A CEO's sins catch up with him

Cronyism, absenteeism, lack of communication, abuse of company funds -- the new CEO gets away with them for too long

There are many ways to burn bridges with coworkers. But one CEO's shenanigans stand out in my mind.

A few jobs and some years ago, I worked as the IT director at a company where I reported to the CEO, who had hired me a few years prior and thought of IT as a very important component for the business. I enjoyed a very good working relationship with him. He valued input from his managers and treated us with respect. However, he moved on one day and the board began looking for a replacement.

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I wasn't involved in the hiring process of this new CEO, but I had a chat with "Al" when he came by the office once, I was encouraged that he seemed to have the same view about IT as the outgoing CEO. He also seemed willing to work with us department managers.

However, when he officially started the job a month later, it was a different story. I expected him to schedule a meeting with me to talk about IT. But weeks passed, and it never happened. I even asked him a couple of times informally if he wanted to talk to me, but he said he was busy. Checking with other department managers, they too were getting the brush-off from Al.

I guess he was busy -- in the interim, Al had hired three new directors and two new managers for positions that really weren't necessary and in a time when neither the economy nor our company were doing so well.

The other strange thing was that Al was rarely in the office. Much of the time, even his newly hired executive assistant didn't know where he was -- just that he was out doing something somewhere.

At this point, my opinion of Al was very negative. Other managers felt the same way; we tried over and over to connect and work with him but were constantly rebuffed. Instead, he worked with his new hires during the short stints he was actually in the office.

One day out of the blue, Al came by my office with a consultant, whom he introduced to me. He told me the consultant was here to help me improve IT. I was shocked because everything ran mostly smoothly and because Al had not even once talked with me about my job.

It didn't take me long to figure out that this IT consultant was clueless. His form of "help" was to ask me numerous and inane questions about how our technology and processes worked. I wasn't at all surprised to learn that this consultant was a buddy of Al's.

After a few weeks of this, the consultant sent us a bill for thousands of dollars for his expertise and for the report that he gave to Al. All he'd done was to ask me how our IT was set up and how I would do it differently if we had more money. Al could have gotten all of this information himself if he'd spent a little time talking to me -- for no extra charge.

By now, people in the office were getting fed up with Al. My thoughts must have translated into my body language on the few occasions I encountered him in the office; a few months later, a colleague who'd been there since before Al's tenure told me there were resumes for my position coming in on the main fax line. He asked me if I was leaving, and I said no -- that I knew of. But I somehow avoided being fired and probably replaced with another buddy of Al's.

Eventually, the board stepped in. In the year since Al had been hired, our finances had fallen into terrible shape. The board figured the best way to cut costs was through layoffs. About all the friends Al had hired were let go -- they were being paid much higher salaries than the existing employees, as much as 50 percent more in some cases.

More time passed, and the business situation had not improved. In fact, it was going downhill. One day, I was suddenly called into a meeting with a couple of the long-term directors and members from the board. My first thought: I was getting canned.

In fact, the meeting was about someone getting canned -- but not me. It was Al. They wanted me to watch him pack his personal belongings and walk him out the door, not letting him out of my sight.

More information soon came out about why Al had been fired. It turns out he wasn't using company funds appropriately, to put it mildly. From the sound of things, criminal charges should have been pressed against him, but weren't. He'd also ticked off quite a few of our vendors and customers who had then taken their business elsewhere.

The irony is that a few months later, Al contacted me. The reason? He wanted me to give him a reference.

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This story, "A CEO's sins catch up with him," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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