Bad bosses beware

MN whistleblower takes on issue of workplace bullying

"It was like, 'Oh, okay, well, no big deal. Seems like it'll be all right,'" Absey recalls. "And it wasn't."

The corporate executives loved Hood's management. Technicians were averaging 11 jobs a week, up from eight. Job completion rates were high. By those quantitative measures, Maplewood was ranked 13th out of Dish's 93 offices nationwide.

But behind the scenes, an HR rep estimated turnover was more than twice that of the neighboring Chanhassen office. Workers were miserable.

Marco Esnaola says he lost 120 pounds after he left Dish and got a new job
Jayme Halbritter
Marco Esnaola says he lost 120 pounds after he left Dish and got a new job


Bob Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss put together two quizzes to help bosses assess themselves, and subordinates evaluate their current level of hell. Take the quiz! Are You A Certified Asshole? and How Good Is Your Boss?

There were small signs at first: Hood stopped socializing with the rest of the office, former friends say. When a new directive came down from corporate — for example, the "eight-of-eight" rule that said all technicians must be in trucks and on the road at eight minutes to 8 o'clock — Hood enforced it personally, hustling technicians out the door, Esnaola says.

Employees also reported he could be nasty, or have "meltdowns" in meetings.

"He'd challenge people to look for other work. 'Good luck finding another job,'" recalls Sheridan. "It's not the right message to send to people."

In one managers' meeting with about five others, including Henry and Esnaola, Hood got heated over some scheduling issues and overall low productivity. Suddenly, he blew up.

"You're pissing all over me!" he shouted, beet-red in the face, throwing sheets of a PowerPoint presentation in the air.

"I almost started laughing. I thought he was kidding," recalls Esnaola. "Apparently, he wasn't."

Even Beard saw a rapid change in the man he once considered to be a close friend, and says they argued on more than one occasion in the office.

"It was a dictatorship," he says.

But none of that petulant behavior compared to what happened in the spring of 2009.

A manager named James Kline was sitting at his desk in the office, chatting with a couple of other employees. Suddenly, Hood came through the doorway, livid. In one hand dangled an entire Dish satellite: a 20-inch diameter disk with the metal arm sticking out as if ripped off the roof. Hood walked toward Kline's desk, raised the dish to about chest height, and let the heavy piece of equipment smash to the floor.

"I was physically afraid," recalls Kline.

According to one manager's later testimony, Hood shouted, "You want your [performance appraisal], here's your P.A.!"

Hood shouted that he'd found the satellite in the Dumpster behind the office, just days after he'd told the technicians to start salvaging dishes that could be recycled. Then he stormed out.

Henry recalls the rest of the office staff quickly followed suit. "It was almost comical how fast they were moving," he says.

Even though the incident became the talk of the office, it was never reported to corporate HR. The office had no representative, though Kline says he typed up an informal note that was sent to Hood. Still, he says he and others had talked directly to Hood about his behavior in the past without success.

"There wasn't any point to try to raise any issues," he says.

At the start of the day on January 21, 2010, Absey was in his office when he heard a commotion in the common space. It was Hood and another manager named Kemal Nezarevic.

Hood had asked a couple of field service managers where their technicians were. They told him that Nezarevic had sent them home early, against Hood's direction. Hood hit the roof.

"Why don't you know this?" Hood yelled, according to Nezarevic's later account to HR.

The two began to argue, and Hood started toward his office, with Nezarevic trailing behind him. At the entrance to the office, Hood threw his fist at the half-open door. It crashed open, and the two walked inside and closed the door, still arguing audibly. On the outside of the door was a visible hole.

Absey was shocked.

"I'd be fired for that," he says.

By his own admission, Absey says Hood mostly left him alone. But he decided that since he had the longest tenure in the office, he ought to do something.

"He's getting worse and worse and worse," he recalls. "These people don't deserve it. They don't deserve to go to work like this."

He called the office's HR representative from his car and said he wanted to make a formal complaint the next day.

Hood apparently also realized he'd gone too far and self-reported to HR late that afternoon. In Hood's version of the incident, however, he wrote that he "asked Kemal to come into my office" and that instead of opening his door, "I hit it with my hand to open [it]."

The version in Absey's report was not so polite.

"When Marshall has done things in the past he gets really nice afterwards and Mitch does not want to take it anymore," HR rep Dyann Turner wrote. "Everyone is terrified of him — they think they will lose their job if they speak out."

Turner also took a statement from all the workers present that day.

"That was not cool," she quotes Nezarevic saying. "I asked him what if that were me instead of the door ...."

The investigation opened a floodgate of complaints. Several of the workers brought up the satellite-throwing incident. One called the office a "place of fear."

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