You know when someone says “It’s not about me,” but nobody actually ever said, implied, or infered that it was about them? That sums up my previous CEO very well.
Over the last few months I have been working as an Executive Assistant to the CEO of a marketing agency. I was looking forward to this position quite a lot as the company was woman and LGBTQ owned, as well as WBENC, NGLCC & B Corp certified. A company that values and encourages diversity, is something I can get behind. My first two interviews were with two employees, I liked them both a lot and was very excited. After that was my interview with another, he was basically the 2nd in command, after the CEO that is. I like him a lot too. I feel we had good chemistry and similar work ethics. Could this place get any better? Unfortunately, the answer was a hard No.
I was offered the position on a Thursday and was requested that I start the following day as the 2nd in command was leaving on a long vacation abroad and needed to get me set up before he left. I decided to be kind and go ahead and start, even if it was inconvenient. I met with #2 that morning and they assured me the CEO would be arriving in 20-30 minutes. The CEO arrived 2 hours later. I was questioning someone who runs a company that could be so bad with time management and so disrespectful to their staff, but assumed it was just a busy day.
We sat down and discussed my role, what would be needed, why the position is incredibly easy because all the tools are readily available to help. Then the CEO told me how they understood how bad the healthcare system is in the USA because they once had to wait in line at Walgreens for a prescription. I bit my tongue trying to hold back a laugh and a sigh. If that is healthcare’s biggest problem the US may be doing alright. Obviously the CEO was from a privileged life, and had no idea about real struggles in the world around them.
The text messages started on Saturday, a list of things I needed to do on Monday. Not in one text but in multiple. Sunday I received another 2 dozen text and a call that evening to help the CEO understand the week ahead. The text messaging would continue non stop over the course of 7 months all hours of the day up to 3am in the morning and as early as 5am. That’s right, I only had a secure two hours where the CEO wasn’t bothering me, 3-5am. And for good measure, the company refused to pay for part or any of my phone bill.
I had learned in my first week that although the position was posted as an Executive Assistant role, I would also be doing most personal assistant matters as well. However these were not in my job description or reflected in my paycheck. Scheduling doctor’s appointments, dentist’s appointments, eye exams, face lift consultations, collecting prescriptions at the pharmacy beside the office but having to deliver them to the CEO’s home. A pair of shoes the CEO wanted from Zara that were not available in the right size meant I had to spend an afternoon trekking from store to store to find the shoes. (Side note I was going to title this blog, The Devil Wears Zara.) I needed to pick up flowers for the CEO’s wife’s birthday, I had to take the CEO’s jewelery to a jeweler to fix, about 8 different times in 6 months. I was called on a Saturday at 5pm saying I had to go to the office to print out a return shipping label, schedule a DHL pick up from the CEO’s home in Manhattan, go to that residence to apply the label to the box all to be done before the end of day on Sunday because the CEO wanted to return a pair of shoes and if they weren’t returned by Sunday, they would not be accepted. The CEO was at their home in New Jersey, so it was my responsibility.
Expenses were a bit of a laughing stock, as the CEO used the company card for everything. Each month I had to work with the Operations manager to figure out the unusual expenses. Concert tickets that were claimed to include clients but was just the CEO’s friends, monthly MTA passes that were not used by the CEO, but someone was using regularly. Dinners, drinks, gifts mostly for the CEO and their spouse, no clients present. Thousands of dollars on jewelry repair. It really was a laughing stock, how the IRS hasn’t already done an audit on this place I will never know.
I believe personality is vital to every being, unfortunately the CEO had the worst personality I had ever met. For someone who claimed to help build bridges and make the world a better place, they had no problem spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on themself in Florida, a state run by a homophobic government, The CEO joined different board of directors only to see what they can get from it, not how to help the organization. I had to sit in every virtual meeting and was cc’d on all email communication.
One bright side working at the company was the annual retreat where I got to hangout and get to know all of my colleagues. So many amazing and talented people gathered in one space. We all hung out and really got to connect on a personal level. This is where I also learned that the 2nd in command was having an affair with the bosses daughter who also worked for the company. That was disappointing. I was happy to get to connect with everyone else though.
The holiday party was planned using a budget, but somehow went way beyond. The holiday party is meant to be a big, flashy party for clients to say thank you and to keep their business with us. On a rainy night in late December and with only about 30 of the 600 clients that were invited actually attending, it was a major loss. This party was also of concern because of three minors in attendance all getting drinks from the open bar. New York state laws are very clear that minors may only drink when handed a drink from their parent/guardian. That was not the case here, I just hope that the Freehand hotel doesn’t lose their liquor license because the company decided to invite and allow three minors.
One of the biggest issues was the CEO’s temper. The CEO was well known for exploding at people in meetings, both on zoom and in-person. One time, we were on a zoom meeting with about 15 people in attendance. The CEO got so upset at a staff member, and began yelling “THIS IS MY COMPANY, NOT YOURS! YOU WANT TO DO IT YOUR WAY? THAN START YOUR OWN COMPANY! THIS IS MY COMPANY! The CEO then dropped from the zoom call. The remaining 15 people on the call were in shock, yet have all seen this before. The staff member did not deserve to be yelled at like this, and definitely not infront of their colleagues. Luckily another participant in the meeting caught this immature, uncalled for meltdown on their phone and shared it with others. It was clear that the CEO needed a babysitter, not an Executive Assistant. They also needed mental health services, in my opinion, but I am not a trained doctor, so it’s just an opinion after watching many meltdowns.
Either way, after living through an experience like this I have learned a few things:
1. Delve deeper into why an open position had been previously filled by 7 different people in the last year before me.
2. The woman who wrote the Devil Wears Prada was 100% telling the truth, and what she suffered was not nearly as bad as what I went through (including the “get me out of Florida during a hurricane scene”).
3. When someone seems unhinged, they probably are.
Overall, I have learned that I will never work as an Executive Assistant to a CEO again. An administrative Assistant, perhaps, but only with clear definitions written into my job description that no personal jobs and no work outside of business hours will be performed.
I have been told that I should write the entire story down, from the horrible first interview with the CEO to the last childish text, and sell it. I do have many emails, all text and a few videos to help emphasize and highlight the sadistic working conditions. It may make a good story, but sadly it’s all too real.
*(as always, if you would like to publish this or any of my blogs, please email me directly for further discussions.)
One thought on ““It’s Not About Me!””
Omg. I know this all too well. Imagine experiencing that for 3 years of your life and having to be on anxiety meds. I read every line and felt like I experienced it horrifically again. Everything you stated was 100 accurate. I too worked there as an “EA”. Happy you existed.