I’m no cactus expert, but I’ve worked for my share of pricks. I credit one such prick named…oh, why not, let’s just go ahead and assassinate the man’s character directly…Russell Son of Jeffer, for being a main impetus of my FIRE. If I hadn’t suffered through three years and eight months and seventeen days of his supervision, I’d still be working.
Before I launch into story mode, let’s get the trite and self-obvious moralizing out of the way. Working for a bad manager teaches you how to recognize & avoid such in the future, but it also teaches you a few lessons about how not to be a bad manager yourself. Yes?
So how did I come to have Russell Son of Jeffer for my boss?
When I was twenty-three and in MBA school I kept myself fed & watered by working in commercial and college radio. Morning zoo, live remotes from bars, hanging out backstage at concerts, and such. Heady.
But being also the son of a white-collar worker, I’d been programmed since birth to believe that having a “good corporate job” meant you’d “made it.” Can you identify? So promptly upon graduation I split the music industry, moved across the state, and started working in a cube farm under Russell Son of Jeffer’s oversight.
As the man once said: people remember life in phases, but they live it from day-to-day. Looking back through my journals from those years I find far too many entries where I focused on whatever the latest Russell-screwed-me-over story was. There were also all sorts of good things that happened to me during that time, of course, but sad to say that I spent 3.5 years under a shadow and I wrote nowhere near as much about those good things as I should’ve.
Such is the power of a bad boss.
But here’s an entry from my third year/second month that I’ll always prize. My contempt for Russell Son of Jeffer will obviously shine through, but I’d earned the right to be contemptuous. His department had fourteen people and the bulk of us felt the same way. I hope you find it valuable, or if not valuable, at least entertaining.
Four ten-hour days including last Saturday working on that PowerPoint bullshit for R’s Board of Directors presentation on the public utility commission situation. Constant frigging revisions telling me to do one thing and then deciding he didn’t like it and throwing it out and sending me off to do something else because (he said) I didn’t give him what he wanted the first time. Chewing me out for not delivering fast enough. Then changing the entire thing after I finally did deliver it. And of course he slapped his name all over it. “By R.” with no mention of anybody else. I guess a co-credit was out of the question, but you’d think he’d at least mention the department by name.
But then he gets up in front of the board Monday, must’ve been three hundred people in the auditorium, and he gets thirty pages through the thing. Pure R. A ten-minute fifty-page presentation for the Board of Directors on a subject they’re only including on the agenda to fondle the genitalia of the regulatory people. Everybody pretending to listen.
So on the thirty-first slide, I checked it, he leaves out the L in PUBLIC DATA. Swear to God, the heading now reads PUBIC DATA in San Serif Streptococcus or whatever. One of those mistakes a spell-checker won’t catch. Wasn’t my slide. He must’ve added it on Sunday.
Audience NOW paying attention. Galloway chews his lip and Sestin takes a sip of water and Williams smiles and scribbles something on his notepad.1
R. goes absolutely Tartan Plaid in the face. All that sucking up and brown-nosing and he’ll forever after be the guy who gave the board of directors PUBIC DATA. He managed to finish the presentation with actually some dignity and thanked the board and there were four seconds of polite applause and that was that.
He was out Tuesday. On Wednesday AM he calls me into his office and gets bent about “your mistake” and did I do it on purpose to embarrass him?
Told him it wasn’t my slide. “Look at the time stamp on the change. Sunday. You were the only one here.”
Says that won’t cut it. I was supposed to proofread it. But I did on Saturday, I wasn’t there Sunday, and Monday AM he said he’d finished it.
R. sat there and steamed and then said he wanted me to take the blame and he’d make it right later. But just then his phone rang and he looked at the call-in number and told me to get out.
When, WHEN O Lord, is my parole hearing? Shall I beat him about the head and shoulders with a tire iron, fire his ass from a trebuchet, or what? Give me a Sign.
And so endeth the Tale of Russell Son of Jeffer.2 I was pretty far along in my FIRE modeling by then, and amassing some savings, and this was just one more of the many small incidents that motivated me to keep going.
So here’s where the requisite humblebrag starts, but truly, I wince a little when I tell it. Self-aggrandizement, and even the appearance of it, is an ugly thing.
Roughly thirty-six months later, after I’d already jumped ship and was making what let’s call “real money” in my new “real job,” I was managing a staff of six people. My God, did I try to be Russell Son of Jeffer’s opposite. Tried as best I could to train them right and to give them what they needed to get the job done and to get out of their way and to let them see and be seen.
And then this happened.
I worked downtown and there happened to be one of those corporate-type fitness centers around the corner. Several of us used to go there after work to lift. On this particular evening I was there with a direct-report and a my friend from another department. After working out I didn’t bother showering and changing afterwards; just wore my workout clothes home.
As I’m leaving, though, they’re in the showers and I overhear my direct-report say to my friend, “You know, that guy’s the best boss I ever had.” And my friend says, “Yeah, he’s a good guy.”
I don’t *think* they knew I was walking by. It wasn’t a gang shower; you had individual stalls you pulled a curtain across. I think they were being sincere. I hope so, anyway.
And if so, I guess I have Russell to thank for that.
So Russell, if you’re reading this…[author grins, readies trebuchet.]
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- Those were likewise the real names of the three board members…which I’ve therefore changed.
- Some of you having read it will now say, “Well, you obviously had a bad attitude so it’s your fault, not his.” Fine. Believe what you like. You didn’t have to work for him.