Worst Boss Ever: And the Winner Is…

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Remember? I was looking for a boss who completed her sentences. The search was a little like buying a house based on the desire for a fireplace and a bay window, but ignoring everything else.  I did that once, too, and subsequently spent thousands of dollars on the foundation.

WBE was my boss for more than a decade before she left the company. A long, unrelenting, and never-to-be-forgotten decade. I still have flashbacks.

WBE started off by being more than two hours late for my job interview. I shoulda known, right? Why did I wait? I really wanted a boss who completed her sentences. What I didn’t pick up on–given her lovely verbosity–was the charming nature that spelled bully. She seemed so smart, so filled with precise vision, so nurturing, so much the perfect person to have as boss and mentor.

I should’ve guessed when she called me on the phone to tell me I ‘got the job’, “Listen,” she said, “either it’ll work or it won’t and you’ll be gone.” But yeah, I was desperate.

WBE loved to ambush people at staff meetings. She had one meeting and one target every week. That person who was ‘IT’ got a seemingly innocent question. Why did you do this? What happened to the stats on that? Are you prepared for this aspect of the site visit? Why is the call-wait time this many seconds.

And the issue at hand always related to a never-before-questioned problem. So, of course, IT wasn’t prepared. Lots of stammering and stuttering followed, leading to the WBE’s pay-off. The humiliating lecture. The unnecessary advice. The admonition to change. Or else.

I once sent her an email with the subject line: AMBUSHED! asking if she could please prepare the person who was IT.

Making me IT for several weeks thereafter.

WBE was also significantly late for every meeting everywhere about every subject. When she arrived–no matter how late and no matter whose meeting it was–everything had to start over. And in public venues–community meetings, sales meetings, conferences– she always introduced herself as Dr. So-and-so with her full business title. Embarrassing. And total insensitivity to social cues.

Did we complain to the CEO? You betcha. But for more than a decade, our complaints were ignored because, like bullies everywhere, it appeared as though WBE’s tactics brought strong financial and quality results.

In school and at work, experts tend to intervene with the victim instead of the bully. Here’s a shout-out for more bully-interventions. In the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, embracing this as another aspect of harassment seems only right.

 

Goodbye, Goodbye

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Jim and I moved to the acreage south of Louisburg in 2000, and back then, had long drives to work. Twenty miles one way for him. Thirty-five miles one way for me. One hundred ten miles per day (55×2), five days a week.  That’s a lot of gas.

Jim’s solution to the issue of keeping the cars filled with gas was to buy a 500 gallon gas tank, creating our own gas station.

You’d think we’d get a premium on the price of gas, but like the stock market, it turned out to be impossible to ‘time’ the price of gas. Over the fourteen years of buying gas in bulk, I’d estimate we paid about ten percent more than everyone else buying gas by the tank. And that doesn’t include such items as Sta-bil, an additive to keep the gas from going bad.

When I finally retired, we moved the tank to the ‘way-back’ acre and I tried to build a garden around it. The Garden of Rusty Things. Despite the clematis and daylilies, still ugly, and the garden was uproariously unsuccessful thanks to weed-creep.

And then one day, Jim up and sold the tank. Goodbye. Goodbye to red and ugly and rusty.  Although the convenience of having our own gas station could not be beat.

Was there a life lesson in all this? I don’t think so…

 

Worst Boss Ever: Third Runner Up

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The setting was a small not-for-profit with fewer than 20 employees. The ‘boss’ had been in place for more than ten years. She had a turnover problem. She kept firing supervisory staff.

I was brought on board to supervise. It took me about a week to analyze the problem. The boss never finished a sentence.  The one exception? If she gave a speech, she wrote and memorized what she planned to say.

I had a half-dozen explanations for her continual self interruptions. She was creative and had a gazillion ideas. Her thought process was too speedy. She’d developed this terrible end-of-sentence failure habit. She was irrevocably right brained, making her incapable of outlining–step by step–what she wanted me to do.

Bottom line? She thought out loud and didn’t take the time to adequately develop her vision before trying to communicate it.

Yes, that made her difficult to work for. I quickly learned to end her sentences for her–silently. I spent a lot of time figuring out what she might mean for me to do. I got really good at mind-reading in the five plus years I stayed in that job, guessing right about 60 percent of the time.

