b Self-Helpless: True Tales of a Working Girl: November 2005



Just Let Your Boss BE the Boss

Several months ago, my manager gave me an assignment to update some training materials for some of our processes. Once completed, I'd have the opportunity to present the update to our sales department.

Those who know me know how much I enjoy creating and delivering presentations. When given the opportunity, I jump on it. Over the years several individuals had commented on my dynamic speaking presence. So, banging this presentation out was cake.

The day came to unveil the new and improved processes and I was fully prepared to deliver them. There was nothing unexpected that came up; no pregnant pauses, no "mis-speaking", no nervousness, nothing.

At the end of my dialogue, I fielded questions from those present. Since my manager also attended, she jumped in to answer most of them.

And then the meeting broke up and we went back to our offices.

As I settled back in at my desk, my phone rang. It was my manager. She asked me to see her in her office. Okay.

On my way over there I'm thinking that she's going to compliment me on the smooth presentation - or at the very least thank me for completing the task so thoroughly.

So I go into her office and she asks me to close the door behind me. Uh-oh. That's not usually a good sign - unless she's offering me a raise which hasn't happened in almost 3 years or better yet, a promotion which hasn't happened in over 5 years.

I take a seat and she glares at me from her side of the desk. "So," she starts, "how do you think the presentation went?"

I took a deep breath and thought about it for a few seconds and answered her, "I think it went very well."

Then she raised an eyebrow at me, "Oh really? You really thought that it was a good performance?"

Now I'm baffled... were we not in the same meeting? Of course I had to ask her, "Was something wrong with it? Did I make a mistake?" Now I'm wondering if I committed some horrible faux pas that I curiously missed.

She sighed and looked at me with an expression that said, "How sad that you could be so stupid you itty-bitty flea."

"Well the presentation was alright," she said. "It just should have been better."

Excuse me?

"Ok, how could it have been better?" Should I have handed out lollipops at the end of it or raffled off a door prize for attending? I didn't get it.

"It could have been prepared better."

"Ok. What should I have done?" I asked. "Was there missing data? Unanswered questions?" I was really trying to understand what she was getting at.

"No, but I would have liked more time to review it before you presented it. I mean, you were making corrections to it up until 30 minutes before the meeting." Yeah, I was making corrections to it because you asked me to BOLD a word here, add a comma there... But none of the information needed to be altered because it was CORRECT. You sick, twisted control freak!

Under different circumstances I might have been offended. However, when she told me that I stunk at the presentation I had to laugh. First of all, I'm a published author. I may not be the greatest writer ever but please don't tell me where to put my commas. Second, giving presentations is now what I do. Not only do I present, but I conduct workshops. I am a return-speaker at my alma mater and I'm building a new career for myself in professional speaking; please don't tell me my business.

What I'm trying to get at here is that my manager clearly feels the need to be a part of every little detail. It makes her feel important. After all, she's "The Boss". At the end of the day I know that my writing skills and presentation skills are competent enough for lots of other people. Just because she feels that way doesn't make it so!

That's my positive spin on my negative ranting. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.




It's NOT my call!!!

Two weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday I sat in my manager’s office to “touch base” on current issues.

Issue #1: Vacation Time

Since the beginning of this year, I scheduled myself to take the two days off before Thanksgiving. That meant I was out Tuesday and Wednesday, but had to come in on Monday. This was okay with me – after all, I chose those days.

Now that the year is winding down, my manager tells me that I have one more vacation day to schedule. She needed to know when I wanted to take the day. Originally I asked, “Can I take the Monday before Thanksgiving off?”

We looked at the schedule of deadlines and she said, “If you want to do that, that’s ok, but you have a new employee starting work on the following Monday and you have a quarterly report due the next day on that Tuesday.”

Hmmm. “Ok, how about if I take the following Friday instead?”

She shook her head, “You have 2 reports due and emails to go with them. That’s not a good idea.” The emails she referred to are individual notes to every member of the sales department – which numbers upwards of 75 people. This is a monthly project that takes the better part of a day to complete. Yeah.

“Well how about ANY Monday or Friday between now and the end of the year?”

To that she replied that I had something due on each of those days – or that something “could” happen on one of those days. “Could” happen? Well shoot, the sky could come crashing down couldn’t it???

However, at the same time she says to me, “It’s up to you. This is your call.”

Issue #2: My boss is an IDIOT

Hold up a minute: If she’s telling me that none of the days that I’m requesting are okay to take off, then this isn’t my call… is it?

Okay. So then I told her that if at all possible I’d like a Monday or a Friday off. Who wouldn’t want a long weekend, right?

Apparently that wasn’t the right thing to say either. “Well,” she started, “I’d like to have a long weekend too Pied Piper, but I realized that I had responsibilities to take care of so it forced me to take Tuesdays and Wednesdays instead.”

Aside from the fact that I don’t care, she has FOUR weeks’ vacation time each year to schedule. I don’t deserve the grief over her inability to effectively plan her days off during the course of a year. After all, I only had ONE more vacation day to schedule out of the three weeks that I receive annually.

So I thought about it, looked at the schedule of deadlines and decided to suck it up. “Ok,” I said, “why don’t YOU tell me which Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday is okay for me to take off.”

