This weekend, Vista Real Estate in Redding stepped up to that change. They partnered with ServiceMaster, a professional disaster cleaning company. to clean

What did your boss do or say to you that made you quit your job?

Years ago I was unfortunately convinced to leave a cushy job with considerable potential to go work for a relative who owned a successful real estate/insurance related business. I take full responsibility for making an awful decision, as it was not a good fit for me AT ALL simply because of the skill sets required for this field. However, it was the general way the business was operated that convinced me these were skill sets I would never develop there no matter how hard I tried.

I will try and keep the background to a minimum and focus on the question, but some of it is important to understand what exactly my boss did that caused me to walk.

This particular relative had been after me for years since I graduated college to join his business, learn it and slowly take over his role so he could step back and retire over an approximate 8–10 year period. The work I was doing at the time, prior to joining his business was cushy and had upward mobility in spades, but was totally not challenging at all and bored me to death. What finally convinced me to make the jump was this relative assuring me I would be intensively trained in every aspect of the business, practice each one until I felt I had mastered it, and progress into a management role. This made perfect sense and being that I knew all of his employees quite well from company holiday parties I had attended with another relative (Who practiced in a related field), there would be no shortage of experts in their respective fields willing to help. At least that last part about expert employees being helpful and supportive was true.

I joined up and about 2 weeks later there were already red flags going up left and right. My boss/relative would indiscriminately disappear from office or not show up for days at a time…we are talking about a span of 2 weeks when I had literally just gotten settled, so this struck me as particularly odd. I took to sitting with different employees and asking what they did, they all graciously took me under their wing and showed me what they did, how they did it and were generally delightful. However, when my boss would show up, they would stop what we were working on and tell me to talk to him right away. The first time this happened, which was 4 days into my tenure, I told him what I had been doing, and he literally exploded, said something like is that what you would expect from someone you hired to do a job? I was 100% perplexed at this outburst. I told him I had received no instruction up to that point and decided to start learning about the business. I then explained that I expected to start training based on the training program he spoke of, but that he had been out for 2 days since I had joined and the first day he was in his office pretty much the whole day with the door closed. He blustered that this is his business and that I follow his orders and that if he wanted me to sit with other employees and learn their aspects of the business he would have told me to do so. At this point I was just not following, it all seemed to be a big temper tantrum waste of time vent session.

He didn’t show up the next day, fast forward to the end of my second week and he had sent me email instructions to attend real estate closings with the “closers” in the office. I had been doing this because he was nowhere to be found and that was the last instruction I had received. Following week, my third week, he shows up late on Wednesday asking what I had been doing and where had I gone in past week. I discussed the closings I attended and what I had observed, picked up, etc. He said what I had been doing to build the business, I said that is what I wanted to talk to him about, because that was the only area so far that I had zero visibility into (That was what he did). He went ballistic, saying if I couldn’t figure it out for myself than maybe I should reconsider working there. I replied simply that that is not unreasonable to expect me to figure things out for myself, to an extent, but why would I reinvent the wheel when he supposedly built the business and had considerable experience to offer and train me with. He said I had been “hiding from the office” by attending closing after closing and should have been budgeting my time better – which was an obviously curious accusation considering my instructions, but this was a recurring theme in my time there. I said I wanted to discuss my training plan/program as so far it seemed to be very ad hoc and that concerned me being that I was not only being paid to learn, but that I really wanted to understand the business and build up skills that I knew I did not yet possess. His anger at this request should have told me everything I needed to know at the time, as he literally told me he would lay out my training plan when I decided I was going to learn how closings worked rather than just attend them…

In the interest of not narrating every moment of my life at that business for the next month afterwards, the following issues led to my eventual departure.

