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



What Flavor of Crazy is Your Boss?

I've taken a few minutes to outline some Toxic Bosses. Which one do you work for?

The Doctor Manager: Manages you on a cellular level

The CSI Manager: Manages your DNA

The Construction Manager: Always throws roadblocks in your path

The Tazmanian Devil Manager: Whips through the office like a tornado and un-does all your hard work in seconds

The Sociopath Manager: My bat-$#%@-crazy manager

The Narcissistic Manager: Demands the red-carpet treatment while getting the morning coffee

The Martyr Manager: Works 22 out of 24 hours a day… how come you don’t?

The Jell-O Manager: Spineless

The Frustrated School Teacher Manager: Tells you where to put your commas

The Robot Manager: Since it isn’t human, it has no feelings and shows no emotions

The Blamethrower Manager: It’s always your fault… regardless of whether you can prove otherwise

The Venus Fly Trap Manager: Interesting to look at, but will swallow you whole if you get too close

Attila the Manager: Will storm in and beat you to the ground and expect you to genuflect

The 3rd Reich Manager: Annihilates all employees who report to him.




How to Beat the Office Bully

There's gotta be a better way.

In Dr. Raj Persaud's book Staying Sane, several suggestions are given to help meet/beat the office bully on solid ground. As I've said regarding others' suggestions, these are logically good ideas... but what people need to remember is that if you're dealing with a bully, you're not dealing with a logical person in a logical situation.

Let's take a look at some of these suggestions:

1. Get witnesses: never be in a place where the bully and yourself are alone together. Always speak to the bully in the presence of others.

This sounds like a good idea, but you might be asking for more trouble if you refuse to meet with the bully (especially if they're your boss) for meetings or any other routine things that you would normally meet with them over. If the bully is a smart person, they'll find a way around this. What happened to me: When I suggested Inhuman Resources get involved in all future meetings with my Idiot Boss, I got written up for insubordination. They sided with my boss and stated that I was being unreasonable -- regarless of what my complaints of her were.

2. Warn the person who is causing the problem to stop. Explain - in front of witnesses - that you will take it further. Alternatively, you can get someone to do this on your behalf or write them a letter. Be firm and confident, but not aggressive or confrontational. Explain clearly the behaviour you consider bullying and let them know exactly how they should behave.

This might work -- or at least convey the message that you won't take any nonsense. But the key is to have witnesses. If you do this one-on-one, the bully may take it as a threat and escalate the situation. It happened to me.

3. If it fails to stop then you may decide to make a formal complaint. All companies should have a grievance procedure which you should follow to the letter. Again, advice from a union rep or sympathetic manager can be crucial

This is always an option. Hopefully, if you take this route people will take you seriously and listen to your side of the story. However, they probably have to listen to the other side as well. If your company agrees with you then you have more in your favor. If not, then be prepared to leave the company (if you haven't already started looking for another job) or be fired (for insubordination most likely).

4. Adapt your response to the specific situation of the person bullying you - if it is a boss consider going further up the tree to their superiors.

This is another good suggestion. I've heard success stories from individuals who have taken this path. If it is an option for you, then take it above your boss' head. There's a chance that they aren't aware of what's happening. On the other hand: They may not only know what's going on, they may also be the perpetrators behind the bully's deeds. In my situation, when I had "The Standoff" meeting between my bat-$%#@-crazy-manager and Inhuman Resources, her manager sat right beside her -- for her support. Not only would he not speak to me, he refused to even make eye contact.

So, you have options for certain. They just might not all be good options. At the end of the day you need to decide what you're comfortable with and move forward with that. But try to remember that saying or doing something for yourself is always better than not. If nothing else, it will help you feel better (for standing up for yourself), and it will send a message (possibly) to others in your organization that something's going on. Good luck.




Guerilla Warfare in the Office

I get a real kick out of reading some of the business books that are currently available. I’ve said it before, but I spend a great deal of time reading a lot of the books that are out there to see if I've overlooked any possible solutions to my situation. By "solution" I mean a way to make it bearable for myself while I look for another job/start my own company. So far I've come up pretty empty. I get some laughs however, when I read some of this stuff. I'd like to share a some of these gems with you.

To be honest, I’m not sure where I picked up this first point. I had to share it though as I think it’s ridiculous (as it applies to me of course):

If your boss is an unreasonable manager that overloads you with work, ask him what his priorities are and for options to deal with what you can't handle. Maybe even ask for a part-timer's help.

Okay. When I ask what the priorities are I get a nasty attitude – as if I should know which is more important to her. I’m not a mind-reader; if you don’t tell me I won’t know! As for asking for a part-timer’s help: her answer to that would be “work through lunch, work late, bring work home and work on the weekends”. And oh yeah, don’t forget to take part in the ritual blood sacrifice required for Idiot Boss’ amusement.

The smart way to make promises: If possible, be vague. For example; how do you answer when your boss asks when you will finish a project? Do you say exactly when? Not if you can be vague. Your best answer is to say something like: “I expect to have it done by the middle-to-latter part of the week.” If that makes him happy, fine. You now have a lot of latitude. If he wants more precision, however, you can always say: “I’m shooting for Wednesday afternoon.” (It’s Not a Jail, It’s a Job by Robert M. Hochheiser).

Nice try, but most of us live in the real world… at least most of the time. If I were to try this with my bat-$#@%-crazy manager, she would get annoyed and ask which it was going to be – later this week or Wednesday? So now if I say it’s later this week and she doesn't like that and I then up it to Wednesday, I had better be darn sure that I have it ready for Wednesday. Then of course I have to be prepared for her to throw every obstacle in my path so that I don’t meet the Wednesday deadline. That'll play right into her belief that anything I say can't be believed and that she's right not to trust me. Remember that wire hanger scene from Mommy Dearest? That's how she makes me feel emotionally. How could I be so stupid? Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend this tactic. You REALLY need to know your boss before you pull any kind of “stunt”. I’m not joking. It’ll be easier for you that way.