Her firing problem? She blamed her staff for failure to understand her vision. But she was the failure, incapable of seeing that her inability to communicate what she wanted done caused the turnover. How many people do you need to fire before you ask, “What is it about me…?”

No. She didn’t fire me. I went looking for a boss who completed her sentences. But that’s a tale for next week …

 

 

Another Storm

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Another storm struck last night. An unexpected storm.

The radar showed severe weather near us–mostly to the east–but we seemed to be living in our usual good-weather bubble.

Until a dark cloud blew in. Lots of lightning very close to the house. The rain didn’t fall down, but swept sideways. The sky turned dark green, the wind roared, and we watched as best we could for the lowering clouds that presaged a potential tornado.

We had to comment to each other. Did the weather reporters know it was coming and just didn’t tell us? Was this now the age of fake weather?

Of course, we were joking. Although it’s a sobering thought to be living in the post-truth age. What horrendous storms will that cause?

 

 

 

 

The People at My Last Garage Sale

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My last garage sale was 25 years ago when I still lived in Overland Park. The year was 1993 and I held the sale because I had left-over office furniture from my last not-for-profit job. I sold it all—at give-away prices—in two hours, shut my door and called it quits.

My other last sale—also in Overland Park—was a moving sale. Held in 2000, we sold a lot of stuff I can’t recall, which means I didn’t miss any of it. We were moving to Louisburg. Well, technically seven miles south of Louisburg to an acreage on this gravel road in the middle of Miami County Kansas. Or the middle of nowhere. Your choice.

Since that sale, I’ve held three sales—I hesitate to call them garage sales—in Louisburg. They all go about the same way, and it’s all about the people who show up.

A few guys in trucks come out to see what Jim’s got on offer. He usually does pretty well, although the older guys already have what Jim has, and they’d like to get rid of theirs too.

Retired couples stop to take a look at our stuff. They mostly talk about their stuff, and what they should do to empty their basements/closets/storage sheds.

Old high school buddies of Jim (and sometimes wives), drive out because they know the door is open. They’re here to catch up.

The middle-aged crowd. Someone might buy a collectible or a piece of jewelry. That’s what happened this time. That single sale ALMOST makes all the preparation worthwhile.

Young people flying by and seeing the sign might stop. But they are not interested in vintage anything, including conversation with vintage me.

And that’s about it. Six or seven people a day. Two days to go …

Did I say this was my last garage sale?

Don’t Call, Don’t Write

Ever wish you’d paid attention to something sooner?

That’s me. I go along and along and then one day, something in my brain clicks and I’ve had it. And I’m saying a great big—whoa, no.

That’s what happened today when I got a ‘personal and confidential, reply immediately’ letter in the mail. Sounds important. Right? But it wasn’t.

Turns out, it’s from a company offering to sell us unspecified warranty protection for one of our vehicles because it just happens to be out of the manufacturer’s warranty. We’re not sure WHICH one they’re writing about, because both cars and the truck are WAY out of manufacturer’s warranty.

I recognized the company’s name only because a month or so ago, I got tired of the daily marketing calls. Mid-morning, call about the warranty on Jim’s phone. Dinnertime, call about the warranty on my phone.

Now, Jim likes to have a little fun. “Oh no,” he says, “we sold that car ages ago.” Or, “Who are you calling? No one by that name lives here.” All the expected things one says to get a marketer to give up. But do the calls stop? They do not, and I finally reported the company to the Do Not Call List.

But I did more. I got an app from AT&T, called Call Protect, that labels and lets you block telemarketers, along with the handy feature of totally blocking potential fraud calls.

Yay. No more calls. But today. A snail mail letter.

Basically, the letter states that I haven’t yet called to activate my protection warranty and that means I’m responsible to pay for the repairs on my car. Okay, I’ll agree to be responsible. Don’t call anymore. Don’t write.

I wrote them back, letting them know that they used to call almost daily until I complained. I didn’t bother telling them about my nifty new app because they didn’t need to know. And then I wrote: “Figure it out, boys and girls. I haven’t contacted you to activate your services because I don’t want them. Stop bothering me.”

I wanted to call this something cute. Stalker marketing. Or stalkerting.  But believe it or not, there’s an organization out there using the two words ‘stalker’ and ‘marketing’ as part of their company’s name. I guess there’s something to be proud about in wearing down potential consumers until they buy your product or service.

Go figure.

Do I think they’ll stop? Not a chance. But be warned. I’ve officially had enough, and now have a file with their name on it.