Really Horrible Recruitment Bosses… we’ve all had one…

As much as I hate to admit it, there are some absolute knob jockeys in our industry. Sorry to those 99.4% of you who aren’t… knob jockeys I mean…

The trouble is most of the knob jockeys seem to be bosses & managers… and it’s time to call them out!

bossI’ve been lucky enough to be in recruitment for around 20 years… and in the rec2rec niche for just on 4 years. I speak to recruiters every single working day of my life. I hear all kinds of stories – most of them I take with a grain of salt… (and a double bourbon…) but in those rare occasions where 3 or 4 people corroborate a story… well… I’m a believer. (Not a Belieber… That would be A) Stupid to admit if it were true… B) Totally irrelevant to this post… and C) Ummm… just forget I mentioned it at all… ok?).

So… here’s where I share with you a couple of the worst examples? Obviously I’m talking about horrible recruitment bosses – not Justin Bieber singles…

  1. No Billings – No Seat – Yes… you read correctly… and I heard this story from 3 different people.  This agency has a bigger problem retaining staff than Lance Armstrong does with telling the truth. The scenario goes a little like this. First day on the job… you rock up to work ready to take on the world… Ummm… you knock politely on the door of the Manager’s office… “Excuse me Mr Grinch.’ You begin timidly. ‘There doesn’t seem to be a chair at my desk…’ ‘That’s correct!’ comes the haughty reply. ‘And you don’t get one until you make a deal.’ Don’t get one until you make a deal??? Is he for real? I’m afraid he is… and worse still, the longer it takes to make that deal, the more Mr Grinch humiliates his staff. Continually pointing out to the rest of the office that you don’t have a chair yet… ‘And you know what that means…’ It gets worse. Mr Grinch continues the unbridled degradation by systematically taking away more of your tools… a fan… a calculator… coffee cup… Until finally you are left with nothing but a Yellow Pages and a phone… How’s that for knob jockey
  2. bad bosses2You can be my Fall Guy – This one’s a little closer to home, because funnily enough… it happened to me. At the time I was a Regional Manager at a Global Recruitment Business. I led a Sales Team of 15 guys who had just beaten budget. And it was a substantial budget. The rest of the business wasn’t doing very well. My Manager asked me to come to the office for a meeting on a Saturday Morning. I dutifully turned up… expecting… I don’t know… praise?… a promotion?… a raise even?… I was ever so slightly off the mark. I was given a formal warning. The official reason he gave me was that 2 of my staff had individually failed to make budget and I hadn’t sufficiently performance managed them. Hmmmm… Then he told me off the record that the real reason was that he was under pressure from the Global Owner to come down hard, or he would be out of a job. He told me that he feared he would be replaced by me, so instead of disciplining the underperforming managers it made more strategic sense to weaken my position… Oh yeh… did I mention he delivered all of this in a backward turned red baseball cap, a lycra cycling vest and a very smug smile on his face? Seriously… the only thing that gets turned on in a room when he’s in there naked… is the shower.
  3. Big Brother is Watching – Look… I’m not advocating personal emails in the workplace… but… If you don’t have enough trust in the staff working for you to do their job then I think you maybe the one with the problem. Seriously… This Manager spends all day… every day in his office… with the door closed… watching every email that comes in and out business. That’s close to 20 staff… Why?  You tell me… But let’s face it – it’s not a great advertisement for good consultants, to join… or stay…

Many of us have war stories about our own Really Horrible Recruitment Bosses… and I would love to hear your story. Please comment… or send me your story to

I will publish the best stories for The Written Reference community to vote on a winner… So, come on. Let’s hear your stories (no names of Managers or Businesses if you please!).

Craig Watson


10 thoughts on “Really Horrible Recruitment Bosses… we’ve all had one…

  1. Chris on Reply

    This is nothing compared to my first recruitment boss, here are just a few of the dispicable antics she got up to in my first 6 months:
    Sacked a consultant on Christmas Eve
    Sacked a consultant on his 18th Birthday
    Constantly threatened a guy with money problems that he’d get the sack
    Bring in a consultant (through her husband’s agency) only to sack him the day after his rebate ran out
    Told my team to make a consultant who was coming down from her other office life hell whilst he was here so he’d leave
    Made a consultant run around like a chicken because he’d make a placement
    Put through various ‘dodgy’ placements so she could claim her bonus (dodgy being putting someone who was due to attend an interview as placed on the system – but did this via the consultants log in rather than hers)
    Openly put down the female consultants looks to the entire office
    Regularly threw pens at the team

    Ultimately she got great pleasure out of humiliating and bullying her team.

    In hindsight it makes me angry that it took us 6 months to get her dismissed but she’d brainwashed into thinking the MD knew everything she was getting up to.

  2. Greg on Reply

    Remember : Bullys don’t disappear suddenly at 18. Unfortunately for the most part they carry these traits into adulthood and into the work place. For the most part senior management is willfully under equipped to deal with them and remain very passive.

    Just reading your post Chris made me angry.

    I’ve never had any managers like that though – I’ve more had to deal with the 200K ‘non billing manager’ breed who sits and read spreadsheets all day , comes in late , leaves early, and when your having a bad month – recommends you make more calls. Completely & utterly ineffectual.

  3. Aaron Dodd on Reply

    I’ve got war stories that would leave you speechless, but given that I’ve only worked for one recruitment company other than my own, I can’t divulge without naming and shaming. I don’t need the lawsuits. But then again the truth is an absolute defence against libel…isn’t it???

  4. Joanne on Reply

    I had a boss who always had her favourite in the office (depending on who was billing the most) and treated everyone else like second class citizens. She hogged clients, gave consultant’s clients to another consultant if they couldn’t 100% fulfill a requirement (regard less of the circumstances), gave official warnings seemingly without real reason… oh, and ramped up my “performance management” due to low sales (wasn’t the only one in the company mind you) when I became pregnant…

  5. John on Reply

    My personal favourite (and there are many!) is the CAPITAL LETTER EMAIL boss. They communicate to their team almost exclusively via email, will make sure that really important information about your patch, commission plan, base salary etc, is sent via email, always outside business hours. However, their REAL skill is to highlight the IMPORTANT parts of the email in CAPITALS (with exclamation marks for that extra emphasis!!!!!). Once you have mastered this skill as a manager, you can then take it to the next level with USING DIFFERENT COLOURS as well. Of course, we all take more notice of an email if there are capital letters, YES?????

  6. Alana on Reply

    My first recruitment role, I was young, excited and ready to learn! Basically for the 2 years I worked there my boss made my life hell!
    I thought the best way to do this was write a list
    • Marketing core hours – all computers off! This was for 4 hours per day on the phone marketing – you could not do anything else!
    • Hours changed – we had to work on Saturdays (which when you are losing 20 hours per week on the phone marketing you would be surprised how lovely those Saturdays became for playing catch up)
    • One day I won a movie voucher for filling a job, but because they didn’t like the fact that the job was “called in” rather than me “picking it up” – they ran up to me and ripped it out of my hands in front of everyone and then pulled me into an office to tell me how ridiculous I looked!
    • Had to wear certain stockings / lipstick and (if you were female) NO pants allowed- you must always wear skirts! (Still to this day, and it’s been 12 years I feel weird not wearing tights to work!)
    And my most favourite time was when I finally resigned. I got all my drawers emptied into a plastic bag and was told if they saw me in the street I better run. Ahh Threats! Got to love them.

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