Regularly document all contributions that you make to the company. Indicate the date, benefit to the company and benefit to the boss.

This is something that I’ve heard time and again. In some instances, this may be a good idea. However, it’s also one of those things that can be very tricky – regardless of how well you handle it or how right you may be. I tried this very same tactic to defend myself in a follow-up meeting to a poor review Miss Manager gave me. It didn’t work. I recounted my contributions and the benefit to the company and to her. Lots of things went down at this particular time, but my bat-$#@%-crazy manager also got promoted. So, I listed all the positive things that I contributed -- which I'm sure helped to get her a nice new title. I mean, if I was such a horrible employee, wouldn't that reflect negatively on her? Seriously, during a spell when I had weak people reporting to me I was hearing it left and right from management (insert finger-wagging here for emphasis) – none of it was good and they certainly didn’t promote me. Long story short, when I tried this tactic I was written up for insubordination. She probably felt exposed and undermined - which to be honest, when all was said and done, was what I wanted. It's too bad no one listened to me. My advice: Be very careful with this one.

Any words, be they ever so flawless, can have their meaning cancelled by body language – but not vice versa. There are no words capable of cancelling the meaning transmitted by body language. (The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense at Work by Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D.)

This one I just threw in here for fun. There will be no need for words when I dive across her desk and start ripping the hair out of her head. What does that kind of body language say to you?

It's too bad that most of these books don't speak to my situation. It is on occasion, entertaining. When I figure out how to address these issues in a real-life manner in book format, I'll publish it. Until then, join me on the journey while I figure it out.




Open Call for Idiot Bosses: National Idiot Boss Association Membership Drive for 2006

Don’t be left out in the cold! With the new year fast approaching, now is the time to join the National Idiot Boss Association – or to renew your previous membership.

ABOUT US: Founded in 2004, NIBA consists of a rag-tag group of micro-managers, bullies, control freaks, headmaster-managers (the grammar-freaks), dictator-managers, and generally imbalanced morons with massive self-esteem issues.

NIBA’s MISSION: To provide a forum for sucking the life out of everyone that works for you and for promoting the most unprofessional managerial styles known to man; to serve as a catalyst for the displacement of bright and motivated individuals in all aspects of business; to promote and support malevolent endeavors through the NIBA Foundation.

WHAT WE DO: Through various, dedicated managerial “slaughter house” committees, NIBA holds about 365 events per year (after all, most of us work weekends as we expect our staff to do. We do not support any semblance of family life and recommend a ritual sacrifice of each member’s firstborn (or family pet)). We do not promote Work-Life balance. If you do, then go hug a tree; we don’t want you. Each of our hackneyed programs aims to devalue career skills and push back current industry trends at least 40 or so years. If you stink at what you do, confuse, derail and demean your staff at every opportunity then this association is for you.

Sign up now!!! And don’t forget to bring a friend (if you have any, that is).

NIBA’s next calendar event:
January 11 – Boardroom Breakfast
I.M. AMORON, CEO Murders and Executions, New York City
The Morningstar Times Building
The 7th Circle of Hell
(1/4 of a mile west of the river Styx)
Mismanagement Weekly recently called him...
"The most debasing man in business, and one of the dumbest."
We can all learn something from him.
NIBA will salute those traits and many more as members of the bad-business-practices and micro-management community "Roast and Toast I.M. AMORON."




Self-Helpless is Self-Absorbed

Bear with me folks... I've had some serious dental woes going on the past few days. I promise to be back with more Tales from the 7th Circle of Hell (aka: mis-management) probably tonight/tomorrow morning.

Please stay tuned.




NYC Transit Strike

I'm not allowed to work from home. Since my bat-$@#%-crazy manager doesn't trust me, I'm not allowed to do anything, really. So, like many other New Yorkers seeking alternative transportation, I took LIRR in. Then I walked the 25-minutes to my office in 22 degree (wind chill = 11 degrees)weather.

So guess where she is today? Probably nice and warm in the comfort of her own home since she didn't have to come in.

It's good to be the boss.




What do YOU want to do? I don't know, what do YOU want to do?

I recently perused through Monster.com’s message boards and read a few that were related to Workplace Bullying. Let me tell you, there’s all kinds of people unleashed on this world… it’s a little scary.

There were posts by individuals telling their tales of being bullied, and in the process, they sounded as though they themselves could be accused of bullying. People are wacky sons-of-guns.

One person posted a message on the topic of missing deadlines. They said that it’s unfair to say that a boss is bullying you if they are expecting work to be done on-time. “Don’t miss deadlines because you can’t get everything done… work with your boss to prioritize not only your tasks but your time.”

They go on to say that leaving work before your work is done because you’ve been there all day is probably not viewed favorably. Keep your boss in the loop on the status of your work and it will go a long way in showing how hard you work and what exactly you’re accomplishing. Don’t assume they know – as they’ve got their own jobs to worry about.

Well I have a few things to say about this. First of all, they don’t know how bat-$@#%-crazy my manager is. I cannot make a move (even to the restroom) without my Idiot Boss knowing about it. Every day she receives updates on the projects that are on my desk. In between all the expected work, she drops new projects and ad hoc requests on my lap. She does this and expects the other work to be done at the same time – and according to the original deadlines.

It still eludes me as to how I can get it all done within the same timeframe. I mean, if there’s a new project that arises, I should be allowed to have the time to work on it.

On countless occasions, I’ve asked “Miss Manager” which project is priority. And then I get her answer: “It’s all priority. It all needs to be done.”

Really? I was actually thinking I could throw something out or sweep it under the carpet.

But she says it as though it’s the dumbest question she’s ever heard. As if I should know which is most important. Um, no… if there’s unexpected projects that crop up, I can’t know which is more important than the other if you don’t say so! Especially since my luck is usually that if I hand one project in, she'll have wanted the other... and so forth.

Then I get the “You need to learn how to prioritize your responsibilities.” Like I’m an idiot.

