The unforgivable missteps of the world’s worst bosses

The unforgivable missteps of the world’s worst bosses
The unforgivable missteps of the world’s worst bosses

Everyone has a business leader in mind to avoid at all costs. Elon Musk, for example, quickly comes to mind. His management of X (formerly Twitter) was so deplorable in 2023 that its advertisers fled the social network and several waves of departures overwhelmed the company. Since its purchase by the billionaire, X has lost two thirds of its initial value, going from 44 billion to 12.5 billion dollars. Besides this, the attraction revealed by The Wall Street Journal of the boss of Tesla and SpaceX for narcotic products has gone from an open secret in the world of American tech to a justified concern on the part of his collaborators.

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But Elon Musk is not the only business leader marked by deplorable management. Others are very unenviable, and their employees have paid the price or are still paying the price.

The “worst boss in the world”

In 2014, Jeff Bezos was awarded the title of “worst part of the world” by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The president and CEO of Amazon is notably accused of “contempt for democracy, weakening of workers’ rights, support for slavery and the kafala system” (modern system of slavery).

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Ambulances were regularly parked outside warehouses to collect staff members.

In Germany, Amazon treats its workers as if they were robots and, moreover, the company does not hide its intention, within a few years, to replace its staff with machines”, justified the CSI. The Confederation specified at the time that Amazon warehouse workers walked more than 24 km per day, and that “ambulances regularly parked outside warehouses to collect staff members”. “At the head of a wealthy American company, present around the world, contemptuous of the dignity and rights of the workforce, Jeff Bezos represents the inhumanity of employers who encourage the American business model”.

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The CEO of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, also received this very dishonorable title of worst boss in the world. This was in 2018. Claiming that he would accept unions in his company when “chickens would have teeth”, the boss finally resigned in 2017 by agreeing to join unions in six European countries. His management was considered deplorable by the ITUC, which affirmed that Michael O’Leary is a “a man who fired workers for forming a union. A man who built his business on a low-cost, low-wage business model that exploited workers, and said flexibility was the key to his success.”

Steve Jobs, the “tyrannical micromanager”

Visionary and legendary boss of Apple, Steve Jobs did not leave his employees with the best memories. Known to be an angry man, sometimes very harsh, he was a difficult boss, but also a genius perfectionist. “I demand perfection from people, that’s how I am”, Steve Jobs explained to his biographer Walter Isaacson, during the 40 interviews they had between 2009 and 2011 for his biography. “In fact, he may have been one of the worst bosses in the world.”, estimates his biographer. “He could be very harsh, whether to a waitress or a programmer who had worked all night. He was able to tell them ‘what you are doing is completely rubbish’”.

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In a book about his life “Becoming Steve Jobs” written by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli, the management of Steve Jobs is revealed in detail. The authors point out that “Despite Jobs’ tyrannical reputation as a micromanager, he maintained excellent, and relatively stable, relationships with his management team during his second term at Apple.”.

Empty promises

Peter Molyneux began his programming career with a misunderstanding. In 1986, he founded his own cooked beans import/export company which he called Taurus. One day he was contacted by the Commodore company to develop software for computers. Realizing that said company has confused Taurus with the development company Torus, Peter Molyneux does not correct them. He thus programs the software ordered brilliantly and his company launches into the field of video games. Since then, the Englishman has carved out a reputation in the video game industry thanks to games like “Syndicate, Theme Park” or cult series like “Fable”. But what makes him a deplorable manager are the numerous interviews he gives to the press.

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When I came back after the interviews, a lot of team members were like, ‘Peter, we didn’t know we were going to have this feature in the game until we read about it in the press.’

In 2012, before the release of the title “Fable: The Journey” on Xbox, Peter Molyneux declared that it was not a game “on rails” (without the possibility for the player to move independently), when in reality this is the case. Faced with these statements, the development team tried to develop a few levels where the player can move independently, without success. The employees are furious and the players disappointed. This kind of misunderstanding happens several times for different game releases.

What I should have said in every interview is ‘everything I say, take it with a pinch of salt’. I might not even tell the rest of the team about it.”, the British programmer told The Guardian in 2015, before adding: “And when I came back after the interviews, a lot of team members were like, ‘Peter, we didn’t know we were going to have this feature in the game until we read about it in the press.’. These mishaps led Peter Molyneux to review his media communication, even if it meant turning it completely on mute. “I’m honored to be a part of the gaming industry, but I understand that people are tired of hearing my voice and my promises. I honestly think the only solution is for me to stop talking to the press”, he concluded before never giving an interview to the press again.

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