job search.

  86. Impy*

    While my boss is not this bad… my boss yells all day. She yells about nothing. She yells if she scratches her nail, or doesn’t get a package, or if someone asks about her day.

    Other bosses have told her not to yell. I really want to stay in this job but I have PTSD and her yelling has triggered my hyper vigilance to the point where I jump out of my skin if someone sneezes. She’s a director. Can I address this? Or do I have to leave?

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      Have you got HR? I would definitely report it, especially with your PTSD diagnosis. Maybe they’ll transfer you to a different boss. If they do nothing, though, it sounds like a terrible environment for you to be in and you should probably continue to job hunt.

      1. Impy*

        We don’t have HR. Should probably never have taken the job. It’s been weirdly high school since I’ve started though. I’ve had people talk to me before she gets in, and when she’s out, and it’s like… guys this isn’t high school. You shouldn’t have to use the team messaging service to avoid the queen bee. I’m baffled at so many grown men effectively being intimidated by an adult toddler.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I don’t have a definitive answer, sorry. I do (to some degree as I don’t have your experience with PTSD but I am “hypervigilant” etc due to other reasons) empathize with you, though.

      An interesting question is whether your PTSD, hypervigilance is a disability under the ADA (I’m not in the States. but I think it could be? based on a quick google? It would be here in the UK) and as such could it be a reasonable accommodation to restrict someone’s “yelling behavior”? I’m not a lawyer, I’m just a tech nerd, but it could be a possible avenue to investigate.

      1. fposte*

        It’s pretty unlikely in the U.S.; not so much because PTSD couldn’t count as a disability–it often would–but because the ADA provides limited scope to control other people’s behavior.

      2. Impy*

        I’m in the U.K. and tbf for all our purported protections it’s not much better than the USA. I’m more hoping for coping techniques? Like I’m not arrogant; I know I’m not going to get on with everyone but I usually get on with most of my team. And as I say, I’ve experienced people being nice to me until said boss gets into the office. I should be clear; I’m not offended or hurt – I’m baffled that an office is letting a grown adult throw several tantrums.

    3. It's mce*

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. I know you like your job but also look at how this work environment will affect you in the near future. A bullying boss, then a character assassinator, and now catty, talk behind your back coworkers have turned into a very guarded person. I don’t tell anyone I work with much about my personal life or if there is bad gossip or talk where it could impact my reputation, I don’t get involved.

      It doesn’t hurt to look for another job. At least, see what’s out there.

      1. Impy*

        Yeah, I’m under no illusions. I’m seeing a counsellor (in the same way people go to the gym) and we discussed it. I know I can’t win, but I can mitigate things enough to have an income until I can find something better. Thank you though – I mean that. X

  87. Anonymouse*

    I was you two years ago when I landed a coveted fellowship. It took all of three months for me to see my grandboss who I shared an office with to pick up the office phone and hurl it across the office, narrowly missing my head due to his frustration with a co-worker. It was terrifying for me as a petite woman and it did get worse. I totally sympathize with you because like your co-workers, mine also normalized his behavior (which including threatening to fight our clients multiple times). As a newly minted graduate, I wouldn’t leave without doing significant damage to my own professional reputation so I stuck it out for two years. Looking back, I’m not sure I would’ve made the same choice. Leave if you can, ASAP. If it’s not a dealbreaker, it soon will be. Abusive bosses don’t get better. And if he’s a rockstar now, he’ll eff it up himself eventually with his lack of self-control.

  88. Karen*

    I posted above that I work in a martial arts studio, and this behaviour would be completely unacceptable there. (Also, staff know not to pull holes in the wall! Even with weapons!)

    But I also have worked in a prestigious job in a prestigious organization where the top bosses were this crazy, and that’s one reason I trained hard in martial arts…and the biggest reason I left.

  89. MistOrMister*

    I don’t have any childhood trauma and I would find this impossible to deal with as well. Maybe it never goes beyond what he does now, but I would never be ableto expect that guy to deal with me in an acceptable manner once I’d seen keyboard smashing. Unless he’s John Cena or The Rock or someone, it would take some serious work to smash a keyboard! This isn’t like he got mad and slammed his fist on the desk and stood there in shock when the flimy thing fell to pieces. He is constantly destroying things and making a huge spectacle while he does it. Who could be comfortable working with someone like that???

