Disclaimer

This blog is not intended to provide legal advice, legal services or legal anything else. Don't sue me. All I have is debt anyway.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bosses, Part 1

During my interview a couple weeks ago (with the awesome firm that was totally into me -- probably until they realized I was about to give birth in the middle of their office), one of the interviewers mentioned a friend of hers had worked for one of my former employers, and told a story about how the guy got a nice briefcase from him as compensation for the boss throwing a lamp at him. I just laughed. I told her that by the time I worked for him, The Boss was no longer allowed to have lamps in his office because he had broken too many (mostly from throwing them at people), and also had a closet full of broken phones too. (He was a bit of a drama queen.) I've had several interviews with people where the interviewer has raised their eyebrows and said, "You worked for [Crazy Boss]? Oh my gosh... I heard that he..." And usually the stories were pretty much right on target. Overall though, he was by far not the worst boss I've ever had. He at least on some level knew he was crazy, and appropriately compensated his employees for putting up with his shenanigans. We were paid very well, and even paid for overtime, which we were encouraged to work. And if you're my Facebook friend, my current profile picture is one my roommate (who also worked for him) recently posted from the office Christmas party, which was super swanky and had an open bar. Ah, the days of feast rather than famine.

Anyway, I'm sure we've all got stories about crazy bosses. There are crazy bosses, asshole bosses, sociopathic bosses, and, of course, some really awesome bosses. I've had a few from each category. I've (mostly) gotten over the really bad bosses, but definitely wish I had the balls to do what that one guy up in New Jersey did (and ultimately lost at), but I don't really want to get sued. Although it's not like you can garnish my non-existent paycheck, ha! Judgment-proof, Baby! (Yeah, that doesn't make me feel much better either.)

But, it just made me think back on the places I've worked, and the crazy people I've worked for.

We'll start with the non-lawyers:

1. Back in high school my senior year, I worked for the county schools doing technology work, and our county was really one of the leaders in implementing technology into education in the state. Our school trained students in networking and computer repair and used us as slave labor during the school day, and paid us a small wage for the work outside of school. It was excellent experience at a really exciting time in technology development. I was only one of two female students who did the work. I had a good mentor there, who was the top tech guy, who would notoriously stick you in a room with a bunch of broken computers and simply tell you "make it work." It was a lot of practice in figuring things out for myself. I did a project with him for the public library in much the same vain. It was very good experience, and I liked working with him and with the group, many of which were my friends.

Unfortunately, they ended up hiring this really awful woman into some sort of coordinator position, and she for some reason hated me. Probably because she spent all of her time flirting with/throwing herself at the men who worked there (some of which weren't much older than me, because they had been classmates who graduated and returned to accept jobs there), and didn't want other females around to witness it. (Not to mention I was totally hawt, of course she was jealous.) It was kinda gross, especially since she was quite a bit older than most of them. She was kinda gross too. Exactly the kind of woman who thinks she is more attractive than she is, with the totally fried "blond" hair that ends up gray and washed out, and while she had a decent figure, she was definitely a "butter face." One of the tech guys actually made complaints that she kept sticking her bewbs in his face every time she came into his office to ask him a question, making an excuse to point to his computer screen while rubbing her bewbs on him. (Pretty bad when a computer geek is complaining about having bewbs near him.)

Eventually, at the direction of Butter Face, I got stuck at a desk at the technology center, which wasn't really a bad thing, because I knew nothing about Macs which was most of the need at the time and wasn't really keen on learning, and also, I got to do some grant-writing, which is what I do a lot of currently, so that was good experience in retrospect. I started schmoozing with the technology director and kinda hoped it would turn into an admin position after graduation, since she seemed to be taking an interest in me. But then one day (while the technology director was on vacation) Butter Face brought me into her office and told me there wasn't enough money to keep paying me, and there wasn't enough work to justify me being there, and I was being let go. I was upset, but I didn't have any reason to doubt her, or her authority to terminate me. So, I didn't come back to work.

