A successful boss - or so at least one school of thought holds - hires the best possible people, pays them well and gives them free rein to do their jobs.

As tonight's winner of The Apprentice will find out, Donald Trump isn't enrolled in that school.

The high-rolling real estate developer, who through the NBC series has become perhaps the nation's most famous boss, does hire the best he can find, and he does pay handsomely in the executive ranks.

But when it comes to those reins, some former employees say Trump can - and regularly does - tug on them, sometimes viciously.

"He is not an easy guy. He is very temperamental," said Bernard Goupy, who Trump - not liking the look of his Caesar salad - fired after six months as chef at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Palm Beach estate. "He swears like a truck driver."

The winner of The Apprentice - the one contestant who, in Trump's view, outshines the other 15 who vied for the honor of working for one of his companies for a year - will be named on tonight's final episode.

But aside from the $250,000 salary, the fame and the doors the job could open, is working for Donald Trump the prize the show makes it out to be, or more akin to punishment?

Former employees have described Trump as having a volatile temper, a foul mouth and little regard for lower- level workers. They say his attention span is short, except when it comes to property he wants or someone who, in his view, has wronged him.

He seeks out opinions, but doesn't put much stock in them. He is meticulous, a clean freak, quick to find scapegoats to fire. He is prone to tirades, and sometimes berates employees in front of others.

Trump employs close to 20,000, the bulk of them - nearly 12,000 - at his three Atlantic City casino hotels, Trump Taj Majal, Trump Marina and Trump Plaza.

What it's like to work for Trump varies, depending on whether you're a janitor at the Trump Taj Majal or a vice president at his Trump Tower headquarters in New York - but neither can be assured of avoiding his well-known wrath.

Among his executives, Trump likes to see high energy, big thinking, business suits (jackets kept on) and zealous dedication. He has little use for Type B personalities. He prefers "warriors."

On The Apprentice, two contestants (Bill Rancic and Kwame Jackson) remain, but one thing is sure - whoever wins tonight is probably not in for a peaceful, easy 12 months.

Perhaps the best tattletale from inside the Trump organization is John R. O'Donnell, one-time president of the Trump Plaza and author of the 1991 book Trumped! The Inside Story of the Real Donald Trump.

O'Donnell quit his $260,000-a-year job in 1990 to write the book, in which he describes Trump as "volatile and unpredictable."

"He had a passion for cleanliness, and depending on his mood, a stray cigarette butt on the carpet or an employee's scuffed shoes could unleash in him a fearful tirade, always accompanied by a stream of expletives," he wrote.

O'Donnell's book recounts several incidents of Trump's going beyond yelling and cursing. Displeased with the ceiling height of a casino lounge for preferred customers, Trump rammed his fist through a tile. Dissatisfied with the interiors of a fleet of new limousines, he ripped out handfuls of upholstery.

Trump is a stickler for details, including clothing, O'Donnell wrote: "To image-obsessed Donald, a loosened tie was the sign of a sloppy mind."

O'Donnell said Trump would yell at pilots if they landed his 727 roughly, and when things went wrong at one of his casinos, he was intent on finding someone to blame and then fire.

O'Donnell, who Trump has labeled a disgruntled employee intent on maligning him, says Trump went ballistic when the opening of the Taj Majal was delayed. He quoted Trump:

"I'm gonna fire all you (expletive) ... You're all (expletive). I never had so much incompetent (expletive) working for me ... I want the (expletive) out of here. I want the incompetents out of here. I want people in here who are going to kick some (expletive). I want (expletive). What I need are more nasty (expletive) in this company. Warriors."

Norma Foerderer doesn't look like a warrior, but appearances can be deceiving, as Trump noted in The Art of the Deal.

"Charming and classy, but she's all steel underneath," he wrote of Foerderer, his vice president for media relations and human resources. She must be - having worked for him for 23 years and outlasted even ex-wife, Ivana, who initially recommended The Donald hire her.