    I vote for leaving. It seems unlikely to me that not one new hire has ever said these bouts of rage are out of place so it seems like bringing it up could be a wasted effort. Plus, even if some people do realize it’s bonkers, will anything really change? I had someone raise their voice to me twice and was never able to work with them the same way after the 2nd time because I just had no trust left at that point.

  90. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    What a horrifying experience! I am still thinking about this one, but I’m curious, if you feel able to answer: I presume you already know the industry and this Big Boss by reputation (since you say that “being part of his team, even with such separation, makes a big difference in a resumé”) – I’m wondering if BB’s behavior is well known within the industry? Have you sounded out other people in the industry (not necessarily in your chain of command)?

    One thought I did have from my own personal experience (not with a boss, though) is that there’s often a very muddy line between “smashing up keyboards” “punching holes in drywall” (etc) and physical violence (or verbal, actually) towards other people.

    It seems to me that you have been told by people around you “he […] never attacked anyone” and it’s possible/probable that it’s true! But I have seen first hand on several occasions (as I say, in my personal experience but not with a boss… but people never really change their nature) how easily that ‘muddy line’ can get crossed.

    I’m not saying this to alarm you or freak you out but I did think it was worth mentioning. Some of the other replies may have already addressed this; I haven’t read them all yet but I am going back to read them now.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      Sorry, I meant to add but then hit send too soon.

      Alison – you said that “someone who behaves that way is (a) showing their anger is outside of their control […]” and it could be!
      BUT – I have also encountered people who do this sort of stuff in a measured way… appearing ‘out of control’ and ‘unpredictable’ but actually weighing their own actions and applying exactly the amount of destruction that they calculated would intimidate the person in that situation. All of their actions were carefully considered. Just enough to intimidate. Not quite enough that that person would actually dial 911.

  91. Gazebo Slayer*

    In addition to his sexual crimes, Harvey Weinstein was well known for this kind of terrifying bully behavior. Which is to say – who knows what else this guy is doing.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It’s reasonable to assume other things are going on also.
      I had a bullying big boss who was also embezzling large amounts of money. Everyone walked on eggshells around this guy. Unsurprisingly, no one ever pleased him anyway despite every effort in the book to please the bullying big boss.

  92. Natatat*

    LW, I really think you should leave this job as soon as you can. I worked for an emotionally abusive boss (frequent crying fits expecting you to comfort her, intense micromanagement etc). I stayed in that role for a year. A year is not very long in the grand scheme of things, but I felt my health was affected for that year and for months after I left. I was at a near constant high level of stress. You’re already having a stress response to this (very not normal) behaviour. Get out for the sake of your health.

  93. MoopySwarpet*

    I actually read this as her immediate Big Boss being the angry one vs the division superintendent (great-great-grandboss) genius.

    I actually think if it were the division super, it wouldn’t be too terribly bad because there wouldn’t be a lot of interaction. IF the resume bump really is worth it.

    Since I interpret this as being a more immediate boss, I don’t think I’d stick around for the monthly display of breakage. I’d like to think I’d be very vocal about my reason for leaving, too, but I’d probably just slip away quietly to “pursue a better opportunity.” The frequent outbursts and constant on edgeness when he’s in the office would absolutely not be worth the resume boost, to me.

  94. miss_chevious*

    I can be hot tempered, and one day at work, out of frustration with my computer not working after devoting hours to fixing it, I slammed my hand on the keyboard and dislodged some keys while I was in a meeting with a colleague.

    Even though it was not directed at her, or about her behavior in any way, this was not okay. I apologized to her and told her I knew it wasn’t okay and I would make sure it never happened again, and it hasn’t. It’s one of the few things I’m embarrassed about in my career. But this is the correct response (including, I think, the embarrassment) to my failure to control my temper in my workplace. It *cannot* be tolerated or encouraged.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Good for you for apologizing and good for her for accepting it. And good for the both of you to be able to move on.

      I can work with someone like you. Eh, crap happens. There have been times where I have apologized for something I did. The amazing thing I saw was that I felt freed by my own willingness to apologize. I was free to start over and do better.

  95. Rodrigo*

    Holy crap, you’re working for Kyle! Be sure to stock up on Monster energy drinks and you’ll probably be on his good side.