When I press for an answer on what is MOST important she continues to respond with, “It’s all important and it all needs to be done.”

“Ok, but which do you want first?” I ask.

“I want it all done… it all needs to be done.” As if that answers everything.

“I understand that, but which do you need on your desk completed first?” At which she shakes her head and gets annoyed. So I continue, “I can only work on one thing at a time… which would you like me to work on first?”

There, I said the wrong thing.

“If you can only work on one thing at a time then you need to learn how to multi-task.”

Um, no… this isn’t like preparing Thanksgiving dinner when you calculate how long to cook the turkey and then to cook the potatoes, steam the string beans, etc so that it’s all on the table at the same time. THIS IS BUSINESS – it works differently.

Bottom-line, I get no direction from her, and regardless of what my game plan is, it’s not good enough for her. None of it pleases her.

It’s usually at this point that I realize (yet again) there’s no winning and the only other thing she’s going to tell me is to 1: Work through lunch, 2: Work late, 3: Bring work home and 4: Work on the weekends – in order to get it all done.

So in theory, yes – it makes all the sense in the world to work on a schedule with your manager and keep them in the loop. It’s a good idea. It’s just yet another thing that does not work for me. I’ll continue to take that advice, but I will also continue to get beat-up for it.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


In Cahoots with My Dentist

Pretty much everyone I talk to knows my work situation. This goes for my dentist as well.

My dentist isn't like other dentists. He's a fast-talking, loud-mouthed New Yorker. Plus he's a joker. He made me laugh while I was having my root canal done. Impressive, huh?

Well, I'd been telling him and his assistant about my situation at the office. Like everyone else I told, they were horrified by the events that happened.

As I had also mentioned to everyone, I'd been job-hunting for almost 18 months. I've interviewed at every major competitor of my current company. The last place I interviewed at showed a great deal of promise. They called me back for 4 meetings. The last one was mid-morning one Thursday several weeks back.

I came up with a good excuse to tell my Idiot Boss so she wouldn't question me too hard about where I was going. I decided to tell her that I had a dental emergency involving the tooth that I was having the work on. So I told my dentist about the excuse and he offered to write me a doctor's note to bring into work.

Sure enough, he wrote the letter and printed it out on nice letterhead and placed it in an envelope. When I went back to work the morning of my last meeting, the story worked very well. I handed the note to my Idiot Boss and not only did she not question me about my time out of the office, but she even commented on the nice letterhead.

There's people far and wide hoping I get out soon enough. And yes, I'm still waiting to hear back on the job. I just had to share that little story with you.




It Has a Name: Workplace Bullying

This is an interesting website: http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/bully.htm#Why

It talks about bullies at work and goes further into detail about what bullying is, who is targeted, why it happens, etc.

Although it is encouraging that there exists a fair amount of information on the topic, it sucks that it’s happening to me. I used to love my job. No joke, it all changed in one day.

The site's bullying list is very long so I’ll summarize some points most relevant to my circumstance (my notes are in Italics):

People who are bullied find that they are:

1: Constantly criticized and subjected to destructive criticism (often euphemistically called constructive criticism, which is an oxymoron) - explanations and proof of achievement are ridiculed, overruled, dismissed or ignored.

Last summer, in an effort to push for a promotion, I developed enhancements to a weekly report that I published. This enhancement made it possible to finish the report faster and in a more streamlined manner. It didn’t rival the invention of the wheel, but it was an enhancement to make the report flow smoother and save valuable time.

To say that it was shot down is an understatement. “Miss Manager” may as well have blown her nose with the report. Long story short, I didn’t get the promotion and when all was said and done it reared its ugly head in my annual review. When my Idiot Boss brought up my contributions, she said only that “there may have been one or two” but that they were “of no consequence”. Thank you for stomping all over my intelligence and self-confidence you flea-minded twit.

In the end, I was moved into a different job and my report enhancement never came to fruition. However, my old job was then split up and given to a team of 4 people. So, I’m guessing that they had the time to do the report the long way. More power to ‘em.

2: Forever subject to nit-picking and trivial fault-finding (the triviality is the giveaway).

This fits “Miss Manager” like a glove. Let’s see, should I mention the grammatical corrections (“this comma belongs here instead of here” and “this word needs to be bold and in blue Arial font” – or any variation thereof. How about I shove that comma down your throat in an active grenade?)? For further details please see my blog from 12/12: Revenge_of_the_Parentheses

3: Undermined, especially in front of others; false concerns are raised, or doubts are expressed over a person's performance or standard of work - however, the doubts lack substantive and quantifiable evidence, for they are only the bully's unreliable opinion and are for control, not performance enhancement

My oh my, this just keeps getting better. I’m beginning to wonder if the term “work-place bullying” was coined just for me.

“Miss Manager” has harangued me on this very point in my annual review and in my daily performance. Yet she gives no examples. I wonder why?

4: Isolated and excluded from what's happening (this makes people more vulnerable and easier to control and subjugate).

About a year and a half ago there was a full-time contingent employee who was brought in to “help out” on my team – but not under my supervision (I was already a departmental pariah by then).

In our previous building, my office was immediately next to my Idiot Boss’ office.

One day, I watched as this temp walked into her office followed behind Idiot Boss’ boss, “Miss Understand”. Since the office was next to mine and they left the door open, I could hear what they were discussing: Work directly related to my management area. So now all the alarms in my head went off and I got up and stood in her doorway.

Idiot Boss’ boss, “Miss Understand” gave me their back and not once attempted to make eye contact with me. Am I really that intimidating? Or was the scenery out the window more interesting? We'll never really know.

I asked “Miss Manager” if there was a meeting that they forgot to tell me about.

She looked right at me and answered “No”. Then she broke out in nice red splotches all over her neck, which meant that I at least made her uncomfortable. She then proceeded to tell me that they were discussing something completely different. So she lied to me – out-right lied to my face. Either they thought I was too stupid to realize it or they just didn’t care. That’s a nice touch, I thought.

