Merge's Blog

A shocking tirade from a company’s CEO – what can the rest of us learn?

The proverbial storm has been brewing over the last few weeks at Tate Publishing, a vanity publishing house headquartered in Mustang OK.  Well, not a storm, perhaps a better description would be “a hurricane of massive proportions”.  I must admit that in all my years in this profession, I have never come across something as disturbing and shocking as this.

First, some background.  Apparently, an anonymous email was circulated by an employee over the May Memorial day weekend taking the company’s CEO Ryan Tate to task for his plan to lay off employees and outsource all their jobs to the Philippines.  That got Tate’s back up, and he threatened that unless the responsible employee confessed to the email, he would fire 10 random employees from the production floor.  No one owned up to the offending missive, so Tate then went on to up the ante.  He was now going to fire 25 people.  Turns out that at least one employee was still boldly defiant as s/he recorded Tate’s tirade in a shortly-before-May-31 staff meeting and released it to ABC News.   You can listen to the entire outburst here:

Ryan Tate’s tirade at a company staff meeting in late May

Fair warning: this is stuff that you would never expect to hear from someone who is in a senior leadership position in an organization; frankly I found it disturbing.  If you don’t want to listen to the entire 17 minutes of audio, here are some of the low-lights:

  • At about the 1:43 mark, Tate likens himself to Jesus.
  • At the 4:53 mark, he refers to a $7.8 million lawsuit that has been filed against five former employees of the company.  ABC News later determined that no such lawsuit had been filed; it was a lie designed to bully and intimidate his employees.
  • During the rant, he refers to his employees as cowards, and at the 5:53 mark calls them morons and stupid.
  • At the 9:00 mark, he actually begins to threaten his employees: “I get to put liens on your houses, I get to put liens on your cars, I get to garnish your wages, everything you do pretty much the rest of your life is mine if I want it.”
  • Absurdly, at about the 13:55 mark, he begins to tear up because he has to fire 25 innocent people, and he goes on to say “I’ll pray for you and I’ll pray for your families.”

And oh yes, 25 employees were fired on May 31.

So what can we learn from this debacle? Well, here’s my list to get the conversation started:

  • It doesn’t matter how difficult the situation or how upset you are; as a leader you simply cannot lose your composure.  By virtue of your position, you ARE a role model to others, and you must always be aware and thoughtful of what you say and do.
  • It simply is NOT appropriate to be verbally abusive to anyone, let alone your employees.  Calling your staff “stupid”, “cowards” or “losers” is just not done!
  • We live in the digital age.  Understand that nothing you say or do in a public arena is confidential.  Yes, this was a private staff meeting, but the surfacing of this audio is proof enough that you must always be conscious of your words and actions.
  • It’s probably not a good idea to equate yourself to a religious figure who is revered by many.  It’s not only tasteless but it will make you look like a pompous ass!
  • Don’t ever forget that your employees are people; real people with feelings and emotions.  They are not pawns on your chessboard.  Do not play games with their lives and livelihoods in order to prove your power and superiority.

What would you add to this list?  Please add your comments below.

4 Comments

  • Wow. Really?! Wow! I’m not often speechless, but this guy was over-the-top crazy. He may own the business, but his tactics are nothing but bullying (“I’m going to GET you!”), and if was as smart as he thinks he is, he would believe his own words that “in this digital age, you can’t keep anything secret.” As in, someone recording a meeting with their cell phone?!
    Hey, Tate, way to motivate people to give you 110%. Or not. (What WOULD have been nice – in a better job market – would have been for EVERYONE to walk off the job!)

    Reply
  • Laurie, your reaction was exactly mine!! I too wished that all his employees would have walked off the job! But of course … these are real people with livelihoods and families and responsibilities and they can’t just walk away. I believe Tate knows this which is why he is such a bully! Bullies only go after those who are weaker than them and so too it is here. Unfortunately, Oklahoma law does not provide any protection to employees in this situation, so these people will continue to tolerate this … until they have another choice. Definitely very sad!

    Reply
  • Thank you, Merge. As of June 18, 2015, I finally terminated my seven-year contract with Tate Publishing. I’m a slow learner and first-time author who didn’t know the right questions to ask, until it was too late. Seven years of misrepresentation, unsolved issues, hidden sales, breach of contract, etc. But listening to Ryan Tate’s staff meeting in 2012 just about did me in. Sick to my stomach for a week. Wish there was something more I could do to protect new authors signing on with Tate Publishing as we speak. As I read current complaints, nothing has changed on how they conduct business.

    Reply
  • Connie, i”m so sorry to hear about your experience. I’ve never worked directly with Tate Publishing (I was made aware of this situation by a regular reader of my blog) but once I started researching them, it was clear that they are bad news. And of course Ryan Tate’s behaviour was just mind-boggling. For what it’s worth, I am glad that you finally severed your relationship with them; things can only get better for you from here!

    Reply

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