  96. Absurda*

    OP, it sucks that this is the situation at a job you were so excited about. I worked for a company where yelling/screaming bosses were a regular part of the office (though luckily none of them did this to me). One was infamous for making people cry, particularly his assistant who had worked for him for years. The abusive behavior and everyone turning a blind eye to it was just the tip of the dysfunctional iceberg at that company. I’m sure the longer you stay the more you’ll see of a mismanaged, terrible company.

    But, you’re not saying, right? Your mental and physical well being are far more important than any possible career advancement you might receive from working there. You are worth more and deserve better than tolerating this kind of completely unacceptable behavior.

  97. TossOff*

    Hi LW —

    I just want to encourage you to leave as soon as you possibly can. Your previous trauma means this is not a safe or healthy working environment for you (or anyone else, but you specifically). It is unlikely that anything you do will change or fix this.


    Someone who took years to realize she was finding workplaces that replicated her childhood family dysfunction

  98. Kendra*

    My second job out of college was at a startup. One day I made a comment in a meeting, and my boss (and the owner of the company) followed me to my office to tell me that my comment had made him so mad that he threw his briefcase against the wall. I didn’t even see or hear him do it, and 25 years later, it still shakes me up. I am so sorry you’re dealing with this, and I hope you get out right away. I know how disappointing it can be to leave something you thought was going to be great, but it will be worth it in the end.

  99. Just Another Manic Millie*

    “Even if you are able to deal with this until you move on, it’s going to warp your perceptions of what is normal, professional, and acceptable in a work (AND LIFE!) environment.”

    Spending over four years working at a very toxic company certainly warped my perceptions of what was normal in a working (thank goodness, not life) environment.

    My first job lasted four days. I quit when I found out that I was expected to work more than twice as many hours as what I was told when I was hired. My second job lasted eight months. I happened to find out that the owner planned to fire me, his secretary, because he always fired his secretary before she worked there for one year, and I managed to quit before he had a chance to fire me. My third job lasted more than eleven years. My supervisor left the company one year and a few months after I started working there, and I was able to transfer to another department. However, I was told that if there hadn’t been that opening in the other department, I would have been fired. (In the 1970s, there wasn’t any distinction between being fired and being let go. A few years after I quit, the entire department that I had transferred into was fired, except for its supervisor.

    My fourth job lasted four and a half months, because I was told repeatedly that the job did not require experience in the field, but I found out when I started that they did require that experience (because no one trained me). They kept trying to push me out the door, but I managed to find a new job and give two weeks notice before they fired me. (And then they were angry that I had quit, because I had worked at their company for over three months, so they owed the employment agency who sent me there the full commission.) My fifth job lasted eight weeks, because an executive complimented me in front of the other admin, and she told the branch manager that if he didn’t fire me, she would quit. So he fired me, and since I was fired before I completed the three-month probation period, I was ineligible for rehire by any of their branch offices.

    So I wondered what would go wrong at my sixth job. All of the job advice books that I had read seemed to think that everything was all my fault, since I was the thing in common at all the companies where things went wrong for me. At my sixth job, the owner screamed all the time. (Lucky for me, he didn’t throw things.) All the advice books said that I should learn how to treat him, implying that if I treated him the right way, he wouldn’t scream all the time. And if he did scream all the time, I must be doing something wrong.

    He screamed when an empty box that had held Tetley tea bags was thrown out, because, as he said, he hadn’t told anyone to throw it out. One day, he asked me to get him some orange juice. I looked in the refrigerator and saw that there wasn’t any, so I told Fergus to run out and buy some. Fergus was so frightened he ran right out the door, not even asking anyone for money. Then the owner started screaming for his juice. I said that we didn’t have any, but that Fergus would be right back with some, and he screamed at me to look again. I looked again. Still no juice. I told him again that we didn’t have any, but that Fergus would be right back with some. He screamed again for me to look again. I said that I didn’t have to look again, because there wasn’t any, but that Fergus would be right back with some. He screamed, “I know there’s juice in there, because last night I told Wakeen to bring some orange juice with him when he came in this morning. Wakeen, did you bring in orange juice?” Wakeen said no.

    When people called to speak to the owner, and the owner couldn’t take the call, he would tell me to give the call to Tom, Dick, or Harry. I would try to give them the call, but they always refused to take it, saying that if the owner didn’t want the call, they didn’t either. So I would have to take a message. Then the owner, after seeing the message, would get angry at me for not giving the call to Tom, Dick, or Harry. I would say that they refused to take the call, but they would say that I never ever gave them the call, and they would have been happy to take the call, but they never were told about the call. And then the owner would scream and scream at me.

