Angry Stock Broker Guy

Life lessons learned through a glass partition

The Glass Partition

In early 2016, as we approached the launch of our audio platform Anchor, my team and I still didn’t have our own private office. We rented a small WeWork space with glass partitions separating us from our neighbors. There was a ceiling that regularly rained white plaster onto my desk. There were the broken chairs that wouldn’t recline.

And, of course, there was the Angry Stock Broker Guy.

We first noticed him right after moving in. A man in his sixties with slicked back white hair, and the six or so junior brokers who worked for him. I never learned his name, or that of his company. But it’s amazing what you can not know about a person while discovering their true inner self.

Angry Stock Broker Guy would get angry. And for us, his only neighbors, the only thing worse than the full transparency of the glass partition between us was that partition’s utter inability to muffle sound.

So we watched and heard it all. The way he would berate his employees, who would then look down at their desks in silence. The way he would recline in his seat and shriek obscenities into his phone. The time he actually shouted, “Always be closing!” which, in an ideal world, would have been a witty reference to Glengarry Glen Ross. Except it wasn’t… It was very real.

Each time he would get unreasonably loud, we would knock on the glass and signal for him to quiet down. He would intentionally avoid our gaze, raise his voice, and go on. Several times, I knocked on the door to his office and attempted to have an adult conversation about the situation; he pretended to be on phone calls and refused to talk to me.

We were embarrassed to host guests at our office. When showing prospective employees around, we would pray Angry Stock Broker Guy would be having a good day. And when we complained to the WeWork management, they shrugged and said there was not much they could do, and there were no available offices of equal size we could move to.

The Confrontation

At least, that’s what they said until that one fateful day.

I went down to the management office and visited Johnny, the twenty-something year old Community Manager responsible for handling tenant complaints. I felt bad bringing this up yet again. He was clearly in over his head.

The conversation went as it had before: “Sorry,” Johnny said, “I really don’t think we can do anything about it. If he’s not directing verbal abuse toward you… And besides, I bet it’s really not that bad.”

But on this particular day, Angry Stock Broker Guy was particularly vulgar. And so I told Johnny, “Why don’t you come to our office right now? See it for yourself. Then tell me you don’t think it’s that bad.”

We rode the elevator up to our floor, and as soon as those doors slid open and we stepped out, Johnny heard it. Angry Stock Broker Guy was yelling at one of his employees.

“Whoa,” said Johnny.

I nodded.

Johnny came into our office for several minutes. He sat with our team and watched Angry Stock Broker Guy go on and on, oblivious to our stares, as though he were putting on a performance. Yet it had been weeks by this point, and we’d come to understand this was anything but a performance.

“We can’t work here,” I told Johnny. “Either fix this problem or we’re breaking our lease today.”

Johnny assured me he’d handle it. He left through one door and, three feet later, knocked on that of the neighboring office. With glass partitions, we could see how nervous he was. Angry Stock Broker Guy ignored the knock until one of the junior brokers whispered something in his ear. “It’s the WeWork management” perhaps?

Soft-spoken Johnny entered, said a few sentences we couldn’t make out. And at once, Angry Stock Broker Guy flipped out. He began cursing at the Community Manager half his age. He pointed at us and ranted about privacy and how much he was paying for that office and how he was unable to do his work effectively in such an environment.

Johnny was shaken, and when I say shaken, I mean visibly shaking. When was the last time you’ve been yelled at? And when I say yelled at, I mean really yelled at?

When he returned to our office after several minutes, all the color had left his face. He didn’t say anything though. He just gave me a look and walked away.

The Solution

An hour later, we were moved to a different office on a different floor. And because the only available office that could fit us was twice the size of our original, we got more square footage for no additional cost.

Johnny apologized to my team profusely.

“Tell me you’re kicking him out after all that,” I said.

But they weren’t kicking him out. For reasons I will never understand, the management determined that they would rather not. Instead, they actually forced him to rent out the space we had left and keep it vacant. That way, he’d have a buffer between him and everyone else, and they wouldn’t need to deal with the mess of sending him packing.

And this harebrained solution seemed to work as well for Angry Stock Broker Guy, who preferred to pay for a second unused office than spend a moment doing some good, healthy self-reflection.

We never did see Angry Stock Broker Guy again. We never learned what happened to him, or what other adventures he had.

But that’s okay. Because, of paramount importance, that was the day I learned one of life’s most valuable lessons. One I’ll never forget. And that is this:

Don’t be an asshole. You’ll have to pay double the rent.