If you’ve been in the labor force for a few years, you have had the misfortune of working for a bad boss at one time or another. What was he like? What made him a bad boss? Was he the egotist who could never be wrong? Was he infallable despite the fact that his unchallengeable ideas often failed? Was he the micro-manager who scrutinized employees’ every activity and logged frequency of bathroom breaks? Did he harrass you or other employees? Did your worst boss demand more and more effort from his subordiantes without so much as a thank you?
In your career, who was your worst boss? What was s/he like? What did he do (or not do) that earns him your nomination for World’s Worst Boss? Don’t name him—we wouldn’t want it coming back on you, especially if he’s still your current boss!
I haven’t had a “bad boss” in quite some time, so I consider myself very fortunate. However, there is one manager that immediately came to mind when I read the weekly slant. It needs a little backstory for impact.
When I arrived in Atlanta several years ago, it was with my carload of personal effects and a Master’s degree in philosophical theology and ethics. I had moved here hoping that I would be accepted to the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts, a well-regarded interdisciplinary program at Emory University. I chose Emory specifically because I wanted to do a PhD in the area of conjunctions of literature and religious thought and had discovered few people who were able to successfully blend the two fields, at least not in a way that was compelling to me. Because of the issues surrounding the separation of church and state, and the histories of each field itself, and the personal histories and motivations of people who went into each field, there was a mutual avoidance, bordering on distrust, on both sides of the divide. From the side of literature, the field was pretty much limited to undergraduate courses in “Bible as Literature” and such, and on the side of religion, there was hardly any interest in literature at all. Nonetheless, in almost every great work of literature, the two “areas” overlap more often than not. Religious questions and literary questions work together synergistically in many ways. At Emory, there was a professor who grasped this, and after reading a couple of his books and corresponding with him, I packed up and moved to the South. When I came here, I didn’t know for certain whether or not I would be accepted, but Iowa City had little to offer me anymore, and it seemed foolish to move back to Massachusetts only to move again several months later.
Of course, I had to find a job. I didn’t feel that it would be fair to employers to apply for professional positions, all the while knowing that I would probably leave to go back to graduate school within several months. So I trolled around, looking for gainful employment to pay the rent on my new, rather small and depressing apartment. Next door to me lived a self-proclaimed thief. He dressed up, in mask and all, and went to steal things – or so he told me – and gave me advice on how to protect myself against folk such as himself. Across the way, there was a very interesting somewhat crazy old woman who had piles of stuff all the way to the ceiling, with only a meandering path through each room. She was eventually kicked out as a fire hazard, I think, but all the stuff was to donate (and make more to donate) to all the various groups she was involved in – what a firecracker she was! One door down lived a couple: a man who regularly beat his wife, and a wife who refused either to charge him or leave him. Before the Olympics were held in Atlanta, rent was quite reasonable. The apartments themselves have since been torn down and replaced with mid-rise apartments, the rental payment some six times higher. I suppose my former neighbors were forced into the slums.
Within walking distance of my apartment was one of those grocery store complexes that have become familiar to all of us in America. The centerpiece was a Kroger, and there was an old fashioned movie theater (now a Thai restaurant), and a great privately-owned bookstore, and a changing landscape of other small businesses. Now there is a Pike Nursery and a great ice cream place and a consignment shop for children’s clothes. I can’t reconstruct now the reasons why I didn’t apply at the bookstore – it would have been the best place for me. Instead, I applied to the coffeeshop – and I got the job.
It did at least ensure that I would have a few cups of good coffee every morning. They air-roasted the beans every day, and the place always smelled terrific. People were nice – Starbuck’s hadn’t arrived yet – and it was a pleasant low-key job at first. The most egregious thing this manager did was to move me – almost immediately – to their location all the way up Roswell Road. All the benefit of having a job at walking-distance was summarily lost; it took 45 minutes each way through Atlanta traffic. The manager himself, no I won’t name him, appeared to hire only female blondes of a certain age range. To my chagrin, I fit the profile. He never did anything overtly untoward, but he exuded a special kind of sleeziness that I now recognize better than I did then. Ugh. Some other of the “girls” had more specific complaints – but I was rescued before long by one of the customers (now a long-time friend) who recommended me for a job at which I still work part-time. Part of what I do is use assessments of various kinds to look at what makes a bad manager!
I wouldn’t really nominate this guy for the World’s Worst Boss – he was a jerk, but only a jerk with a small “j” – someone I wouldn’t want to have to be around, given my druthers.
Otherwise, everyone has been pretty decent. Now, with my PhD in hand, I’m looking for a job again. No-one seems to be hiring in the humanities. I don’t have certification in “information mapping,” which appears to be a requirement for project management. I am multi-skilled, highly educated, quick on the uptake and I fervently hope that I don’t have to serve coffee again for the 30+ years it will take to pay off my staggeringly large amount of student loan debt. Heads up, Atlanta! Want a smart one?