    When the owner was out and called in to speak to Tom, Dick, or Harry, I would try to pass on the call. Invariably, Tom or Dick or Harry would say, “I’m on a really important call now. Please ask the owner if I can call him back.” I would relay this to the owner, who would become irate and bellow, “Put him on the phone right now!” So I would tell Tom or Dick or Harry that the owner really wanted to talk to him, and he would take the call, and he would tell the owner “I never told Millie to say that I would call you back. I don’t know why she said that.” And the owner would scream at me later.

    There were a number of times that the owner would be in a meeting with someone, and he would tell me not to give him any calls, that he didn’t want to be interrupted unless I was letting him know that the building was on fire. I hated those times, because approx an hour after his meeting started, he would come out of his office and give me a list of names of people whose calls he wanted to take. Invariably, someone on the list had called during the past hour, and I had taken a message. He would scream and scream, because he specifically told me to put that guy through if he called, and I didn’t – I just took a message. I tried to explain that he gave me the list AFTER I took messages, but he couldn’t hear me, because he screamed so much. There were other things that made him scream.

    At my next job, where I was secretary to a real estate broker, the secretary of the owner took two weeks off about three weeks after I started there, and I had to do the owner’s secretarial work in addition to my own. The receptionist said that she would help with my secretarial work. We tried very hard, but the two of us could not do three jobs as quickly as three people could have. The owner and the broker screamed and screamed at us. One afternoon, I broke down in sobbing hysterics. Luckily, the receptionist was the only witness.

    I hated having to fill in for the owner’s secretary. One time, he accused me of having changed important information in his secretary’s computer. I was so upset that I screamed back at him that I hadn’t changed anything. I told the other employees what he had accused me of, and I said that if he really thought that what he said was true, then he should have fired me. But he didn’t fire me, so what did that mean? When his secretary came back, I told her what he had accused me of, and she said that she would tell him that he was wrong.

    One time, the owner gave me so much work that it was after 3:00 PM, and the receptionist said that she had noticed that I hadn’t gone out to lunch. I said that he kept piling the work on me and saying that he needed it done right away. So I said to him, “It’s 3:15 PM. I ordinarily go to lunch at noon. May I go to lunch now?” His face got red, he snarled and jabbed a finger at me and shouted, “You went to lunch already!” I shouted back, “No, I did not! Every time you gave me something to do and said you needed it right away, I did it right away. Why do you think that I went to lunch? Did I tell you that I was going to lunch? Did you look for me and someone told you that I went to lunch? Did you have to wait a long time for me to finish something for you because I went to lunch? No! It never happened! I never went to lunch!” He said that I could go to lunch. But I was so upset inside, because I had been hoping that his response would have been, “Of course you can go to lunch! I just lost track of the time! You’re such a hardworking dedicated employee! I wish I had more employees like you!” But no, he let me know that he thought that I was a sneak who was trying to cheat the company by taking two lunch hours.

    And there was the time that I ordered letterhead for the office because we were running low, and when I told him about it, he screamed and screamed at me, because, as he put it, no one had told me to order it. So I cancelled the order. When a few months went by and we ran out of letterhead, I managed not to laugh.

    That was the company where I figured out that when I was screamed at, I had to scream back. Not just at the owner, but at my supervisor, because he was fond of screaming.

    At my next job, the owner was another screamer. On my first day, the office manager asked me to call some restaurant and order a Cobb salad for the owner to be sent over. I had never heard of a Cobb salad before, and I asked what it was. She said very nicely, “Don’t worry about it. They will know what it is.” Okay. So I called to order a Cobb salad, and I was asked chicken or turkey. How should I know? So I put them on hold, and I buzzed the owner to ask him which one he wanted. He screamed and cursed at me for bothering him. But at least he told me which one he wanted. So I told them which one he wanted. Then they wanted to know what kind of dressing. How should I know? Just like there is green goddess dressing and caesar salad dressing, I thought there was such a thing as Cobb salad dressing. There was no way I was going to ask the owner, so I told them to send over the type of dressing that the majority of people who had a Cobb salad asked for. (Yes, I could have asked for a sample of every single dressing they had, but there probably would have been an extra charge for that.) I guess he liked the dressing, because he didn’t say anything to me afterwards, but I was never asked to order lunch for him again.

