lundi, mars 29, 2010

work for a plonker crossed with a dipstick?

A little while back, I wrote a thank-you note to two former bosses. You see, I had what I fear are the best bosses of my life early in my career, when I was too green to know how lucky I was to have them as my managers. I thanked them for mentoring me, giving me autonomy with accountability, being flexible when needed, and treating me with genuine respect as a colleague.

I'd like to think that I'll find that again, but will admit to feeling a bit jaded as I watch my friends and colleagues endure odd situations with management that isn't really the kind of leadership to which I aspire. Over the years, I've learned to let it roll off my back and to focus on what's more important. I've also realized that I will probably be happiest (and do my best work) if I have the chutzpah to choose to work as a consultant or finally write that children's book I've been thinking about for the past few years.

For now, I'm staying put at my company, grateful for a paycheck in this economy and even more grateful for the other kindred spirits who brighten what could be just another soul-sucking corporate existence. Meanwhile, I'm doing good work, reminding my friends to focus on the fact that there has to be a light at the end of the tunnel, and counting my lucky stars that I don't work for the asstard described in the essay below.
Cubicle Wars: My Worst Boss (By Urban Cowgirl)
Monday, March 29, 2010

My job's sole redeeming feature is its salary. It's enough to live on, and I am grateful that in the Current Economic Climatetm I have a reason to commute two hours and hate the intervening eight hours with internal white-hot fury. The story of how I ended up here is lengthy and boring but suffice to say I had my dream job, that taxed the very limits of my intellect, and I gave it up to return to the UK because my mother was ill and I needed to be close.

I've been reaching for the gin bottle positivity-ing myself out of bed every morning, and last week I figured out that Anti-Bed leverage was enhanced by recalling that at least the people I work with are nice. Some of them are incompetent, but that's Dilbert's Third Law of Management. Nobody is actively nasty or intentionally destructive. No matter how much I hate my current job, it's not as bad as when I worked for My Worst Boss.

When I was a very young onion, I worked five years for a manager whose behaviour was so far over the line he couldn't have seen the line through the Hubble Telescope I imagined myself ramming up his backside.

When I'd been there a few months, on returning to my desk after lunch I found a copy of The Sun open at page 3 (the page The Sun dedicates to photos of topless women). Hilariously, that day's woman shared my first name. I threw the newspaper away and didn't report the sexual harassment, reasoning that my unimpressed glare had been sufficient to beat down any notions of future gender-abuse-related 'amusement'. I was right. But years later I wish I'd had the guts to march to the Director and threaten to take the organisation to court.

My Worst Boss had a drinking problem with a side of aggression. He would roll into the office at 10.30am with cadaver skin, groan at his desk until just after midday, and then proceed directly to a local drinking establishment. If I needed anything, that was my window, because after one of his special two or three hour lunchtime inhibition-busting sessions there was no point trying to interact. I attempted, once, to rescue reason from the jaws of Guinness at 3.30pm. I described a problem, and he suggested a solution so ridiculous that I queried his sanity. "Are you sure?" I said, "That might lead to the Earth being blown up and all its inhabitants dying a painful death." He told me that it would be 'fine'. It went pear-shaped the following week, whereupon I ended up back at his desk to be roared at. "Why did you do THAT?!"

Because you told me to.

"I never would have told you to do something so idiotic!"

I could only inwardly lament that during the conversation where he instructed me, only one of us was sober.

After lunches he would often come back bearing gifts of coffee and cake, because he knew he was doing wrong and he needed to feel better about leaving his staff to pick up the pieces of his shattered professionalism. When the telephone rang after lunch he would lean back and project his voice to the open plan office. Pity the poor fool on the line: they would be there hours later, listening to such effective relationship-management strategies as "Yes! It is under the enormous pile of incredibly URGENT million other things I have to do! WOULD YOU LIKE TO COME OVER AND LOOK AT MY DESK?". My colleagues and I would pretend we were deaf. I would get emails from people who had been trying to reach him for months, pleading with me to somehow have him respond to them.

Business was often transacted after work in the pub: if you didn't go, you would simply not find out things that were vital to the job. On one memorable occasion My Worst Boss had four too many drinks and got seriously bent out of shape because I'd arranged an external meeting with a client fully two weeks hence without yet mentioning it to him. It was in my calendar, which he could look at any time he could see straight, and he had previously told me to do whatever I felt was best. So I did, and now I was the recipient of a drunken rage in front of multiple colleagues. A senior colleague leapt to my defence, and I was so worried My Worst Boss would start throwing punches that I went home in tears.

The next day I explained to My Worst Boss's Boss that I didn't find it acceptable to be torn a new one in front of colleagues during a 'social' engagement outside the office. I didn't find it acceptable that My Worst Boss would tell me one thing one minute, deny it the next, and I could never be sure which way was up. I felt humiliated, hurt, and confused. I used the words drinking problem. I was told to go and see Human Resources Remains. Human Remains notified me that the only course of action was the dreaded formal complaint. I suggested that perhaps help (and a soft-skills course) for him could be productive as a first step. Could they instruct My Worst Boss's Boss to have a word with My Worst Boss? Why should this fall on my small, inexperienced shoulders? They might as well have washed their hands in front of me.

I returned to My Worst Boss's Boss, who gave me a book entitled 'How To Deal With Difficult People'. On my way home I realised that I was being asked to change my behaviour to accommodate someone who was an asshole and an alcoholic (probably the former because of the latter). This seemed neither sound logic for a long-term solution, nor fair. And the authors of the book had clearly never had to deal with My Worst Boss.

In ten years of working, for four months I was managed by someone whose integrity, intelligence, and professionalism I utterly respected. She made me want to leap out of bed every morning and hurtle to work. They are out there: but a rare breed.

Colonists, do you work for a plonker crossed with a dipstick? Please, share your tales from the trenches. Who was Your Worst Boss?

Urban Cowgirl is a Colony team member. You can read more about her here.

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