Human Resources News & Insights

Meet 2 nominees for Worst Manager of the Year

You may have dealt with pranksters in the past, but you’ve probably never dealt with what these two managers made their employees endure. 

Imagine someone bringing a potato gun into your office and firing it at coworkers without consequence — or setting off homemade bombs.

Uncompahgre Valley Water Users Association’s supervisor, Aaron English, was found to have pulled similarly styled “pranks” while he worked for the Colorado organization. And not only was he not punished for any of his stunts, he was promoted by his general manager, Steve Fletcher.

Many of the so-called “pranks” came to light during a workers’ compensation disability hearing for former employee Bill Bailey.

Bailey had been fired last May after he answered “How does one get promoted around here?” by retorting, “Apparently by blowing sh*t up.” English overheard the conversation, and Bailey was fired less than a week later for “insubordination.”

Bailey later filed for workers’ comp and disability due to injuries he sustained while at work. The court needed to determine whether his disability was the association’s responsibility. It seemed like a pretty standard hearing — until the court got into just how Bailey had been injured.

Turns out Bailey had been the victim of several of English’s “pranks,” which included:

  • putting his feces in employees’ lunch boxes (which English claimed was “okay” because he put it in plastic baggies first)
  • attempting to defecate on an employee working in a ditch below English
  • building a potato gun with company resources, and then firing it in the direction of employees working
  • constructing makeshift bombs out of accelerant — like acetylene — and glass milk jugs, and then hiding them throughout the property where they were most likely to explode (more on that later), and
  • rerouting water from Bailey’s service line so he’d receive complaints from customers and be blamed for poor work quality.

English admitted to all of his behavior while on the stand, even after the judge reminded him of his Fifth Amendment rights (protecting a person from being compelled to be a witness against himself). So English kept providing details on his work exploits — like how he hid his makeshift bombs in trucks that would explode upon ignition. One blast was so powerful, it reportedly buckled the hood of a vehicle.

Other times English hid his bombs in brush that was to be burned, so when workers went to clear the area with torches the milk jugs would go off.

It was one of these explosions that reportedly damaged Bailey’s hearing, making him eligible for disability work benefits, according to the ruling.

For his part, Bailey lodged several complaints against the behavior, dating back to 2009. He was also seeking treatment for his anxiety, likely brought about by the fact that bombs were hidden throughout his workplace and he had to avoid his boss’ excrement.

In court, the judge also found the comment that got Bailey fired for “insubordination” wasn’t nearly as bad as English’s behavior, so Bailey would’ve had no reason to believe he’d be disciplined for it.

Therefore, the water association was responsible for Bailey’s termination and on the hook for his disability pay, the court ruled.

But by the end of Fletcher and English’s testimonies, barely anyone was paying attention to the point of the case.

Fletcher’s testimony revealed how English’s behavior was allowed to go on, as the general manager didn’t find these jokes to be fireable offenses. This was just a part of the work culture, he claimed. He did, however, issue English a verbal warning to stop building bombs after several complaints were lodged and Bailey lost his hearing. But according to Bailey, the behavior didn’t stop.

After the ruling, Fletcher said the court order was entirely one-sided and sought to paint the association in a poor light. Much of the order consisted of his and English’s testimonies.

Both English and Fletcher resigned after the story hit media outlets.

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