    The “normalcy’ of screaming in the office had a big affect on me at that job, because that was when I started screaming at someone who hadn’t screamed at me. I just didn’t know what else to do. I was baited-and-switched into being the receptionist, and on my first day, I was told that Sansa would relieve me when I had to go to the ladies room or to lunch. Sansa was standing nearby, and I noticed that she sulked and pouted. Whenever I called Sansa to say that I needed to go to the ladies room, she would pick up her phone and say, “Can’t talk now!” and promptly hang up. I guess I could have asked someone walking by to walk over to Sansa and tell her that I needed to go to the ladies room, but I didn’t really want to do that. Whenever Sansa walked by me, I would say, “Sansa?” She would stop and look at me. I would ask her to cover for me so that I could go to the ladies room. She wouldn’t say a word. She just lifted her chin and walked away. Anyone standing nearby was mystified and would say, “Why is she doing that?” I would say that it was because she didn’t want to cover for me.

    After numerous attempts to get her to listen to me on the phone or to acknowledge my asking her to cover for me when she walked by, I felt I had no choice but to jump out of my chair, grab her, and scream in her face that I needed to go to the ladies room. Sure, you can criticize me for screaming at her, but I didn’t know what else to do. FWIW the office manager and the owner never said one word to me indicating that I shouldn’t have screamed at Sansa.

    I worked at the company for five weeks. During those five weeks, Sansa never took a call that I tried to give her, and I could see her sitting at her desk, and I could hear her phone ring when I buzzed her. I always had to take messages for her. She never picked up the phone, because she didn’t want to take the chance that I was asking her to cover for me.

    And then came the day when she hid from me and wouldn’t give me the chance to go to lunch. Luckily, she slipped and walked by me at 4:00 PM. I grabbed her and screamed that I needed to go to the ladies room. As soon as she sat down, I said that she hadn’t given me a chance to go to lunch (she smiled sheepishly in a way that said “Busted!), and I said that I was going to lunch and wouldn’t be back that day. The next day, I said that I planned to give two weeks notice the following day. For the rest of my time there, she covered me for lunch without my having to ask her. I guess she was afraid that I might walk out the door without saying anything to anyone. But it was still a struggle to get her to cover for me when I went to the ladies room.

    At my next two jobs, no one screamed at me, and I didn’t scream at anyone. I’m sure that some of you will criticize me for screaming at Sansa, but I really didn’t know what else to do. And I’m sorry that I was screamed at so much at those other two jobs, because that’s where I “learned” that sometimes people scream at work. It really did warp the way I think about work, but I’m so happy that it didn’t warp the way I lead my life. (I don’t go around screaming at people.)

      1. Just Another Manic Millie*

        Sure! My advice is to leave a job where someone screams and throws things ASAP. Additional advice is to leave very short-term jobs off your resume. I left the four-day job, the eight-week job, and the five-week job off my resume. I don’t know how you can protect yourself from accepting a job where the hours are misrepresented or where you’re told that experience in the field isn’t required and you will be trained, only to find out that there isn’t any training but you’re expected to know everything anyway. I don’t know how you can protect yourself from accepting a job to do something, only to be shoveled into another job on the first day, because it was the company’s intention all along to give you the job you did not apply for.

      2. Schnookums Von Fancypants, Naughty Basic Horse*

        12 words and an ellipsis

        Sorry, I thought we were playing the counting word game.

    1. WannaAlp*

      I’m so sorry you went through that; what an awful job history!

      The job advice books were only half-right. If you (general you) keep having a certain experience, then you are the factor in common and it’s time to have a close look at yourself, but it doesn’t mean that you are at fault.

      Unfortunately, abusive types of people seem to be able to smell when someone is sufficiently vulnerable and non-resistant, and they then target those people, who haven’t developed protections yet. As you found, showing resistance is a good way to defend against such abuse, though I hope you’ve found more methods to protect yourself that don’t involve screaming.

      1. Just Another Manic Millie*

        “If you (general you) keep having a certain experience, then you are the factor in common and it’s time to have a close look at yourself, but it doesn’t mean that you are at fault.”

        I can see what went wrong nowadays, but I don’t know what I could have done differently in the past (except leave the company that employed Tom, Dick, and Harry sooner).

        Regarding my first job, where they wanted me to work 86 hours per week (without overtime), I really had no choice but give notice immediately, even though all of the advice books (and Alison) say that you should work at your first job for at least one year. I said that I would work from 9:00 AM to 5:30 pm Monday through Friday until they hired my replacement. On my fourth day there, they told me not to come back.