She scanned through the schedule and shot down every last day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Of course she did. But then she follows that up with, “But it’s up to you… it’s your call.”

So then I go back to the Monday before Thanksgiving. When I went back to this date, it went right back to the beginning of the conversation.

Do you see where this is going now? Good. Then please fill me in. I must have lost my roadmap.




Memoirs of a Girl in Training

"The Pedalist" by Penny Loafer

Late this summer on the Manhattan Greenway, I caught up with the tenacious and ever-focused Pied Piper as she prepared for the New York Century bike ride on 9/11/05.

She allowed me to pedal alongside her as she leisurely made her way on a 50-mile training ride. Truth be told, the staff at The Pedalist had been especially interested in talking to Pied Piper for some time. We've been watching her dedication and drive during her extensive training for the century-long (100 mile) bicycle ride. After a considerable amount of time, I was lucky enough to hear her reveal her secrets of staying motivated. After all, what kind of individual willingly bikes 100 miles in one day?

I hopped on a borrowed road bike and strapped on a helmet so that I could join Pied Piper as she trained. The following is the interview that took place on an exquisite August afternoon as we made our way down the west side of Manhattan:

Penny: Wow Pied Piper, it's very exciting to finally catch up with you.

Pied Piper: Thanks Penny, it's my pleasure to have you along with me today. The company is good for a change.

Penny: I understand this is the third century bike ride that you're training for... is that right?

Pied Piper: It sure is.

Penny: I've heard it said that riding centuries is difficult. As a matter of fact, I might go into cardiac arrest just joining you on this training ride.

Pied Piper: Well I wouldn't worry if you do Penny, someone will come and scrape you up off the path before long. They don't really like folks blocking the lane too much.

Penny: That's encouraging... Well, why is it that you bike centuries?

Pied Piper: A few reasons. First, I enjoy the challenge. Second, it allows me to work off the stress of work. Third, it gives me something to do.

Penny: Ok... but why not do hang gliding if you want a challenge? Or fire-walking? Or base-jumping?

Pied Piper: Penny, I don't have a death wish.

Penny: Gotcha. However, bike riding can be very dangerous. We have film footage of your colossal wipe-out in Riverdale 3 years ago. That was a nasty spill.

Pied Piper: Yeah, it certainly was. Those bruises lasted more than a week. I won't even tell you how hard it was to get the gravel out of my shorts. Plus I still have a scar on my elbow here. Actually, it bruised my ego more than anything. I got right back up on my bike and finished.

Penny: So what drives you to train so hard for this ride? Where do you get your motivation?

Pied Piper: Aside from Lance Armstrong, I get my motivation from the horror of my job.

Penny: Horror? Do you work on cadavers?

Pied Piper: No, what I do is scarier than working on cadavers. I'm a manager for a widget company. I'm a widget-analyst.

Penny: I can't imagine that being horrific.

Pied Piper: You would if you worked under the management that I do.

Penny: How does this motivate you to train?

Pied Piper: I imagine that I'm trying to get away from my managers Snap, Crackle and Pop. I shudder to even think about it. Believe me, if you worked for these people you'd pedal faster and harder too.

Penny: I see... this apparently seems to work for you.

Pied Piper: It does. Unfortunately, they give me nightmares... but the pay off is worth it once I cross that finish line.

Penny: So what are your managers like? Are they aware that they're your motivation to work so hard?

Pied Piper: Well, I'll try to put it in a nutshell for you. It sounds like fiction: I was there over 4 years and they offered my promotion to a full-time temp employee.

Penny: Yikes.

Pied Piper: He turned it down.

Penny: Ha-Ha.

Pied Piper: So then Snap, Crackle and Pop gave the job to a nitwit (a Back Street Boy wannabe) who was new with the company.

Penny: Oh my.

Pied Piper: Oh my is right. He spends his work day surfing internet sites on 80's hair bands.

Penny: Eek.

Pied Piper: As if that wasn't enough, they promoted my subordinate of 3 years into my job and moved me into the worst area of the department to manage Larry, Mo and Curly. However Curly got smart and left the company for a better job.

Penny: Now I'm understanding this better. No wonder you do so well with the long bike rides... you don't even need to visualize that much; You're actually cycling to separate yourself from the horror.

Pied Piper: See? Now you get it about the horror. You know, I'm not a great cyclist. This is purely recreational for me... I just use the negative for something positive. I'm positive these people make me want to run for my life! Or in this case, cycle.

Penny: Pied Piper, this is great... thanks for sharing your secrets with me.

Pied Piper: Secrets nothing -- people don't usually believe me when I tell the story. It's all true... and in my mind as I pedal, I see them growing smaller and smaller behind me. One of these days they'll be gone for good.

Penny: Well it's something to work toward anyway. You've really given great insight into tricks to stay focused and accomplish the task at hand. Thanks so much for talking with me today... Good luck to you. Just remember, the next time you take a tumble, our cameras will be rolling.

Pied Piper: Thanks for listening to my story Penny.

Penny: Good luck on 9/11. I'm going to stop now and find an oxygen tank for myself.


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