  1. Constantly moving the bar. If he said to do A, I should have known to also do B, C, and D because “That is how you need to think about this business”. If I took the initiative to do more or expand scope on my assignment, it was “That is not what I told you to do, you have a serious problem following my instructions”.
  2. The only ideas that were good ideas were the ideas of my boss. Nobody in the office ever challenged anything he said, even if it was blatantly ridiculous. Nobody questioned his actions, ever, which I also found curious at times considering his tendency to throw fits over totally innocuous occurrences, out of nowhere. When I suggested he move toward a website that can automate certain parts of the business, improve report delivery methods and drastically reduce expenses even after costs associated with this sort of system, he literally hit the roof. Said this was his business and that he did not recall asking for my ideas and that he had been running his business a certain way for years, without that sort of “technology” and would continue running it that way because he built it and had no intention of changing it anytime soon. I explained that his competitors used this sort of system to considerable success, and that they were able to partner with larger, more diverse firms and handle increased volume more efficiently, and with better turnaround time, than my boss was able to because they adopted these solutions. He was beyond livid by this point, said he did not recall asking me what his competitors were/had been doing (He didn’t, I took it upon myself to research them on my own time to understand the industry and his direct area competitors because they had been growing and buying up smaller firms in the recent years). Because of this suggestion, he introduced a form that I needed to fill out every day accounting for every minute I spent at work, listing what I had worked on and accomplished.
  3. At a company golf outing/weekend “retreat” with clients, I was paired with my boss for a round, who berated me at every opportunity for reasons that to this day were questionable. If I made a bad shot on the course, I got chewed out. If I did not offer the clients drinks and to go get them food every 10min, I got verbally eviscerated in front of them. It was chaotic and his attitude got even worse after hours. He played the guitar after dinner (We all stayed at his house near the course) and proceeded to admonish 2 of his clients for talking while he played the guitar. The next day I was paired with a different group of all clients, who clearly felt terrible about the shit I was dealing with, and went out of their way to make sure I knew that we were there to have fun, and that I was not their errand boy. That was fucking awesome and to this day I relish that round of golf with those dudes. Trip home from that outing was a disaster, everything was wrong and anything that didn’t go right I of course bore some responsibility with.
  4. Company/client party at boss’s house was near the end of my tenure. He told me to show up at one time, then when I arrived he had a fit I didn’t show up 2 hours earlier because “I should have known when he really wanted me to show up”. Whole party was a dog and pony show, where at the end of the night he chewed out his other employees for not being “enthusiastic enough”, and me for not going out of my way to talk to everyone and anyone, and for not helping out the caterers…yeah.
  5. Last week I was there we had a meeting on Wednesday. It was called last minute (He showed up and ordered everyone to report to conference room in 30min, fine, whatever, not surprising at this point) and ended up being some quasi status meeting where everyone talked about what they had on deck, where they were at with it and what they needed to do to wrap up and when. At that point I was still bouncing between going to closings, delivering reports to legal offices, and sitting with different employees to learn their activities, depending on if I got any instruction, and what those instructions were. In case you are wondering, after over a month, no training plan/program ever materialized. Getting back to the meeting, one of the closers was going over their closings for the week and I asked a question about one of the firms she had a closing at, she started to answer and my boss had a conniption. THIS IS NOT THE TIME FOR YOU TO FIGURE THIS OUT. Told the person to continue her brief on her weekly schedule. She did. We finished up and I asked her before everyone left room hey about that firm…and my boss came back into the room (He had left already) and said, loudly, that I should know the closing schedule before the meeting and that I better not interrupt meeting just because I am slacking in my responsibilities, that it is not the job of others to pick up after me and do my job for me. I finally cut in and said first off that closing got moved, secondly I know several people at the firm and wanted to see if we could go early and sit with them. He said that should not be my concern and that he was not impressed I knew people at the firm, and that it has no relevance to his business blah blah blah. I said if he really believed that I was genuinely shocked he made it as far as he did in this business. Everyone bounded out of room as he basically lost his mind and told me to get lost. I did.

After all was said and done, I went back the following day, where he plead for me to stay (I actually got along with everyone else there, and they all wanted me to succeed and went out of their way to teach me everything they could, which I am to this day grateful for). I declined and said this business was not for me, and that certain skills required were not ones innately possessed or would be able to sufficiently develop there (Especially with him around). Picked up my stuff and never came back. He called me the next day, said I made a big mistake, that I would regret it for a long time because he offered me an opportunity and I squandered it because I was lazy and should have known how valuable that opportunity was because now it is gone. He took this opportunity to insult a close relative, saying it was their fault that I had been brought up in a manner that left me “ill equipped” for the working world…That pretty much sums up my experience with that boss/relative. We never spoke again.

I took it upon myself to contact a few former employees of his from years before to ask about their “brutally honest” experiences at that company. I knew these people because they were younger (At least 7 years older than me, but young for the company) and I had met them at company parties I had attended with the very same relative my boss insulted in our parting conversation. These employees, reluctantly at first, explained situations, overall themes and circumstances that mirrored my experience to a startling degree – it took considerable prodding to get them to open up, as they seemed to thing I was going to relay these accounts to my ex-boss/relative. Only when I told them what happened to me did they open up the floodgates and share their stories. Both of them got the same offers I did, both of them were let down in similar fashion, although they stuck around a lot longer before realizing it was a dead end, and the promise of taking over was one big mirage. Scary thing is, they had backgrounds in that business and were far more well equipped to succeed than I was. Described the same antics, same blow ups, same kool aid drinking, same moving goal posts etc. You are probably reading this thinking, hey moron, why did you not talk to these people BEFORE you joined up? Well, that is a question I sure asked myself a few times, and it is a good one.

To sum the whole thing up, I take full responsibility for not properly vetting the opportunity. I also take responsibility for not having the proper instincts necessary for the business, and not identifying prior to joining that developing certain skills requires regimented training (If you do not have at least some natural inclination in the disciplines) that I did not know for absolute sure was available at this job. I also realize that working with family to begin with, except when you know the person exceptionally well and are reasonably certain they are a good fit for you in business, is a dangerous and possibly toxic prospect. Overall, I learned a great deal from this experience, as messed up and demoralizing as it was. Those lessons have helped me immensely in becoming a functional, if not reasonably successful professional in a totally separate, unrelated field. Can’t fault my relative/ex-boss for that. Guess it wasn’t the training program I had in mind, but I took plenty away from it.

P.S. I apologize for the long and drawn out answer, but thought you might be interested in this other tidbit. The relative/my ex boss that “built” his business is in a business that relies on a certain type of professional referring clients for your service, as many do. One of those professionals, who fed all of his substantial business to my ex-boss/relative, was the same close relative of mine my ex-boss insulted in our parting conversation. Apparently, and I learned this long after the fact, my close relative that referred him business did a great deal of networking and mining for referrals on my ex-bosses behalf, while my ex-boss himself was marginally successful in bringing in enough clients on his own to keep the lights on. This was all in a time period where economic conditions favored the type of transaction that he depended on for his livelihood. As you have probably figured out, my ex-boss had employees that knew what they were doing, and business pouring in, leading him to believe that his business prowess, intelligence and overall presence were far more instrumental in his success that they actually were. The only reason any of this came to light was when those two relatives had a massive blow up years later and all of this came out. They no longer speak to each other either.

Again, please excuse me for dropping War and Peace on you, but I figured I might as well give a full answer with all the appropriate color, or give no answer at all.