5: Set unrealistic goals and deadlines which are unachievable or which are changed without notice or reason or whenever they get near achieving them.

Someone must be spying on me… this list is REALLY accurate!!!

6: Subject to excessive monitoring, supervision, micro-management, recording, snooping etc.

Did I also mention that I was required to submit a daily status report… for a year???

Targets of bullying usually have these qualities:

Popularity (this stimulates jealousy in the less-than-popular bully):

I would say this applied to me… people used to think that I was “Miss Manager”’s supervisor.

Competence (this stimulates envy in the less-than-competent bully):

As long as she’s working 18-20 hours a day, I will always be more competent than her. No kidding, she BRAGS about working on her weekends.
I have and appreciate the ability to work SMARTER. Anyone with half a brain would realize that something was wrong and needed to be re-thought. Might I suggest a new strategy? Use your head -- it’s that lump about 3 feet above your ass.

Intelligence and intellect:

Intelligence, me… intellect, me… That’s 2 for me and NONE for you!

A sense of humor, including displays of quick-wittedness:

A butter knife is sharper than my Idiot Boss.

Ability to master new skills:

It’s called the English language – learn how to use it! Take a public speaking class or something because when it comes to clarifying a point, simply repeating the same thing over and over explains nothing and people do NOT understand you! It’s like shouting at a deaf person – they won’t hear you and frankly, it’s embarrassing.

Helpful, always willing to share knowledge and experience:

Oh boy, am I head and shoulders above you on this one.

You know, I'd like to say that I could go on and on but then I'd have nothing to publish tomorrow. But that would be wrong. I could go on and on and still have tales to tell from here ad infinitum. As a matter of fact, these tales are the basis for the book that I'm writing.

Stick around, I'm just getting started.




The Ultimate Insult, Part II: “Miss-Management”

During my annual review earlier this year, “Mis-Manager” said many things to me. One of them was that I lacked the expertise required to fulfill my role. She was referring to a previous role in which I had worked until the November prior. Same title, different (better) area of the department.

When I asked her for an example she came up empty. “Well,” she said, “you don’t show strength in your responsibilities. You’re not the expert at what you do.”

Hel-lo??? The job I was in was created FOR me and which I built from the ground level up. I conducted research, informational interviews, wrote policy, gave presentations and trained company employees across the country. It was all done to develop a new area of our department. I did that job for 5 years. I was a pioneer.

Yet, I lacked the expertise.

I continued to ask for an example and she continued to come up empty.

After that initial meeting, I collected my documentation. In it, I included my presentations, the list of reports I created, the processes I put in place and last – but not least – dozens of thank-you notes and various commendations from many individuals I brushed shoulders with on a daily basis. There were a total of about 30 commendations taken over a six-month period of time.

When I brought the documentation into my next meeting with the Idiot Boss, she called me “inappropriate” for including the commendations. Then I told her that she was “inappropriate” for saying that I was “inept” in my job and not providing so much as one example where I fell short.

Then she called me insubordinate and I got into ALOT of trouble. Let me tell you, you can be 100% right and still be 100% fired.

Well, I didn't get fired. But 8 months later, I’m still waiting for an answer from her.

Gosh I love my job.




Revenge of the Parentheses ( )

I actually completed a report on time today!!! The 2 new employees I hired were working away at projects that I trained them on. That left time for me to – Ta-Dum – get my own work done!

One of today’s tasks was to make 10 pages of revisions in a 263 page report. Ok.

It was done – data checked and cross-checked. I submitted it and “Mis-Manager” herself actually smiled at me and thanked me. I almost fell over.

Not 10 minutes later she came over to my desk and put some papers down beside my keyboard. On these pages were pencil-marks. She indicated that in the top-left corner on 3 of the pages, I left out parentheses to indicate a negative number. Now mind you, the calculations were correct: One number was subtracting another number and the end result was the difference. However, she wanted “( )” around the subtracted number.

This is a 263-page report. Do you think anyone is going to miss parentheses on ONE number on 3 out of 263 pages? The calculations were correct! According to her, I clearly must be an imbecile to have left something off that was so pivotal.

That's almost as good as the time she called to correct me on an email that I sent out: She told me that, "moving forward" I should use CAPS on the first word of the subject header and then indicate the date and issue #. NOT: Issue # then date, blah, blah, blah.

But no, she’s not a micromanager.




The Ultimate Insult: A.K.A. - The Yearly Review

I recently came across another article that piqued my interest. It was posted on Careerbuilder.com and entitled “Can You Redeem Yourself After a Bad Review at Work?” It was written by Kate Lorenz who writes many career-related articles for Careerbuilder.

I read stuff like this that seems to make all the sense in the world. And then I wonder - why I can’t have it like that?

Let’s take a look at some tips that Kate makes in regards to the annual review:

Ask for specifics.
The best way to improve your performance is if you know what you are doing wrong. Ask your manager to spell out exactly where you are lacking so you can make improvements. If he or she simply says that you "don't seem to be motivated" in the office, respectfully ask for examples of where and when you have fallen short. This will help you see things from your manager's perspective.

My reality:
Apparently your manager isn’t *required* to supply any specifics. This past year I had a lousy review. 8 months later I’m still waiting for an answer since my manager has so far been unable to produce even ONE example of anything that I did “wrong”.

One of the things that my manager said to me was, “Your subordinate, Worker Bee A, came to me on several occasions to complain about you.”

Oh really? Worker Bee A worked for me for 3 years until they were just promoted into MY job. (And no, I’m not being naïve but, I have no reason to believe that this individual went plotting behind my back).

So I asked my Idiot Boss what it was that Worker Bee A said about me. After all, if they went to my manager “on several occasions” to complain, what was it that they said? Why were they complaining?

My bat-$@%#-crazy manager turned white and tried to think of something to say.

Hmmm, how odd.

