Thursday, October 30, 2008

Boss From Hell Should Go Back to Hell

There was no good-bye party, no we’re-gonna-miss-you card, no hugs and smiles or ‘best wishes for the future’. Instead I slipped away as inauspiciously as I had begun the job just two months earlier.

It wasn’t a kick in the teeth, it wasn’t even a stripping of my medals but a week after it all went down my dignity feels smudged. I feel mildly annoyed and I’m replaying the situation over and over in my mind.

My boss was someone who is more of an ulcer than human being. She was an angry blonde troll who walked through the hallways hunched over and scowling as she went to the balcony to inhale cigarette after cigarette.

She gave no direction. She was inaccessible. In two months I had one meeting with her. And I was a new hire.

She was short-tempered. She terrified the junior members of the team. She didn’t know how to delegate. She tossed important assignments at all of us in passing and said things were due immediately. If anyone asked for help her stock response was “figure it out.” If anyone needed advice or direction – she is the senior director after all – she would shout “I am no going to micromanage this.”

When I joined I was told that she was a superior boss and that she believed in professional development. I looked forward to working with her. Instead I ran into a bull with no thought, logic, or strategy.

One of her preferred modes of intimidation was to stomp into my office, hurl abuses at me – F%^&CK was her favourite word – while I was meeting with my staff and then stomp off in a huff as if her mother had been insulted.

“I feel like I’ve been dropped on my ass,” one staffer moaned to me.

“I hear she’s in a good mood today,” another staffer said quietly. “I’m so tired of this shit, getting tossed around like a rag doll.”

“I just want to do my job,” said another.

The director’s behaviour was curious and I am convinced she is a sociopath and has a personality disorder.

What makes no sense to me is how she has managed to ascend in the company. Likely by terrorizing people or just by sheer bullying force.

A couple of weeks ago during a late-night meeting with her she told me that I was increasing her workload not reducing it. My response, “Did you even want to hire me?” She blushed and looked down at her lap. “If I didn’t want to hire you I wouldn’t have,” she said gritting her teeth. “Well, I don’t get a great vibe from you.”

“What do you mean by vibe?”

“The word ‘vibe’ is pretty self explanatory.”

Silence. And more silence.

And then my thoughts filled the icy atmosphere in her office. “I’m happy to give my six-week-notice and stay until the end of my probation period. That gives you time to find a replacement without disrupting the department too much.”

She coloured again. “No, let’s just meet weekly and see if things improve.”
Last Thursday she called me into her office and introduced me to an HR rep. I knew what was happening.

“You’re still on probation and unfortunately we have to let you go,” she said. Oddly this was the gentlest she’d ever been.

I smiled. “Oh, great!” I turned to the HR rep, “This was actually something I brought up [with the senior director] a couple of weeks ago so I’m pleased she took my suggestion. Thanks so much.”

The senior director looked embarrassed. She didn't want this. She wanted me to wail so she could gloat. She got up and left and I invited the HR rep to my office. I handed over the BlackBerry and my ID and then pulled a large envelope from a drawer.

“Here, why don’t you read my resignation letter while I tidy my office? I wrote it a couple of weeks ago but was hanging on because I really love my team.”
I’d already packed two weeks ago and was ready to leave.

“Why didn’t you bring this to HR?”

“I’m a contract worker. I didn’t know if I have any rights. Does verbal abuse, cursing and so forth and mismanagement, management style and personality clash constitute illegal behaviour?”

She shook her head. “But it could still be a matter of record.
“I’m sorry we’ve met under these circumstances.”

“I’m not. It’s a relief to leave.”

The HR rep said it’s good I didn’t resign, “because we’re giving you four weeks pay.” She took a copy of the resignation letter and said she’d get it to the VP of the department. I know it won’t make a difference. History is written by the victors and all that.

I shook her hands and left. I touched base with my team later. One said he wanted to hang himself. Another was so angry she could hardly speak.

“Listen, guys. This is a war. Your general has just been shot. You have to step over the body and keep going. Don’t look back,” I said.

They understood. They can’t show allegiance to me or even talk about me because the senior director will make their lives hell.

Later that night I reached out to senior executives at the company. One senior VP wrote me a gorgeous reference letter that made me cry. Another assured me I had done nothing wrong, that she was thrilled with my work, and that the senior director has a horrible reputation. The VP of the company said he’d gladly take phone calls and be a reference for me. He was very sorry he wouldn’t be working with me on a daily basis anymore.

Another friend assured me that karma eventually finds the villains. It just takes a damn long time to do so, he added.

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