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Bosses From Hell.And What You Can Learn From Them

You may hate your old bosses like Lucifer, but you can learn from them. Just don't join their minions.

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This story appears in the February 2001 issue of Entrepreneurs Start-Ups magazine.

Cam Marston didn't want to look at the face across the desk. He didn't like his latest assignment, but what could he do? His boss had ordered him to fire this employee, a nice guy who may not have been a brilliant worker but was coming along. However, the company was pretty successful: "I figured my boss knew what he was doing," explains Marston. And so if this had been a movie western instead of an average day in 1996, here's the part where the then-26-year-old Marston would have cocked his pistol-and fired.

The employee went down, pale and frightened. And then he pleaded, "But why . . . ?"

"It's just a management decision, based on the way you fit in here," said Marston, who actually had no clue why this poor schmuck was getting the ax. "I thought this was going to be the one," the employee gasped, shell-shocked, rubbing his hands through his hair. "I really like it here. I liked the product." Then he started to cry.

"I'm sorry," Marston wheezed. "I'm really sorry." Eyes red, hair a mess, the employee slunk back to his desk and gathered his photos of his wife and children. He clutched his coffee cup and some pencils, and he started the long, miserable trek out of the office. His shoulders were stooped, and though tall, he looked very small. But just before he reached the exit, Marston's boss emerged. He was, Marston swears, a beady-eyed man with veins popping out of his neck. "Wait a minute," the boss said. "Cam just fired you, right?"

"Y-y-yes. What's going on?"

"Well, you're not let go," the boss announced cheerfully. "I just wanted to see if Cam was able to fire you. I didn't think he had the strength to do that. You're not fired; get back on the phones. Cam, good job! Come into my office."

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