Occupational hazard

bad boss

This past Christmas Eve, I received a WhatsApp message from someone I hadn’t seen or spoken to since 2011. It was the usual generic Christmas greeting, the kind that I would normally not bother to respond to if it came from someone I don’t even know well. But because I was alone at home and bored on Christmas Eve — and completely thrown by the randomness of the message — I replied, and that led to a brief conversation and accelerated catch-up for the next few minutes. And random awkward accelerated catch-ups being what they are, the conversation inevitably led to the subject of work.

ASIDE: There seems to be a curious perception and therefore stigma about doing freelance work. In certain cultures which I will not name here because I may be perceived as racist, freelancing is seen as being too lazy or too unqualified for a full-time job. In other cultures, freelancing is seen as being free to do whatever the hell you want. And as a freelancer, I can safely say that both perceptions are inaccurate. END ASIDE.

So when I told this long-lost WhatsApp sender that I’m freelancing now, her response went from “Oh, nice, you are free now” to “So when will you get a proper job again?” And because it was a question that nobody has ever actually asked me, my answer was a realization in and of itself.

I will (most probably) never take another full-time job.

Setting aside factors like working hours, office politics and dress codes, I now have an extreme aversion to bosses: I have never ever had a good boss. Ever. As regular human beings outside the workplace, they were normal enough people, and I’ve even stayed friends with a couple of them — but as authority figures whom I had to answer to on a daily basis and whose whims and fancies I had to cater to, they might as well not have existed at all. In the end, I realized that the only kind of growth I was ever going to see in any of those jobs was in my own waistline due to the emotional eating I eventually succumbed to.

So after six years of answering to people and occasionally having to supervise others, this is what most employees with brains are thinking but would die before saying it to their bosses’ faces:

Shut up and listen. A boss’s job is not to just give instructions and delegate tasks; it’s also to teach their employees to do what they themselves will eventually have to let go of as everyone moves up the food chain. And if their employees have it in them, there is absolutely no reason that they can’t learn well. But because a boss is, after all, only human and the course of time will always result in the evolution of professions and practices, there will always be new methods, new innovations and new information that someone else can provide to them. And more often than not, that someone else will be — quelle horreur! — an employee. So it never hurts the bosses to remove their ego from the equation every now and then if it means being able to learn something of value from someone who has something valuable to share. And if the bosses have it in them, there is absolutely no reason that they can’t learn well too.

Count those damned blessings. Bosses love to think that everyone is replaceable and indispensable; after all, if they hired you, they can hire someone else, n’est-ce pas? Tell that to all the bosses I’ve ever had, none of whom were ever able to find someone to fill my shoes, because there is a deceptively fine line between being indispensable and invaluable. Anyone can hold a job title and wield it to their advantage, but not everyone can — or is willing to — go beyond their job description and pay level to do what needs to be done in order to keep the level of efficiency going.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA fuck you. Again: fine line. And once an employee is pushed over that line, once they’ve reached their breaking point, there really is no going back, no matter how hard everyone tries to play nice with one another again. The long face, withdrawn behavior and occasional sudden spurt of cheerfulness are not the result of a bad day at work; it’s really just their way of saying, “I’ve had enough of your bullshit, so go fuck yourself.” It probably also means, “I’ve saved every scrap of work I’ve done over the last three years into five different flash drives and Dropbox accounts, so eventually you really will have to fuck yourself.”

Nice colors, motherfucker. I always use my last full-time job as a cautionary tale. When I was in Buffalo during the latter half of December, Shirley and I came to the conclusion that people never change; they just become very good and hiding their flaws; fittingly, it was also Shirley who told me years ago that people show their true colors in bad situations. My last job involved working for a boyfriend, who, among other things, is a sneaky, conniving, manipulative and malicious excuse of a human being (my friends loved to tell me it was because of his race, and I didn’t believe them until it was too late), much like his wife*. Our personal relationship was rocky at best, but I labored under the delusion that somehow, our professional relationship would survive it. Naturally, I was sorely mistaken, because as soon as we broke up, he became a worse boss than he had ever been a boyfriend, and he made it clear to everyone else who worked with us. I realized I had to leave that job the morning I discovered he had been snooping around on my computer (fortunately, he was not accustomed to using a MacBook Pro and did not know how to close applications or shut it down properly); I learned much later that even before we had broken up, he had already been going through my iPad and my cell phone when I left them unattended. Needless to say, it was this last job that scarred me for life, and made me swear off bad jobs, bad bosses, and bad boyfriends.

* For those of you who are suddenly scrambling to look through older posts, hang on to those panties: this is only the first time I am publicly acknowledging that my ex-boyfriend is, was and always has been married.

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