Mary was a powerhouse Ph.d economist, lawyer and law professor who was brought in to a prestigious Chicago law firm to head up a lucrative consulting group. The business along with piles of paperwork quickly came rolling in.
Well, as it turns out, the old adage about people in academia being out of touch and not able to function in real life has some truth to it, at least in Mary’s case. She arrived at work at 6, and locked herself in her office until 9 at night.
Mary had been a professional student and had many shiny degrees but had no experience leading, organizing, or even functioning in an office environment. She was clearly out of her league running an organization of people.
She would call employees at all hours of the night and weekends, assigning things that were outside their job description. She would miss paychecks and be dismissive when called on it. She would freely talk about how incompetent her staff was.
No one questioned her, or really held her accountable, because she was the supposed “expert” or pro. Anytime it came up to her, she would blow it off as someone else’s fault. I have to deal with all of these incompetents, you see. Her staff wasn’t allowed to talk to her or each other, lest they compare notes. She would contact them when she needed them. She was not to be disturbed.
Her staff spent the majority of the time clueless about what to work on. When they were assigned projects it was not uncommon to discover midway through it that they had been due months ago, and were now obsolete. It seems the piles had gotten out of control on her desk. In a haggard frenzy, she would consistently assign overdue projects to her staff.
She would rush into the office, frenetic, with her hair in all directions, demanding that a staff member get her so and so’s phone number, as she had misplaced it. The thing was, no one had so and so’s number, they weren’t supposed to, per her rules.
Obviously, the work wasn’t getting done, so all fingers pointed to Mary. Her excuse was that the clients were all lying and her staff was incompetent. If she had been smart, she would have blamed an individual, but she blamed everyone collectively.
When one of her staff finally took her to task for not paying him, she threatened him. Before he could go through with the proper channels, he found an envelope in his door with way more than the amount he was owed, along with a note that said, “don’t ever talk about this to anyone.”
In an amazing tour de force, she ended up suing the company for $16.5 million for mold exposure, which diminished her cognitive functions and caused emotional distress.