So I asked, “Would you tell me at least ONE thing that they said? You just told me that Worker Bee A came to you on several occasions. Surely you must be able to recall ONE item of complaint?” How can I improve if I don't know what needs improving?

She struggled for an answer, “I don’t seem to remember anything offhand at this time.”

“Ok, then why don’t we call Worker Bee A in here? Since you don’t seem to be able to recall what was said, maybe we can hear it from the horse’s mouth, no? If this is a negative mark against me, I think I have the right to know what they said.”

Apparently my Idiot Boss saw that as unnecessary. Really? Then maybe that shouldn’t be in my review. As I said, all these months later and she still has not come up with ONE item of complaint that Worker Bee A went to her with.

Understand expectations.
Sometimes, being a star at work is all about expectations. You need to understand your manager's idea of "outstanding" or "meets expectations" in order to meet them. Ask your manager to give you examples of accomplishments or behaviors that are required to earn a better evaluation.

My reality:
I’ve asked my manager about what I need to do. She told me to work LOTS of overtime. Her words exactly: Work through lunchtime, work late at night, bring work home and work weekends (For the rest of this story, please see 12/7/05’s blog entry: I'm_Not_A_Micromanager ). Looks like I won't be reaching her expectations again.

Set clear and attainable goals.
The best way to show that you are improving is to set goals and meet those goals. With your supervisor's help develop a list of short- and long-term goals that go along with the areas in your review. This will demonstrate that you are committed to improvement and will give you a road map to follow.

My reality:
My yearly goals are not given to me until May at the earliest. So right there, 5 months are shot. Beyond that, the goals are not clear, nor are they attainable.

Don't go it alone.
If you find that you need assistance, ask for it. Maybe you just haven't gotten the hang of the new accounting system or are having troubles managing a certain client. If you don't step up and ask for help, your work -- and your career -- will continue to suffer.

My reality:
Late last year I was involuntarily moved into a different (less desireable) area of the department. Nobody trained me, although I asked repeatedly to be trained. Finally, when I started making mistakes and was placed on “written warning”, did they deem it time to start training me in my new role. Nice, right?

Meet regularly.
If the only time you sit down with your boss is at your annual review, it may be difficult for you to improve much in the workplace. You need to build a relationship with your manager that provides you with ongoing support and feedback. If necessary, set up meetings every few weeks to talk about your goals and discuss your progress.

My reality:
You cannot work for my bat-$@%#-crazy manager and not meet on a daily basis. However, when we meet it’s usually so that she can make me feel worse about things I didn’t even think were possible for me to feel bad about.

Keep a record.
The workplace has a short memory and a performance review is normally conducted just once a year. That's why it is important for you to keep a file of your accomplishments throughout the year. Share these with your supervisor as he prepares your performance appraisal to remind him of your achievements.

My reality:
Documentation does nothing. After my miserable review, I went to Inhuman Resources to see what I could possibly do. There wasn’t any way I could let that review stand. So I pulled all of my documentation together. It was everything that said not only that I did my job – but that I did it well. It also included memos and emails from several individuals in the company (some of them upper management) who commended me on a “job well done”. Long story short – Inhuman Resources told me that my manager was allowed to say whatever she wanted to say and that they would back her up. They never even looked at my documentation. Screw documentation.

In the real world, I know that things should roll this way. It’s the “right thing”.

As a result of all this nonsense I’ve decided to quit my job, quit my industry and start my own company. And that would never have happened if my company operated the way it’s supposed to. I know I’m not alone in this. So maybe in a way this is a sign that I should be doing bigger and better things. We’ll have to see.




Performance Mis-Management

Since I’ve had Performance Management on the brain recently, I decided to address it. The following is the “Performance Management Process Checklist” that I found in an article written by Susan M. Heathfield at Human_Resources_About.com

It’s a good article if you get the chance to check it out. It clearly defines how performance reviews *should* proceed. Unfortunately, life seldom works out that way… or at least at my job it doesn’t.

I address each Checklist point with a response as it applies to my job and those that mis-manage me.

1) Define the purpose of the job, job duties, and responsibilities.

What They Mean:
We’re going to make your life miserable.

2) Define performance goals with measurable outcomes.

What They Mean:
This is not a hard job to do. To make it more challenging, we will throw up roadblocks at every opportunity so that you do not achieve any of your goals. We have made fulfilling your responsibilities an Olympic event; very few (if any) have ever survived and those that have now live in padded cells.

3) Define the priority of each job responsibility and goal.

What They Mean:
Every last function of the job that you perform is a priority. How you choose to define your priorities is up to you; however, regardless of what you do, it will be wrong. If you submit Report A, we will have wanted Report B, even though we didn’t ask for it. Thanks for playing, please try your luck again next time.

4) Define performance standards for key components of the job.

What They Mean:
Although the tasks as we state them sound easy enough to accomplish, we will set you up for failure. We tell you to come to us with any questions and when you do, we reserve the right to 1) Not answer you at all or, 2) Give you a wrong answer. It is up to our discretion, as our mood sees fit. You are here for our amusement.

5) Hold interim discussions and provide feedback about employee performance, preferably daily, summarized and discussed, at least, quarterly. (Provide positive and constructive feedback.)

What They Mean:
We will hold daily floggings. It’s positive and constructive for us. You do not matter.

6) Maintain a record of performance through critical incident reports. (Jot notes about contributions or problems throughout the quarter, in an employee file.)

What They Mean:
This is where we get to make up stuff about you and be as general as possible. It doesn’t matter that you have documentation to prove otherwise. If you try to go against us, we will get our Inhuman Resources department to back us up, since we keep them in our back pockets anyway.

7) Provide the opportunity for broader feedback. Use a 360 degree performance feedback system that incorporates feedback from the employee's peers, customers, and people who may report to him.

What They Mean:
We don’t care what anyone else thinks or says that’s positive about you. What we say goes. It could be inaccurate or an outright lie. That’s how we roll.

8) Develop and administer a coaching and improvement plan if the employee is not meeting expectations.

