Power does interesting things to people. Whether power truly corrupts, or whether positions of power just happen to attract terrible people, time and time again we see historical figures who were terrible bosses and treated their staffs terribly. History is littered with dictators, despots, and military strongmen who terrorized their people, their countries, and the rest of the world.
However, it isn’t just the dictators who abuse their positions of power. More mundane world leaders can express their power in some very interesting ways, ranging from the petty to the outright dickish. As the unfortunate individuals who live to serve these world leaders’ every whims, the staff and servants are often the ones who suffer the most directly from their bosses’ predilections towards prickery. One can find all sorts of examples of powerful people who couldn’t help but mistreat their own staffs, as if gaining power over an entire country wasn’t enough confirmation of their self worth. It seems that no level of personal accomplishment can truly satisfy a bully.
- Photo: Arnold Newman / Wikimedia Commons
Lyndon Johnson isn't remembered for his acts of kindness. As the man who had the misfortune of succeeding JFK (AKA one of the most popular American leaders ever) and the responsibility of presiding over the majority of the Vietnam War, he had a lot on his plate, and being Mr. Nice Guy just didn't make the cut. However, there are definitely some more personal reasons for LBJ’s reputation as a jerk.
Johnson liked to establish dominance over people - including his staff and White House reporters - in some peculiar ways, including pulling his penis out at random and forcing folks to meet with him while he pooped. This didn’t involve a stall, mind you, but one or more people standing right beside the President as he sat on his throne.
Lots of world leaders have mistreated their servants, but few have actually been officially reprimanded for it. Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Prime Minister of Israel, is controversial for his actions against the Palestinians, but his wife is controversial for her abuse of their staff. Sara Netanyahu was charged with frequently raging against household staff and “creating an abusive work environment,” and she was found guilty. Israel’s government had to foot the bill in the settlement for her abuse, and it didn’t exactly help Netanyahu’s popularity in the polls.
Winston Churchill is a beloved wartime leader of Britain, but no one can accuse him of being an overly handsome man. That’s why it’s especially disconcerting that Churchill often forced his employees to watch him walk around in the nude, fresh from a bath, while he dictated notes to them. Churchill apparently felt at ease letting it all hang out around the office, but it’s hard to believe anyone else shared his comfort with it. Even President Roosevelt saw him naked during an infamous and surely awkward chance meeting.
President Herbert Hoover and his wife might just take the cake for the weirdest abuse of their staff. While they occupied the White House, the Hoovers expected their servants to be as "invisible" as possible. This didn’t mean they simply wanted them to be quiet; it meant they wanted them to literally hide whenever they heard the Hoovers coming. Staff had to jump into closets and hide under tables whenever the President and his wife came into a room, which couldn't have made for the most comfortable working environment.