When I was an assistant account executive in my first job, I was working at the Richard K. Manoff agency. Manoff was extremely successful. He was an account guy who left Kenyon & Eckhardt with Welch’s and, as I recall, Bumble Bee Tuna. (It became a large and successful agency and was purchased by McCann in the late eighties.).
I had been working on two small pieces of business during my first summer. I reported to two account supervisors. In August, what was then Lehn & Fink gave the agency all its business – Lysol, Resolve and d-Con among the brands. It was a huge win; as I recall, about $40 million. Those were the days when agencies hired about ten people per million in business, which meant that 350-400 people would be hired. With great apologies, I was told that because of the magnitude of the account, it was necessary to hire an account executive, who I would be reporting to.
As a result of the win, the agency took more space in the building. I sat in a small inside office. They hired a man named Bill Smith (obviously changed); he was to share my office until his was ready, probably two or three weeks.
On the day he started work, he was brought in by my former bosses to introduce us. I stood up to shake his hand and, to everyone’s shock, with his new bosses standing there, he refused to shake my hand saying how much he resented sharing an office with me. He also announced in front of them that everything I did would have to first be approved by him. I was to submit any memos to him on a yellow pad, hand printed, not written in script, and he had to sign them or they could not be typed. i was not allowed to go to a meeting without his permission. He also told me that his work took precedence over mine and that if our secretary was typing something of his, she could not answer my phone, it was humiliating to say the least. My supervisors were as shocked as I was. They had hired a prick and a control freak.
There was no excuse for his behavior towards me. it didnt take long to find out that everyone disliked him.
Suffice to say, it got worse. He constantly belittled me and humiliated me. He put me down in front of our clients and other Manoff employees. He did the same with others.
At Christmas time, I made a lunch date with my supervisors to tell them I could not work for this nasty man. They told me that they hated him as well, but the client liked him and they couldn’t do anything about it just yet. They were trying to find a new account for me, but advised that I should look for a job; they would be my references and explain to anyone who asked that I did a great job in difficult circumstances.
A month or so later, I had a new job. Two years after, I ended up as a senior account executive at Kenyon & Eckhardt. My career really took off and I was promoted multiple times in about two years, becoming their youngest senior vice president.
At some point, I was looking for an account supervisor and, while I was on the phone with the client, the HR Director brought me a résumé and asked if I could do an interview. I was on the phone, not paying much attention, and said yes. Of course the résumé belonged to Bill.
He was brought to my office. When he went to shake hands with me, of course I refused. I did not stand up. He tried to apologize for his prior behavior, but I was able to look at him and say, and this is an exact quote (how could I ever forget?), “Bill Smith, I wouldn’t hire you if you were the last account supervisor on earth. Now get out.” I turned my back to him and went back to work.
It was a wonderful moment.
I have no idea whatever happened to him, but the moral of this story is twofold. First, there is no excuse to be mean or nasty. Second, if one is mean or nasty, it will come around and bite you on the backside; what goes around comes around.