What They Mean:
We will place you on written warning if you attempt to have independent thoughts. If you do not cease and desist, we will place you on probation. If, at that time we just don’t want you around anymore, we will terminate your employment. We don’t need anyone around with better ideas who will - or already has - made us look bad.

More to come on Performance Mis-Management and Inhuman Resources. Stay tuned.





Southworth resume bond paper... $22.99 a box

Brand new suit from Ann Taylor... $249.00

Keeping it cool while the EVP of your current company catches you on an interview at the same office where he's scheduled a meeting with clients...


Yes folks, that actually happened to me.

For those of you that have been reading my stories, please know that I am doing everything in my power to change my situation. My blog is not intended to be a forum of daily negativity. This is my opportunity to share my experiences and perhaps share the things that work and the things that don’t (which in my unfortunate situation outweigh the “things that work”).

Getting back to my “Priceless” predicament…

This actually happened to me over the summer. Not only did I run into the EVP of my company, but also the SVP and a few other individuals. Incidentally, the SVP knew of my circumstance and is one of my current job references.

So what a hoot – I ran into folks from my company and on probably the hottest day of the summer. What made it even more fun was that I waited in the reception area with ALL of them until we got called into our respective meetings. That was delightful.

When my interviewer came out to greet me (thankfully it was after the others had gone into their meeting), he commented on the weather. “Wow, it’s a real scorcher out there isn’t it? I’ll bet you were really sweating it out on your way over.”

“Well Mr. Interviewer, funny you should mention that. I would have to say it was more of a scorcher in your reception area since I ran into half a dozen people from my office there.”

He apologized, laughed and then turned me down for the job. Life can be so cruel. But no – to my knowledge these individuals did not share my faux pas with the loony upper-management powers-that-be in my department.

It’s a funny story though – and completely true. Trust me when I say that material this good just could not be made up. This is another reason I started this blog. I knew people would be shocked and entertained at the same time. Who knows, maybe I have some wisdom from all this that I can impart to others along my journey.

Either way, please keep me company. There’s so much more where this came from! I must share it.





"I'm Not a Micromanager!"

…those are the exact words from my bat-$@%#-crazy manager’s mouth earlier today. She called me into her office for a meeting and closed the door behind me. Right there that’s a bad sign.

This was a follow-up to the “discussion” that we had last Friday (read that story in This_is_a_No-Win_Situation ). My Idiot Boss wanted to know why I missed the deadline for my quarterly report. It felt like déjà vu to me, but I went along for the ride anyhow.

I read recently that the only way to make your boss happy is to do your work the way that THEY would do it. Problems arise from individuals with differing work styles attempting to come together. Bottom line: at the end of the day it’s not about you… it’s about your boss. Make them happy and you’ll be a superstar.

On that note, last Friday I asked my manager for her suggestions on how I could approach my responsibilities better. I’m doing what I’m doing day-to-day and getting things done my way. But for some reason that’s not making her happy. Forget about not being happy, the woman is outright pissed at me – and I don’t know why! So as I said, I’m asking her what it is that she’s looking for, and asking for her recommendations on how best to go about getting it.

It would seem to me that if someone approaches you seeking your advice, you’d be flattered that they held you in high enough regard. I mean, they must want to hear what you have to say, no? Of course, since I want to make every day at work as minimally painful as possible, I want to know what she thinks.

Mind you, I don’t CARE about what she thinks… I’m just trying to make my day-to-day work experience less painful than root canal.

Last Friday when I first asked her that question she stared blankly at me in response. Well today when I asked her the same question she actually voiced words to answer me. She said the things that worked for her were:

A-Working through lunchtime
B-Working late at night
C-Bringing work home
D-Working over the weekend.

I should have asked her at what point she sacrifices her firstborn to the company.

Anyhow, when she told me this I just said to her that these were not good answers to “working better” or “working smarter”. What she’s suggesting is just “working longer”. She had NO other suggestions on how to work better… no recommendations. What an idiot.

I am at this company now for several years. For a solid chunk of that time I would come in early and stay late. On an average, I probably worked no less than 10 hours a day. I used to bring work home and yes, I had come in over a weekend or two from time to time.

I will tell you what working overtime got me: Screwed.

At this point in our meeting today I told my manager that I had ZERO motivation for working beyond my scheduled hours of 9am to 6pm. It’s almost 3 years since I’ve had a raise, 5 ½ years since I’ve had a promotion, my yearly bonuses are practically non-existent when at my level, they should be “cushy” and on top of all that, they blatantly lie about me in my annual reviews. Oh, and Inhuman Resources said that my manager is allowed to write whatever she likes about me in those reviews.

Isn’t this the kind of company you’d want to work for everyday?

So I more or less told her that overtime was over. However, I also told her that in an emergency I would stay. Just last night I stayed until 7:30pm (and considering that I don’t work overtime anymore, this was late).

When I told her that I wouldn’t stay after hours anymore, she told me that it made me a bad manager. Coming from her it means nothing.

Getting back to what I said above about making your boss happy – if you can do this, great. You should always try to go the path of working WITH someone… at least be willing to do so. If you’re working for human beings, this method ought to work.

It’s my rotten luck that I don’t work for human beings.

If you find yourself in a situation like mine, bang your head against a brick wall. Then repeat the motion. If at all possible, bang your Idiot Boss’ head against a brick wall and repeat. That might make you feel better.

Enjoy : )




Once Upon a Root Canal

Several weeks ago I had the unfortunate experience of my first – and hopefully last - root canal procedure. All-in-all, I have to say it wasn’t SO bad. I mean, when you have to work everyday with what I have to work with, suddenly root canal doesn’t look so ugly.

So I did what I had to do and dealt with it. My dental appointments were scheduled during lunch hours. That said, I had to go back one time to be fitted for a crown. As I mentioned, this was my first root canal so I didn’t really know what I was getting into, right?