A member of Trump's trusted inner circle, Foerderer says he is a boss that both expects and exhibits loyalty. Trump employs from 80 to 90 people in the New York office.

"The Trump Organization is not humongous. I hate to say it's like a 'mom and pop organization,' but it is, in a sense, because of the kind of guy he is. He's very caring," she said.

"He is the most exciting man to work for. He gives you every opportunity in the world, if you have the initiative and the energy. And he listens. He asks people their thoughts and he welcomes them and he responds to them.

"It's definitely not an IBM-type bureaucracy," Foerderer said. "There are not a lot of meetings, and those that there are don't go on for a long time. You'll sit there for maybe 15 minutes and then it's 'What's the bottom line? How do we do it? Let's get going.'"

He only worked briefly for Trump, and met him just once, but Al Cohen, a long-time Atlantic City, N.J., bartender who is now vice president of Local 54 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union, pronounces him decent enough.

"I was tending bar, and he was getting ready to do an interview in that particular room. He shook my hand," recalled Cohen. "He treated me all right."

Cohen keeps Trump's book, The Art of the Deal, in his office and is a big fan of The Apprentice. (He was pulling for Troy, eliminated two weeks ago.)

He said Trump's casinos have a reputation as good places to work, and have a "good working relationship" with the union.

"That doesn't mean we get everything we want from them, but at least we have a working relationship."

Working 18 years at Resorts, Cohen saw several owners come and go, including Trump.

"A lot of times, with a boss like Trump, well, a guy at that level can intimidate you a little bit. But you have to give the guy credit. Everything he touches turns to gold."

And if Trump sometimes comes across as cold, Cohen said, it's part of what makes him so successful in business.

"To be in the corporate world, and be at that magnitude, you have to be able to be cold. You have to be able to draw the line. If some guy's not doing his job, and he gives you a heart-wrenching story, you have to be able to look past that. ... That doesn't mean that [you mistreat] people, but if someone's not doing his job, it's 'see you later.' You know he can do it. You hear it every Thursday."

Bernard Goupy's brief tenure with Trump was less pleasant.

He was hired as executive chef at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's 118-room mansion, in July 2001 but didn't meet Trump until November. Just a few weeks later, he was dismissed.

The beginning of the end came when Goupy served Trump and his guests a Caesar salad inside baskets made out of woven strips of parmesan and romano cheese.

While he had served the same dish the same way to Trump before, it didn't go over well this day, he said.

Trump stormed into the kitchen, Goupy said, swearing loudly. He picked up a plate and began throwing greens into it, saying, "This is the way to make a Caesar salad."

Goupy said he had been warned about Trump's temper.

"It was very well known among the staff," Goupy said in a heavy French accent. "I knew he fired a lot of people, and lots of people quit themselves. Things can be going along fine, then one day he doesn't like you and you're gone."

Goupy said he didn't hear the words "you're fired" from Trump. Instead, when he reported for work the day after the Caesar salad incident, a manager told him that Trump had decided to promote the sous-chef to executive chef.

"You must go home," he was told.

Goupy went on to work for Celine Dion.

By the book

How does Trump view himself as a boss? Some clues can be found in his 1989 book, Trump: The Art of the Deal.

"I have a very simple rule when it comes to management: Hire the best people from your competitors, pay them more than they were earning, and give them bonuses and incentives based on their performance," he wrote. "That's how you build a first--class operation."

But Trump has never been known as a hands-off manager. The apprentice could end up being watched very closely by his mentor.

If that's the case, he might want to borrow a solution from a manager who successfully trumped Trump.

The Atlantic City hotel manager - chosen to replace one who bristled under the close monitoring he received from Trump, then-wife Ivana and other executives - began making a point of seeking their input on minute decisions, from menu items to wallpaper.

"The guy went so far out of his way to solicit our opinions and involve us in the hotel that finally I said, 'Leave me alone, do whatever you want, just don't bother me,'" Trump wrote. "What he did was the perfect ploy, because he got what he wanted not by fighting but by being positive."

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