10 Annoying Behaviours of the prima donna CEO


We’ve all seen it – the nightmare behaviours of the prima donna MD/CEO.  These are my personal favourites & I can’t wait to hear yours – so please add them in at the comments section below:

1.       Travelling in a different class to everyone else & expecting special treatment everywhere they go.  I used to work for a CEO that travelled business class when our start up could hardly make payroll some months.  Even worse – his PA was sworn to secrecy & if any team members happened to bump into him at the airport or getting on or off a plane, he used to pretend he’d been upgraded.  Pathetic.

2.       Being unable to as much as fart without the involvement of a long suffering PA.  I followed up with a Northern Ireland executive that I’d met in Washington DC about a mutual opportunity we’d discussed when we were in the USA.  He referred me to his PA to book a meeting with him.  I’ve never been back to him since.

3.       Going on & on about how brilliant they are & being the big “I am”.  Linked to this is telling everyone constantly that they are the CEO.  I used to work for a CEO in Belfast (some of you may know him, dear readers…) who at least once a day we would hear shouting from his office “But I am the CEO”…Boy how we used to roll around laughing at that.

4.       Hideous uncalled for temper tantrums.  One CEO I used to work for threw a chair at me one day – and I mean a proper typing chair with a solid metal base.  Had I physically attacked him.  No – I’d caught him in a bad moment & made some comment that he didn’t like & that was the result.  I managed to dodge the chair for anyone who’s wondering.

5.       Spending their investor/shareholder/VC money recklessly – how many times have we seen that?  $50k on a domain name, $150k on a booth used twice a year at conferences, flashy company car, unused apartment in Palo Alto that no-one in the team but the CEO is allowed to use and so on…complete waste of money & no-one dare say anything.

6.       Getting team members to do non job-related stuff for them.  One MD I worked for used to come in late to work & ring in for someone in the office to come out & first of all wait in the car park queue & then park her car.  If I ever get even slightly uppity, Paul says to me – “you’re getting more & more like X” – that puts me straight back into my reality box.  Same MD used to take a taxi from central London to Heathrow airport because she “didn’t like using the tube”.  Other examples of this might be asking members of your team to book personal travel for you or take your cleaning to the dry cleaners.  CEOs – do it yourselves!

7.       Dominating team brainstorming meetings with their own brilliance so that no-one else gets a look-in.

8.       Always hogging the limelight instead of encouraging others to have a go & try taking a lead every now & then.

9.       Leaving meetings when they’ve had their say – their time is clearly so valuable!

10.   Having ridiculous amounts of the latest technology gadgetry – half of which they don’t even know how to use.

I’m sure there are loads & loads more so let’s get them all out there.  This was an easy blog for me to write as I seem to have worked for more than my fair share of CEO assholes over the years (if you’re reading this John Thornton, you are not included in that pile!).  Having said that, it was one of my main drivers for starting my own business as I thought to myself, this really can’t be too hard if that asshole can do it!


  1. One CEO I had the pleasure of working with emailed me in the night to say the company was in trouble financially and then proceeded to buy a £200,000 boat. He was emailing in Spain from his Villa, quite mad!!


  2. I think the madness of a CEO is quite different between the public and private sector- more money orientated in the private sector, whilst my experience of the public sector is definitely the ego trip… own coffee machine, special treatment in the canteen, and what about a belief they never have to keep any emails because if they need to know something they can ask one of their “team”…..


  3. One CEO I know once sent his PA into the car park to investigate a suspicious package that had been left by his car. It turned out to be full of dog poop!


  4. Great blog post Mary but I believe there’s a number 11 (yes this one goes to 11 ;).11. CEO’s who claim to the team that the idea is their’s even though one of the lesser mortals mentioned it to which the CEO proclaimed, “but dear [insert lesser’s name here] that will *never* work”.Have a great day.J


  5. Very funny, Mary. Just wondering which 2 behaviours you say you’re guilty of this week. Can’t imagine you letting anyone park the Fig for you…I once worked for the CEO of a crafts co-operative who was far more knowledgable than anyone that he had hired and needed to remind us all about this, quite frequently. The company only lasted 6 months. He was probaby also distracted by the stormy affair he was having with the main graphics designer. As a result of this and his perfectionism we missed key publication dates and therefore main Christmas selling season. Criminal.


  6. Another great read Mary. A CEO I previously worked for didn’t let a day go by without telling us *developers* how he lived in a lovely place, had a fantastic home, brand new car etc basically his life was brillant! As you can imagine it got annoying hearing this over and over again.Ironically it wasn’t too long ago that the ‘brand new car’ was being returned to the garage…


  7. One perfect example.A CEO who gets all the latest gadgets that his staff get. Except that for him the company pays for it and for the staff they’re buying them out of their own salary because they want them. While being paid nearly 2x that of staff. Using the company credit card/expense account as a personal resource. Keeping up with staff gadgetry when they change or upgrade several times a year at company expense. And buying a sports car the same day you refuse to give someone a pay rise.


  8. Loving all your stories of nightmare CEOs, especially the ones about wasting Other People’s Money – a cardinal sin if ever there was one. Keep em coming – might add a few more of my own again later…


  9. Wasting other peoples money…. I remember a startup in the Valley (not one I worked for) who raised $10m seed round. Their first purchase…. yup you guessed it a retractable roof for the building for when it got too hot. It was the talk of Santa Clara and Sunnyvale for a good couple of months. Until everyone (including the investors) found out how much it cost…. $4m.Eight months later and the startup became a stoppedup.


  10. Oh where do I start?? There was the one who went for boozy lunches and then *drove* home whilst barely able to stand. But that was more him (and yes, it was a him) being a dope than anything CEO-related. But great example to set huh. And then the one that said “yep, we know that ManagerX is a bully, but we sort of encourage her to do that, it toughens up the new recruits”. It was a firm of Accountants ffs, not the french foreign legion.And then the one that asked what I thought I was doing wearing *a trouser suit* to work. Because (and I quote verbatim) “only lesbians wear trousers to work”. My response doesn’t bear printing… Needless to say, I’m not an accountant in the depths of rural hampshire any more :)btw, love the “stoppedup” line from Jase Bell. One I’ll file away for future deployment!


  11. Phew, I had started in a company, only a few months, and a long term staff member lost her father & needed a few days off, esp to arrange the funeral. This insidious character left notes “like better late than never” to the guffaws of all her “pals” on the team. When I suggested, incensed, he was lower than the gutter, he came back with: “but you’re from Northern Ireland, you should be used to death”. Shortly after I became my own boss.


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