This one particular appointment was set for 2pm, which was later than the time I normally took for lunch. I cleared it with The Supreme Micromanager a day in advance and explained what I was having done. Ok.

The next day, I reminded my Idiot Boss about the late lunch hour and the dental appointment. She said “Ok”.

Long story short, my appointment ran well over the 1-hour time I allotted for it. But what am I supposed to do? I can’t exactly call the boss and say I’ll be late - half my head is numb, and I have dental paraphernalia protruding from my mouth – not exactly the right time for conversation.

It ran 45 minutes over.

I got back to the office with a wretched headache from the drill and stabbing hunger pangs since I hadn’t had the chance to eat before the appointment. When I stopped by the Idiot Boss’s office to say that I was back, she looked at me with the stoniest expression I’d ever seen on anyone. She made Stonehenge look like one big featherbed.

“Where were you?” She demanded.

Huh? “I was at the dentist, just as I told you.”

“You were gone a long time I had no idea what happened to you.”

Mom? Is that you? Am I 15 again? Did the dentist administer something other than straight-up Novocain? As if the root canal wasn’t enough damage for one day, I had to take this abuse from my bat-#$@% crazy manager.

“Uh…(checking to be sure no saliva ran out of the corner of my mouth), I told you that I was going to the dentist. He had to fit me for a crown. It took longer than we thought and I couldn’t call you. Sorry.”

"Well, I want to know how you're going to make the time up."


"I'll work through lunch tomorrow. Again, I'm sorry."

Yeah, I was sorry that the procedure was over and that I had to go back to the office. Having root canal was more fun than my job. Actually, I take that back… I can handle the job. So let’s just say that root canal was more fun than facing my boss on even her best day.

I’m sorry that she hates me and sabotages my work every day.
I’m sorry that she lacks all people skills and shouldn’t be allowed to manage so much as an ant farm.
I’m sorry that I have to suffer the daily abuse and wonder if today will be my last day at the job - and in an industry I've worked in for almost 12 years.
I’m REALLY sorry that in the last 2 years I have been unable to find suitable employment elsewhere to get away from the Idiot Boss and heal my wounds.

I really do try my best not to wallow in self pity.

I’m NOT sorry however, that enduring this garbage everyday for far too long has forced me to take hold of my future and start my own business. If I can work this hard for someone else and handle that abuse, think of what I can do for myself.

And yes, I’m on my way. Stay tuned.




31 Emails

When I returned from the Thanksgiving holiday, I found 31 emails in my Inbox from the Idiot Boss. This was over the course of 2 ½ days.

Almost every one of these emails required a response.

My Idiot Boss is the Supreme Micromanager. I’ve read several books on successful management skills and this woman does not possess one of these skills. In one of the books I read, one way to throw “The Micromanager” off-course is to send as many emails as possible their way. They’ll have so much email to go through it’ll rattle their cage and they won’t know how to respond.


***If they are a Supreme Micromanager, they will not only respond to every one of your emails, they will send TWO for every ONE that you send***

This is not a joke and should not be tried unless your schedule is cleared for the rest of the year. If you have a job that leaves you nothing to do then by all means, go ahead and entertain yourself. However, if this is what you consider to be entertainment then you need to find a life.

But take it from me: These people take email seriously. It has become a dangerous addiction for them. What makes it worse is that there’s nothing you can do to win in this situation.

Possible courses of action:
1: If feasible, condense your responses into ONE email… although I didn’t have much success with that one personally.

2: If you can, ignore the emails as long as humanly possible and continue with your work as planned. Chances are, these individuals have clogged your Inboxes with inane questions, worthless tidbits of data, and usually repeat themselves ad nauseam. Besides, if you ignore them it will probably drive them mad – which if nothing else, may make you feel better.

3: If they call you and ask if you’ve seen their emails – and why you haven’t answered them, you should respond, “Yes I have seen the messages, and it looks like you have more to add to a growing list of topics that I already don’t care about.” Then print them all out and suggest a meeting to address them in person. If this is someone who is email-crazy, a face-to-face meeting might throw them off.

Give it a try. If you’re like me, you have nothing to lose. Then again, I hope you’re not like me with an Idiot Boss! I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.




This is a No-Win Situation

Once the normal methods have been tried - unsuccessfully - to get through to another human being, it helps to know when to quit.

Just this past Friday I had a usual encounter with my bat-S&$*# crazy boss:

We had a conversation that quickly brought my blood to near-boiling level. If it was measured in whistling tea kettle terms, the kettle would have been clearing its throat ready to scream in complete readiness.

So it's Friday evening at 5:55pm and I'm about to leave work for the weekend. Against my better instincts, I answered a call from my manager at that time. She asked me to stop by before I left. Ok.

When I stepped into her office she said to me, "I know you don't want to hear it but I need to know where you're at with your quarterly report."

What an interesting way to start a conversation. And I don't mean interesting-good. It's true, she did know that this report has been a thorn in my side but that was due to situations out of my control. As per Murphy's law, if it could go wrong it would - and has, which I was now being blamed for. Of course, even if a meteor demolished the city block where our office was, I'd be blamed for not getting the report completed. She wouldn't want to hear it that the office no longer existed along with the rest of the Manhattan's east side.

"That's not accurate. I don't mind "hearing it" about this report, and I don't mind discussing it. By all means, as my manager you're entitled to ask me about it. So let's talk about it."

"I need to know where you're at with it. As you're aware, this report was due on Wednesday. When can I expect it to be completed?"

Perfectly valid question.

I shrugged my shoulders, "I'm not sure". Not what she wanted to hear but it was an honest response.

She looked exasperated. "Why not? You knew in advance when this report was due. Why didn't you plan better to get it done?"

Hmmm, let's see...

For starters, since starting the report was dependent upon receiving quarterly information, I was only able to start the report three weeks prior. If I don't have the data, I can't work on the report. With me so far? Ok.

