I had the displeasure of working on mutual projects with Mike Rinder for over 30 years.
I first met Mike in the mid-1980s when he was in Los Angeles. I worked at the Portland Church and came to LA for a conference, one of many that I attended during that time. Mike was in charge of the conference and I found him cold and intimidating. The only times I saw him smile or laugh were when he made a “clever” joke about another staff member that humiliated them in front of others.
I came into contact with Mike more in the late 1980s when I relocated to Los Angeles. Any project we worked on together was not pleasant. I saw how his personal staff appeared cowed and nervous around him. I witnessed how he nagged and yelled at those junior to him and made snide comments about the work they presented. He was faultfinding and highly critical.
I don’t ever recall seeing him compliment or thank them, but he would instead dress them down for their “stupidity” or “incompetence.” He acted as if he was the only one who could get something done. A few times, I saw him laughing and mistakenly thought he was being friendly with his staff, until I looked at their expressions. They looked either embarrassed or degraded, and I realized he was being sarcastic and humiliating them.
In the 1990s, I changed positions within the Church and again saw Mike frequently. His demeanor had not changed. He was a very cold and arrogant person. He was difficult to work with and nothing I did or showed to him was good enough. I had the misfortune of having to submit a number of proposals through him, and he would sit on them for extended periods, despite my nudging him.
An occasion that stands out in my mind was in late 2004 when he came with two others to go over what I was working on. I was proud of my recent work and began telling him about it, as well as plans for future expansion in my area. He sat at a table looking up at me with a smirk on his face. He finally cut me off and started berating me, telling me I was “unreal” and doing a “lousy job” and that I’d “never change and improve.” He didn’t give me any specifics, just the generality that I wasn’t doing well and that I never would.
At first, I remained calm and heard out his criticisms. I listened to what he had to say to see if there was, in fact, something useful that I could get out of his berating. I then attempted to assure him that I was taking actions to improve my area of responsibility. He immediately cut me off and said I still didn’t understand what he was saying because I was “so south” and I’d never make it.
He was now raising his voice and drumming on about my “incompetence” and “no change or improvement.” It seemed the more I listened and didn’t react, the more he poured it on and continued to denigrate me. He didn’t just ridicule my work, but started to review my life overall, making nothing of it, making nothing of me. Mike didn’t let up: he was ruthless and wanted only to belittle me.
I’m not proud to say that at that moment, it worked. The second he saw tears coming down my face, he smiled and said I was finally starting to understand. He had accomplished what he’d set out to do: drag me down and make me feel like nothing.
Later, I reflected on this and realized he was after me because I would and could work. He, on the other hand, was lazy. He just didn’t care about anyone or anything except himself. There are countless times I went to see him in his office, only to find him dozing. It was incredible.
It was a relief when Mike Rinder left. I can assure you, I’ve never missed him.