        Since I didn’t put that job on my resume, I had to look for a first job all over again. I believe that part of the reason the next company hired me was because it would be my first job, and they knew that the advice books said that you should stay at your first job for at least one year. Since they planned to fire me before the year was out (so that I wouldn’t get a raise or be able to go on vacation), they felt sure that I would stay there long enough to get fired. What they didn’t plan on was my accidentally finding out on Thursday the 14th that they were planning to fire me. I immediately wrote a letter and dated it the 1st and said that I hereby give you two weeks notice, and my last day will be the 15th.

        I have no idea why I thought they would let me work there the following day. But they did, and they asked me to work there the following week, because they hadn’t hired my replacement yet, and they said that I could work there for just a few hours a day and spend the rest of the time making phone calls and going on job interviews, so I accepted. I managed to find a new job during that week, which I started on Monday the 25th. I found out that everyone at that company knew that it was just a matter of time before I got fired, and there was an office pool regarding the day that I would be fired, and a number of people complained to me that I had screwed everything up by quitting before they had a chance to fire me.

        I don’t know what I could have done about my two “first jobs.” I didn’t see any danger signs during my interviews. And I don’t know what I could have done about my third job. During my first year there, I saw two excellent secretaries get fired because their supervisors left the company. I was extremely lucky when my supervisor left because there was a secretarial opening in a department. I figured that if the supervisor of that department should leave the company, he would have to be replaced, because the department was so necessary. (As it happened, a couple of years after I left, the entire department was fired, except for the supervisor, who was transferred into another department, and he had to report to that supervisor and get everyone in that department to do the work his original department did, in addition to their own work.

        I don’t know how to ask at an interview “If my supervisor should leave the company, will I have job security, or will you just throw me out onto the street?” without it being a turn-off. And it never occurred to me to ask such a question. Maybe that’s something that people should learn how to ask.

        Before I accepted my next job, I was assured by the employment agency guy, the branch manager, the office manager, my prospective supervisor, and my prospective co-worker that the job did not require experience in the field. But when I started there, I found out that experience was required, and they did not offer any training. And they were angry when I didn’t work as quickly as someone who did have experience in the field would have worked. I don’t know what I could have done differently before I accepted the job. Should I have asked, “Are you sure that experience in the field isn’t required? Are you sure? Are you really sure? Can I have it in writing?”

        I have no idea how I could have prevented being fired at my next job, which I left off my resume. So I had a resume showing one job (which lasted eight months), another job (which lasted over eleven years), and another job (which lasted four and a half months), followed by a seeming lack of employment for a period of eight weeks. That could have been a reason that I was hired. I guess they were willing to overlook the fact that I didn’t spend at least one year at my first job. The fact that I spent over eleven years at the next job was great. And the fact that I spent only four and a half months at my following job, followed by a period of unemployment, meant to them that I was desperate, and they figured that I was a suitable candidate for a job at their toxic company, because they figured that I would have to stick it out there, no matter how badly I was treated. I am so ashamed to say that I spent more than four years there. I didn’t want to give future employers the impression that I was a job-hopper (as I’m sure the toxic company realized).

        I stayed at the company where the owner screamed at me for ordering letterhead for nine years and nine months. After I gave two weeks notice (without having found a new job), I received an invitation to a family event which would be held in two months. I figured that I would go, because I didn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to get time off. I decided that I wouldn’t go job-hunting until after I got back. So, even though I planned to be unemployed for some time, I guess TPTB at the Cobb salad company figured that I was desperate to find a job (not knowing that some of that unemployed time was intentional on my part), and they figured that they could hire me and treat me badly, and I wouldn’t dare leave. I believe they were looking for someone they figured was desperate for a job and would stay there no matter how badly they were treated.

        Luckily, my next job was close to perfect, and it pained me to have to leave after four years because of a family obligation. After the family obligation was over, I was too chicken to contact them and ask if there was a way I could return. My job after that, although far from perfect, did not involve any screaming, so that was a relief. It ended when the company went out of business.

        “As you found, showing resistance is a good way to defend against such abuse, though I hope you’ve found more methods to protect yourself that don’t involve screaming.” I’m retired now, so no more toxic companies, and people don’t scream at me nowadays, so there’s no reason for me to scream at anyone. But it sickens me to know that the only changes I could have made in my working life would be to have left certain jobs sooner than I did, because I had no way of knowing that I shouldn’t have taken those jobs in the first place.

