We’ve all had them: managers and bosses who will forever hold a special place in our memories. Some were dedicated, encouraging mentors, from whom we learned so much about how to succeed on the job, in our future careers, and even in life in general. And then there are those OTHER bosses we Chicks will never forget…
Hmm…so hard to choose. Actually, the good bosses are easy. (I’ve had exactly two of them.) At my first publishing job I worked for four crazed editors, including one who moonlighted as a romance writer. She handed me a celebrity bio of Richard Gere for my first edit project. I worked really hard on the opening chapter, rewriting it in perfect grammar, and I was sooo proud of myself. Imagine my shock when she started erasing all the red pencil marks so fast and furiously that you could hear her twenty-plus bangle bracelets jangling all the way down the hall. I protested that the original version read like a trashy magazine. “That’s the whole point,” she said. “No one likes perfect grammar.” Lesson learned.
And the bad bosses? There was the one who couldn’t stand the occasional clink of my one bangle bracelet from eight doors down. And another who yelled at me for using her office when she was at a spa and I had to give my own desk up for the publisher’s temp. Because, you know, what if I’d snooped? Who did I think I was? Then there was the guy who threw a typewriter out an open NYC office window (not mad at ME—just some overly-demanding author). But the booby prize goes to the boss from my brief foray into the financial world, as an office manager. (I had two little kids at home and was desperate to make actual money.) He pulled me aside and said he needed a favor that wasn’t part of my job description. Could “we” please start wearing higher heels, more makeup, and “dress up a little more” so “we” could impress new clients by serving them catered lunches in the executive conference room? I almost broke my newly-be-pearled neck crossing those marble floors carrying china platters on a silver tray. “We” soon decided no amount of money was worth playing 80s-Corporate-Barbie, and “we” ran straight back to publishing for good in those sky-high heels.
For me, a good boss is any boss who’ll give me a job in television. But I have one bad boss who stands head and shoulders above all other bad bosses I’ve had.
A few years after graduating college, I got a job as an assistant to the assistant to the Executive Director of the Dramatists Guild (Yes, that was my actual title.) It was a great position for a twentysomething transitioning from acting to playwriting. I got to meet and work with theatrical legends like Edward Albee, Mary Rodgers, Lanford Wilson, Stephen Sondheim, who were only a few of the iconic DG board members. That was the fantastic part of the job. The less fantastic part was working for the ED himself, who was basically an it-rhymes-with-stick. I’ll just share one anecdote that will tell you everything you need to know about him.
I used to suffer from terrible cramps. Like the kind that made you feel faint and double over with pain. He called me into the office one day to take a letter – he’d sent me to do a speed writing class, sidebar, I still sometimes use a few things I remember from it – anyway, in the middle of dictating, he noticed I looked sick and asked what was wrong. (Most likely fearing it might be something he could catch.) I was honest and told him I had bad cramps. To which he replied, “As long as women menstruate, they’ll never be equal.”
That is a direct quote. And I bet you’re not surprised that I remember it verbatim.
Most of my jobs were working at newspapers. But I did a short stint working in corporate communications. The president of the company, who I would’ve thought had better things to do, micro-managed the communications department. To be clear, we weren’t producing sales copy and advertising, this was all inter-company communications. He made us rewrite copy for newsletters, reports and such multiple times. Sometimes, I swear, I think we kept changing it until we ended up back at the original wording. He also wanted everything justified text (not justified left and jagged right like the copy in this post, but justified left and right). Justified text means sometimes you have odd spacing between words. He would go ballistic over any spaces, so we spent all our time adjusting the tracking. It was nuts. But the most nerve-wracking thing was that he would randomly call us individually. I’d pick up my phone and one of his personal secretaries (he had three) would say, “Hold the line for President Wah Wah.” Then came the Inquisition. And the yelling. I lived in fear of answering my phone.
In 2011, I moved back to New Jersey with absolutely zero job prospects. The intention was to transition into technical writing since it paid well, but that was easier said than done (Spoiler Alert: It took me a year to get an entry level tech writing job and I literally lasted three months before I left do to marketing.) So I took a lot of temp jobs, one of which was handing out flyers for MetroPCS. It was my first time having a job where folks were going through the motions. Everyone from my “boss” to fellow “team members” did not care. My “boss” would give the cool jobs to his friends and have the rest of us trying to hand out flyers in 20 degree weather. (Spoiler Alert: We would hand out just enough for a few pics then throw the rest in the garbage. Sorry trees who died in vain.) He’d also literally wait until like 1 in the morning to tell you where you were working the next day. Needless to say, it was mess. I don’t miss it at all.
Having been self-employed for a number of years now, I have to say that my favorite boss is… me! I am completely in agreement with myself about how much work I should be taking on and what time I get in in the morning. I also allow myself to work in my pajamas and bring my cats to work, which is a short, 30-second commute down to the home office. My worst boss? Oh, where to start? There was the mall job where I worked alongside the store owner who expected 17-year-old me to take it every bit as seriously as he did. (Spoiler: I didn’t.) There was the gross, stringy-haired boss who made lewd comments in the office back before anyone knew what sexual harassment even was. And there was the bipolar ad-agency creative director (possibly also addicted to coke) who would love our work one minute and hate it the next — sometimes the very same work. Jeez, no wonder I chose to work for myself!
Have had some fantastic bosses–what they all had in common was a kind way of treating employees, a motivational style, and a great sense of humor. Also, you can tell when someone wants you to learn things that will not only benefit the work at hand but will also allow you to grow as a person. Deeply grateful for having had some terrific mentors!
As far as worst bosses go, I’m taking the fifth. 😇
Readers, did you have a boss who still looms large in your memory? Let us know in the comments below (no real names, please, to protect the guilty…er, innocent)!
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