I'm short-handed, down one assistant. Now on the same day that this information became available to us to start work, my second assistant put in their 2-week notice. Management decided to keep assistant #2 since I was already short-handed. So, aside from the fact that I'd already been covering my managerial responsibilities and the 1st assistant's responsibilities, I then had to pick up the responsibilities of the second. That meant I had to carry the workload of 3 people. I don't need to tell you that a person who hands in their notice is a lame duck. But on the day our data came in, I began work on the project and I asked assistant #2 to please work on it as well (I told them, "You're not being escorted out the door so you may as well do something while you're here"). As you can imagine, I should be grateful that Asst#2 did any work at all on it.

Every day I checked in with idiot boss to give a status report on what was completed and what had yet to be done. In her universe this was all ok.

That was 2 weeks prior to Thanksgiving. Now, I happen to work quickly on this particular project but the fact remains that there's still the day-to-day workload of 3 people to handle. So I'm handling that workload plus working on this in the meantime. Then I had the “one-vacation-day-left” debacle which I wrote about in the post on 11/29 entitled, "It's NOT my call!!!"

Additionally, prior to taking the 3 days off before Thanksgiving, I confirmed my new hire's training schedule with the internal training group. My new assistant (scheduled to start work on the first Monday after Thanksgiving) was slated to be in training ALL DAY Monday, Tuesday and partially on Wednesday. That meant that I would have Monday, Tuesday and half of Wednesday to work on this other project – and potentially get it done.


What actually happened: The internal training group completely changed the training schedule so I had to train the new employee ALL DAY Monday, 1/2 day Tuesday and 1/2 day Thursday. But of course I had no prior knowledge of this as I don't check emails on my vacations.

My manager knew and did nothing.

On top of that, my manager – who is my back-up – didn’t back me up on ANYTHING while I was out. It took me 4 days to catch up on all the nonsense that went on in my absence that she did nothing about. In that 3 day span of time, I received over 600 emails.

So when was this report supposed to get done? I didn't even glance at it when I came back - it was not physically possible.

I explained to my manager about the 600 emails, piles of report requests (that were not handled in my absence), the training schedule and daily workload of 3 people that I was carrying. None of that was good enough.

“But you knew ahead of time and you should have anticipated that obstacles would come up.”

No - I could not have anticipated that I would have over 600 emails in my inbox when I returned.

I could not (but should) have anticipated that she would not have lifted a finger to help me – after she said she would.

I could not have anticipated that the company’s training group would have totally altered the agreed-upon schedule for my new employee.

These were obstacles that could not have been anticipated.

I could however, anticipate the heel of my boot making contact with her two front teeth if she didn’t cease and desist.

“Well you know, we have a problem then,” I said. “Although I’m telling you on a daily basis everything that goes down and how I’m handling them, you don’t tell me until it’s too late that it’s not okay.” I took a deep breath, “You have expectations that I don’t seem to be living up to. So let me ask you, what should I have done instead of doing what I did?”

A smirk swept across her face. I anticipated choking her with steel wool to wipe it off.

“Seriously, I want to be able to do things your way – but you need to share with me what that way is. If you have any suggestions as to how I could have handled this better, then please share them with me… I want to be able to work better with you. Let’s discuss this so that you have no further disappointments in the future.”

In return for that nice little comment I received nothing but a blank stare. She said nothing. Nothing. I have thought of every last way to get through to this woman and they have all failed.

Folks trust me – if you’ve reached this point with your managers and hit nothing but brick wall after brick wall… then it’s time to cut your losses and find employment elsewhere. Find a job where your input and performance are valued. Nobody should have to endure abuse like this.

Good luck.




It's Not Me, It's YOU

A.K.A.: "Just Let Your Boss BE the Boss!" Part II

I have been working in my industry for MANY years now. Some words used to describe my status are "Veteran", "Industry Expert", "Gretta Gorgeous", "Femme Fatale", etc. Ok, so mostly "Veteran" and "Industry Expert". The point I'm trying to make is that I know my business and I know what I'm talking about.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, my manager needs to have a hand in EVERYthing that I do. Personally, the reason I think she gets ticked most often at me is because I don't share the details of when I go to the restroom during the course of the day. After all, it's probably the only thing I do that she can't control.

That said... as part of my job I am deeply immersed in emails. On a daily basis, I receive an average of 200 emails. Naturally, I respond to many of these.

If I need to address the masses in one email, I usually do it with one "grandaddy" of a memo. Since I'm working with my bat-S&$*# crazy manager for a few years now, I know that she likes the emails to be well-formatted pieces of art. Key words are highlighted and bullet-points go hand-in-hand with each new paragraph. On a good day, there may even be some color added on the font to really drive the point home of "Please be aware we are distributing sales reports to you lucky suckers".

As a rule, my manager requires all emails to pass through her to receive the stamp of approval before I'm allowed to send anything out. As I mentioned above I am an industry veteran, an expert in my field. And yes, I am an adult. As per yesterday's post, I am also a published author. Believe me when I tell you, I have to bring my emails to my boss for her to proofread before I send them out. I am back in the 5th grade. Only I don't recall that experience as being so demeaning. Let me tell you, I went to Catholic school where they enjoyed pounding the fear of God and the whole guilt theme into you. That was WAY better than treading the path to my idiot manager's office to have a simple memo approved.

I should also mention, these memos that I send out are more or less reconstituted notes from the recent and not-so-recent past. Since I know that my manager will find no less than 5 things wrong with a three-sentence paragraph, I decided to conduct a little experiment. I dug through my archived files to find emails that my manager sent out with the same or similar messages. I updated the emails to make them relevant and then passed them along for review.

Well wouldn't you know it: My bat-S&$*# crazy boss found no less than 5 things wrong with her own damn emails!

The moral to today's story is: No matter how good you are at your job, there is no antidote for bat-S&$*# crazy managers. So take a deep breath and repeat as a mantra the words of Stuart Smalley, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh-darnit, people like me!" Then club your idiot boss like a baby seal, stuff her into trash bags and toss her into the incinerator.

Have a nice day!


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