          1. Just Another Manic Millie*

            Thank you so much! Yes, my retirement is happy and joyful, not only because I don’t have to risk taking a job at a toxic company, but because, for the time being, I have sufficient money and excellent health. Knock on wood!

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          The old job books weren’t about the real world, they were about how to find jobs in a perfect world.
          As you experienced, there are employers who lie and/or deliberately deceive job candidates and deliberately take advantage of people who are too inexperienced to handle situations or who are in dire need of a job.
          I also have a theory that a good job is harder to find because people don’t leave them, so they aren’t open very often.
          I’m looking for a job and when I get one I’m going to work there at least a week before I tell my friends and former colleagues. Just in case it’s a mess of raging abuse, in which case I would leave immediately.

  100. Perpal*

    Geez! The only thing I can think of besides leaving and/or asking others around you to realize this isn’t cool and push back as a group; if/when it happens again react with appropriate shock and concern. Loudly. Understanding it may lead to firing but so what? (I am of course assuming your and your company’s read that they are not actually violent to people is true)
    *breaks keyboard* “WHOAH! What’s going on? Are you ok? What happened?!” IDK, your read on the culture whether calling out behavior in the moment would be ok or lead to something terrible is fine, it could be a bad idea, or maybe he’s the sort of guy who is getting extreme because no one’s reminding him that it’s not ok.

    1. Perpal*

      I should say, I live with someone who I love etc, but who does have anger issues that rarely do end up with throwing/hitting objects (NEVER living things) – and maybe every few years something that is broken (the intent is not to break it but that it is somehow a “safe” thing to hit when mad when of course if you are thinking logically no, hitting/throwing something may lead to it breaking – then they usually feel like crap about it once they calm down)
      My equipoise at this point if something does get thrown/hit is to do that; loudly and in a startled voice say “whoa! what was that? What are you doing?! Are you ok?” (I mostly know what is happening but I don’t like ignoring it because it’s not ok and I don’t want it to become kinda sorta ok). Usually they won’t be able to say too much beyond “sorry, I’m fine” in the moment. Then some point later once they can cool down a little I get into “whoah not ok!” and it usually doesn’t happen again for, eh, months to year or two.
      It isn’t LWs responsibility to do all that for grandboss just that perhaps loudly asking that kind of question may be the balance between ignoring vs calling security.

  101. Rosie*

    Hi LW – leave as soon as you can. I had what was supposed to be an interview with a recruiter this morning, which turned out to involve four people parading through the room so they could take a look at me. A decade ago, I lasted 2 1/2 years working for one of the most notoriously awful bosses in this city and that was all they cared about. No work was offered me, and I don’t suspect it will. I have worked significantly better places and in more senior roles in the ten years since and it doesn’t seem to matter. I stuck it out as long as I did because my marriage was ending, but my health has been permanently damaged by the stress of that job and so it would seem is my career future. Minimise the stain on your resume and get out.

  102. Mistresstina*

    Document the behavior
    See a psychiatrist and a Dr about your reaction
    Document that and get a note
    Maybe take these things to a lawyer?
    I’d definitely use it to get a severance and a written severance agreement of some kind ie they can’t comtest unemployment, give you a false bad reference and so on

    But that’s me

  103. Avid Reader*

    If you don’t get out soon we are going to have a very different letter from you in a year’s time. People wrongly become enamored with brilliant or charismatic people and enable them. Sometimes even covering illegal behavior. Find a new job.

  104. Phoenix from the ashes*

    I left an employee because they sent me out to audit a client who had anger issues. Like, everyday I was there (and often alone with him in the office, if memory serves ) he threw heavy objects across the room in anger. Not directly at me, but it was very scary. I complained to my employer about it, but they sent me out there again the next year. I argued, but they wouldn’t discuss it. I had to go and do it – I couldn’t afford to resign on the spot or be sacked, but it’s the reason I left that job.

  105. Seeolfreeloader*

    Respect that gut feel because when something seems off it always is in my experience (35+ years). Just because big boss is an industry leader isn’t a reason to stick around unless being at his company really helps you professionally. Oh and yes I’ve been angry at work but when I had to vent it would be in private and no machines, people or inanimate objects were ever harmed.

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