Until I happened to speak with the technology director a few months later, who expressed to me that she was really upset that I had quit. I was like, uh, I didn't quit, I was told I didn't have a job by Butter Face. She told me that wasn't true, they had plenty of work for me to do, she liked my work, and she couldn't understand why Butter Face had told me to leave. By then, I already had another job and I was getting ready to graduate and get the hell out of Dodge, so it was too late to do anything about it. Too naive to realize we'd been enemies, it was my first experience with lying, backstabbing bitches in the workplace. I used the technology director as a job reference for a few years.

Butter Face eventually got fired, probably for rubbing her bewbs on someone.


2. I went on to work as a sales clerk for a Christian bookstore in the local mall. I thought it would be a nice place to work -- clean and well-lit, and everyone was always so friendly. I'm pretty sure you go straight to Hell if you're mean to someone in a Christian bookstore, so the customers were always super nice (even if they left the store to go over to Macy's and scream at some poor sales clerk there). It was a "Christian" bookstore, afterall. In my interview, they talked about how it was more than a job, it was a ministry, and leading by example in Christianity. What could possibly go wrong?

Yeah... the franchise was owned by a sociopath who looked exactly like Henry Gibson in The 'Burbs, so we'll call him Dr. Klopek. Dr. Klopek still tops the Worst Boss list, and even manages to trump a few lawyers, so that's a real accomplishment. The man was evil. He'd made every employee there, including the men, cry at least once. I'm pretty sure, like his namesake, he has a trunk full of bones in his car from the people he's made dissolve from his hate. Evil.

How did Dr. Klopek accomplish his evil? I have no idea. I don't know how or why any self-respecting person would work for him, especially for minimum wage, but I stuck it out for nearly 9 months. It was like being in an abusive home, and all you wanted to do was stay under the radar so you didn't get beat up, but there was no certainty to avoiding his wrath. His special insult to me was that I obviously couldn't handle the intellectual rigors of selling religious books, music and crappy gifts, that "this isn't Taco Bell" (I had worked at Taco Bell the year before, and that was obviously degrading.) He loved trying to catch someone in a mistake. For instance, he once spent 20 minutes trying to figure out which of us had rang up a sale and had failed to write down someone's phone number on the check they'd taken. All of us working that day were standing around, full of dread. It didn't matter if we'd even taken a single check that day in our sales, he was going to berate us anyway. The culprit? Turned out to be his wife. He glared at her furiously, and I'm sure she got an earful when they left, because she'd ruined his chance of screaming at all of us (which he still blustered on for a few minutes about what idiots we all were).

Other examples of psycho behavior: Dr. Klopek once took a Saturday off to go to a ball game, leaving one of the assistant managers in charge, who was a very bright and hardworking doctoral student at the local seminary. Under her direction, we made absolutely certain that every "i" was dotted and "t" was crossed in running the store that day, and in cleaning it that night. I was the only one scheduled to work with Dr. Klopek the next day, and I would be the one receiving his wrath should anything be out of place. And, of course... Dr. Klopek went batshit crazy on me, insulting me, berating me, and finally telling me to go home without finishing my shift and not to come back until I could do my job... because, while digging around in the trash, he found that whoever had cleaned the glass case the night before had dared to use three sheets of paper towel to do so, and the sheets looked as though they had barely been used. Which was not me, but it was my fault anyway. Crazy. He had previously made a scene in front of a customer, because he was hovering over me during a sales transaction, and I'd failed to inform the customer that because she was purchasing a Bible, that the "Bible cozies" were 20% off. Even though I already had when I was helping her earlier. He angrily stage-whispered it to me while I was ringing her up. She gave me a wide-eyed look and replied to him, "No, thank you." While she was still in earshot, he continued to berate me for not doing my job and losing him a sale. So, I guess the paper towel wastefulness was just the end of the line for my competency that day.

I continued to put up with the abuse, but the last straw for me came when we were forced to work New Years' Eve (up to and past the ball dropping) in order to "do inventory." Anyone who has ever worked in a retail store knows that when you "do inventory," you are taking inventory of the products. Part of this is to reconcile what you physically have in the store, with what your computer inventory shows you have. The loss of products between what is obtained from the supplier and the point of sale is called shrink. Generally, when you're doing inventory, it's to figure out what you actually have and calculate your shrink. Correcting your inventory is pretty important, especially when your clerks spend a lot of time looking up merchandise for customers to find out if it is in stock. You can waste a lot of time looking for products that don't really exist, when your inventory is incorrect.

