I learned my most important business skills from a bully. Let’s call him Brad.
Six years ago, I entered my first marketing role at an Internet company. New to the field, I looked to Brad for support. We were both in our mid twenties, but the similarities ended there. His idea of guidance included dumping tons of unwanted assignments on my lap. When I asked for help, he’d say, “Just get it done,” with an actual smirk.
The first major project occurred a few months into our partnership. Our boss wanted to promote our services by covering our service vehicles in company imagery. This process is known as “van wrapping.” Brad took on this assignment due to his vast experience. He pushed it off for two months until our boss confronted him for an update.
Back at my desk I juggled many tasks, all of which were considered priorities. Brad dashed over to me and demanded, “Whatever you’re working on, stop! You need to move van wrapping up to the top of the pile. Our boss is very disappointed that you have made zero progress on this initiative.”
Puzzled, I spun around in my chair and faced him. “Disappointed in me? Isn’t this your project?”
“It doesn’t matter. You need to complete it ASAP,” he said as he rolled his eyes.
I nodded. “Okay, who should I contact to—”
“Just get it done.” He pushed the air towards me with his hands repeatedly, shoving negative energy my way.
I turned back to my computer screen and stared. I knew nothing about van wrapping other than the fact that it looked cool. Suddenly, I remembered another department worked with a local graphics company to design their materials. I poked around until I found the right person to call. My hand trembled as I dialed the number. Luckily, a friendly voice greeted me on the other side of the line.
Carl owns a sign company that specializes in hard-to-produce collateral. Together, we developed a concept that represented the company perfectly: a collage of people typing on computers. We searched for appropriate images to bring the idea to life. As the project flourished, I kept Brad informed on every step.
After many drafts, Carl and I finally reached the finished product. My boss loved the design, and the vans went into production.
Brad thanked me for my hard work, calling me a superstar.
A few weeks later, the glory faded away. Brad filled my plate with numerous tasks and unrealistic timelines. Desperate for an energy boost, I headed to the kitchen for coffee. Just before I entered, I looked down and realized I forgot my cup. I paused long enough to hear two familiar voices conversing at the coffee pot. With their backs to me, Brad and the president, Tom, discussed the vans. He told Brad that he spotted one on the way to work that morning. He liked it and wanted to know which employee worked on it. Without hesitation, Brad said, “I did. Just me.”
Tom marveled at Brad’s wonderful execution. Brad repeated every piece of my endeavor like a recording while Tom awed at his excellence. I stood erect in the doorway, glued to the train wreck. Each word he uttered made my blood boil. I returned to my desk determined to do one thing: get out.
Luckily, the media department needed marketing support. I devoted the rest of that day to updating my resume. The next day, I applied. Meanwhile, Brad acted like nothing happened. He treated me in his usual demeanor, piling on more duties. I pretended to know nothing about his betrayal while I prepared for my grand exit.
Four months later, the media department rescued me. But the aftermath continued. I discovered Brad took credit for around ten projects I implemented. My former boss along with other executives considered him a brilliant mastermind. I hoped my absence would eventually expose Brad’s lies. Unfortunately, it only propelled him. After I left, he handled his job and mine until the replacement started. His boss admired his dedication to both roles and promoted him to management.
I joined the media department with renewed spirit, vowing to stay true to myself and others. I dedicated the next two years to old-fashioned, thorough work. I volunteered for projects other disregarded. With my web experience, I converted paper forms to electronic ones, enhancing time efficiencies by over fifty percent. I even re-designed our Website navigation to increase usability.
Executives labeled me a superstar.
Two years after Brad, my new boss promoted me to management. Today, I support six employees. Brad manages assignments only. When the economy caused layoffs, he almost lost his job due to lack of direct reports and valuable contributions.
At the end of the day, who do I thank for my success? Brad. He showed me why integrity and loyalty are virtues. He also made me realize the truth: nice guys don’t finish last. We just finish later.