remembering the good ones

I just texted my old boss and told him what a great boss he was.

I felt compelled to do this because every day — every single day — I am confronted by the Platonic ideal of The Bad Boss and had to remind myself that there are good ones out there, that this situation is hopefully temporary.

I got this job at least partly on the strength of my resume, which boasts my attention to detail and follow-through, and if my current boss ever thinks twice about those phrases, I’ll probably be booted. I’ve had so many screwups here it isn’t even funny, but my boss would bridle at the suggestion that they might in any way be his fault.

In my previous job, coworkers would “buddy-check” things for each other. I never really gave that phrase any serious thought until I used it here and got laughed at*. In my old job, we checked each other’s work because we were human, and humans err. Better to take a minute to make sure it’s right, right?

Here, I’m not allowed to automate certain aspects of my job — I’m not even allowed to use copy and paste, sometimes — because that would make me a “robot”**, yet absolute, superhuman perfection is expected of me always. And when my work is checked, it’s not to make sure that errors are caught before they go out; it’s to find something for which to yell at me.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve made an error on a purchase order that wasn’t caught by my coworker or boss, who must look over every document I send out***, but who share no responsibility for errors uncaught.

And the reason for the errors can be mostly attributed to the fact that my boss is a steel beam dropped in front of my train of thought, fifty times a day.

My boss is an interrupter, demanding instant answers with backing documentation for any question that pops into his head, whenever.

My boss has no respect for the head bent to a task, no concept of how someone on the phone might not want or even be able to carry on two different conversations at once, no idea that someone might need to just buckle down and fucking focus for half an hour to complete a complex and detailed task. No, my boss is going to scream, yell, interrupt, ask questions, carry on a top-of-the-lungs phone call within three feet of me at any moment during any day.

Even when I didn’t even have a cube at my old job, and worked at a table in the midst of a score of other tables similarly occupied, no one at my old job — boss, coworker, whoever — would have dreamed of stomping up and demanding that I stop what I was doing to attend upon them, but Current Boss has no such inhibitions.

Our office is a 12×12 room with three desks and up to four people working at once. It is not a quiet place. There is no privacy. There is no calm or focus.

I can’t wear headphones, so I have to listen to my boss endlessly berate and belittle helpdesk employees, the person at the corporation commmission, the scheduler at the doctor’s office, his accountant, his fiancee, his ex-wife, me.

He recently called his fiancee a dumbass because she didn’t know when the pro basketball season ran.

Current Boss — and with him, his sidekick, Coworker-Guy — love racist jokes, misogynistic jokes, forming opinions about powerful women based on their looks or how good they think she’d be in bed.

* * *

“What do you say to a woman with two black eyes?” my coworker asks me. I don’t answer, but he continues anyway: “Nothing. You’ve already told her twice.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I blurt. He doesn’t understand why beating women isn’t funny. I feel a little sick.

* * *

I have told them almost nothing about my personal life, restricting conversations to pets and cars. They don’t know I’m in a band, that I love building websites, that my husband draws me buggs every single day. They haven’t asked, so I’m not volunteering anything that can be used to deride me.

* * *

My boss forwards me uncommented emails, then explains in an exasperated tone when I ask him what I’m supposed to do with it.

He leaves un-notated paperwork in various places vaguely near my work area, then yells at me when I’ve failed to complete whatever unspecified task was associated with that paperwork.

“Call them and find out why they’re saying I still owe them money.”
“Well, has the check cleared your bank?”
“I don’t know.”
“Can you find out, so I have all the information when I call?”
“Just call them.”

* * *

I spent the first few months here wondering if I’d lost my mojo.

I’d come home, exhausted and upset, and wonder if my memory problems were worsening, if I was truly a bad worker bee.

As time went by, though, I’d still come home exhausted and upset, but then I’d wonder what I’d done to deserve this job. What had happened to me, that I was being subjected to this?

This job is like an abusive relationship.

One morning, a few days after a particularly bad day of me being screamed at for shit that was only partly my fault, my boss gave me a raise. I am pretty sure this is akin to flowers for your girlfriend whose lip you’ve split. I’ve been given random gift cards, sportsball tickets, a paid afternoon off. They do not always happen after some particularly psychotic mental abuse, but I feel they’re related nonetheless.

I keep applying for any job I think I might be good at, and I’ve had a single interview that went nowhere, but I keep looking for an exit strategy — any exit strategy. I can’t quit, because we’d lose the house****, but I am looking for anything that would mean even the slightest bit of respect for me and the work I can do — the good work I know I can do.

And in the meantime, I’ll be remembering that there are good jobs, and bosses, out there.


* I get laughed at — literally laughed at, sometimes complete with pointing finger — for any number of things, such as my appearance and my belief that domestic violence isn’t an appropriate subject for humor. It’s a great workplace.

** I guess that’s a bad thing? It’s said derisively, but how robots are bad is never made clear.

*** To be fair, everyone’s documents, not just mine, must be checked by the boss. Checked for what, I have no idea, because it’s not for accuracy or completeness, that’s for damn sure.

**** We may well lose it anyway, because this crap job pays less than half what I was making before, and what with one thing and another, we’re on the financial edge and it’s anyone’s guess what falls off first.

3 thoughts on “remembering the good ones

  • 8 April 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I enjoyed the read- keep your chin up there are not that many good employees out there- it’ll come to you – when the timing is right.

  • 8 April 2013 at 8:52 pm

    I feel your pain. Every small, privately-owned business with the owner on site that I have worked for (5) has been like this. Nothing but outrageous, tyrannical, freakshow behavior. They think they’re paying you out of pocket and they think the office is their house, so there are no boundaries ever, and at least in all of my experiences, the owner was using the business as a personal ATM, so we were always one unforseen crisis or audit away from becoming unemployed due to their self-righteous incompetence. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only the nonprofit sector (where no one owns anything or is bulletproof, but then again, you could have a board of 20 assholes) or…Costco.

  • 16 April 2013 at 7:37 pm

    I’ve been working at the Walmart corporate office for the past 7 years, and we have good jobs here….. they just involve moving to Arkansas. It looks like the only thing open out in your area is an admin assistant job in Tempe.

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