On the contrary, Dr. Klopek's interpretation of "inventory" was to simply add up the retail price of all products in the store, I assume, for tax purposes. Fine, whatever, but he failed to mention that to those of us who had never done an inventory for him before, which you think he would have done before giving us pen and paper and saying "go take inventory." So, I'm writing down sku numbers and amounts, as are two other people. When Dr. Klopek realizes this, he completely loses his shit, starts screaming at us, throws a temper tantrum about what idiots we are and how we can't even understand a basic concept like "inventory," and of course for me, that I should just go back and work at Taco Bell, because that's all I'm capable of doing. I handed him the paper and pen and told him he could do it himself, since I wasn't capable of doing it. I expected him to fire me, but his wife intervened and apologized for his behavior, and I ended up staying. But I started looking for a new job.

By the end of the month, I had a new job and left there an agnostic and engaging in a considerable amount of underage drinking to self-medicate. The bookstore is now closed. Hopefully wherever Dr. Klopek works now, he is not in charge of other employees or conducting any sort of "ministry." Dr. Klopek makes the baby Jesus cry.

3. Finally, I worked (very briefly) for a tech company that was incredibly disorganized. I was supposed to be their inventory manager. (Ha, suck it Dr. Klopek). My first day there, I had no computer. The owner sent me to the computer store (my previous employer) to buy parts to build my own computer. I spent the next two days building my own computer. I then spent the next two months asking for other things I needed but never got to do my job, i.e. order materials, etc. The job was (supposed to be) flexible, since I was a student, which meant I generally came in after classes were over and left early when I had another class. So, it was barely a full time job.

My direct manager was completely disinterested in dealing with me, or my requests for information at all. Most of the time when I would try to talk to her, she was either shouting at her ex-husband on the phone, crying to her new boyfriend, or shouting/crying at her lawyer. Then Baby Mama would glare at me and tell me to figure it out myself, she didn't have time to "babysit." Emails to her went completely unanswered. (However, she did have time to research current child custody laws in an attempt to move her children out of state to spite her ex-husband.) Eventually, one of the company's biggest clients, with a big outstanding bill, filed bankruptcy, and the company was not going to be getting anything out of the liquidation. But, with Baby Mama being a total bitch, instead of giving that as the reason for my dismissal, said it was because I was late to work all the time and wasn't doing my job. Which denied me unemployment benefits (again, too naive to understand I could appeal and would have gotten my benefits). The owner, to his credit, was pretty mortified by the situation, and when he found out she'd fired me, gave me several weeks' pay, in cash, and apologized profusely for what was simply a bad situation.

Karma came when, less than six months' later, he fired Baby Mama for, shockingly enough, not doing her job and taking unauthorized time off of work to go vacation with her new boyfriend (probably to spite her ex-husband). As far as I know, he's still in business, although he had a few other employees leave rather disgruntled at the disorganized situation.

* * *

I've had a few other non-law jobs. Working at Taco Bell and waiting tables at Ruby Tuesday was largely uneventful, although food service sucks, and the money is crap (unless you wait tables somewhere swanky). My very first job was working for Great Steak & Potato Company in the mall, which is still open, and it says a lot about the place that I will still eat there. The franchise owner is an awesome guy and while food service sucks and the mall at Christmas time is a nightmare, I enjoyed working for him. We got to have free food on shift, which was awesome. The fries are fantastic, especially when you dip them in cheese sauce. Yum!

I also think it says a lot that I still recognize one of the assistant managers there. If you're willing to keep working for the same person for 15 years, that's a good indicator of a good boss. That's one thing I've learned over the years, is to ask why there's a position open, why have people been leaving. And ask around to find out if it's true, or if the place is a miserable revolving door. My last boss actually told me to call his former associate so I would know what kind of a boss he was. I thought that spoke volumes about him. And he was a damn good boss. Others... not so much.

Part 2 shall be "Lawyers (and Office Managers) Who Suck."

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