When people expect you to behave as they would

Once, I was Managing Director of a London advertising agency. After a couple of years, I felt I had done a good job. I had secured all the important clients, recruited a new generation of staff and, in the face of severe financial difficulties which I had inherited, I had helped sell the company to a new owner and, thereby, secure its future.

But the time had come to move on. I was keen to make a different career move. Once the sale was completed, and I had made sure the clients and the staff were happy and in place, I resigned.

A couple of days later, I was sitting in my office when the door smashed open and in charged two very large hit men. They shouted at me not to move, grabbed my arms, pinned them behind my back and slammed me up against a wall.

Behind them followed our new owner, the chairman of a publicly quoted company on the London Stock Exchange. He told me to shut up as he rifled through my briefcase, tipped up the drawers of my desk and, with increasing frustration, emptied two filing cabinets onto the floor.

Once he had done this, he told me I was to leave the office immediately. With my arms still pinned behind my back, his two thugs escorted me off the premises and threw me onto the pavement.

Later, after several weeks of expensive lawyers’ letters and curt legal exchanges, I was paid off with more money than I had been entitled to by contract.

Why had the chairman behaved like this?

Well, it emerged that, once I had resigned, the new owners were convinced that I would try to walk off with the company’s clients. The reason for their heavy-handed, strong-arm tactics was that they had been confident of finding evidence to this effect.

As it happened, they had failed to find any evidence of my behaving in this way.

This was no surprise to me as I had never had any intention of doing so.

Why didn’t they ask me?

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