Bad Bosses

One of Chris‘s posts a few days ago got me thinking on this topic.

This is definitely one where I have to bite my tongue (or in this case, my fingers as I type). God knows I’ve had my share of bad bosses. I’ll try to be as vague as possible to protect myself and the guilty. If a member of the press asked my opinion of any of them, mentioning them by name, I would just smile and say something blandly positive.

The question is, where do these people come from? Bad bosses, like good bosses, come from all sorts of places. They may have worked their way out of the rank and file, gone to management school, come into a job with a degree, come into their respective positions with a sparkling resume, or even received an election or an appointment to lord over you. Given that, the Peter Principle is in effect.

Or, the Peter Principle doesn’t apply. They didn’t get plucked out of the crowd of laborers and they got into their job because they were highly qualified. They looked great on paper. However, they turned out to be psychopaths.

“Do as I say, not as I do” is their maxim. They can be grossly incompetent, but heaven forbid you following their lead. One boss I had never read the reports I gave her, but misinformed the accountant about being caught up (when my report showed evidence to the contrary). Also, she seemed incapable of hiring someone properly qualified to do my job, as several previous people proved to be unsatisfactory. I wonder if this has changed at all, but I’m no longer there to lose sleep over it or her for that matter.

Bad bosses are often verbally abusive. Another boss (years ago) was high strung and yelled at everyone. One time, I did not meet the dress code and I was upbraided not just once, but twice. He screamed at me about how unprofessional I was. Needless to say, when he got a heart attack, no one was sorry it happened. He came back, not changed by the experience and continued in his assholiness.

An employee’s personal boundaries are often ignored by bad bosses. While this boss may have been the most highly educated than the other examples, he proved to be just as charming. He called me at home at 10:30pm to get on my case about how I did not do a task according to procedure. After having him rant and holler in my ear, I hung up. The phone rang again, but I didn’t answer it. When I left that job, I was inspired to get caller ID for my landline.*

The lesson learned from of having my worklife punctuated by bad bosses? Definitely know what my rights are concerning them. Perhaps the most fitting way to deal with them is to walk away, leaving them mired in unfinished projects. However, that’s bad karma for the employee. Talk to their bosses, talk to HR, hold a tape recorder in front of them during meetings, or get an attorney. Maybe all of the above are necessary actions. I know I never have to put with it again.

*Before I had a mobile phone. In an era of mobile phones, I wonder about the wisdom of giving your boss your number. Better to call them than to have them call you.

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Lessons Learned At Warp 10

Going with the Star Trek metaphor in “Set A Course For Earth,” the ride at Warp 10 hasn’t been a fun one. I’ve wondered if there would be enough plasma in the warp drive and if the dilithium would last for the duration of the trip. I’ve had my dealings with life’s Romulans and Borg. Now it feels like I’m within a few parsecs of Earth, but not quite there yet. Between 40 Eridani and Procyon is where I am now.

Of course, the real life details are much more mundane and less fun. Here are some lessons I’ve learned in the past few months.

Communication is something I’ve been learning. Ironically, for someone who majored in English and Creative Writing, my ability to communicate was nil. I could conveniently blame this on a bad childhood or being an introvert, but my childhood’s long been over and social skills, though it may take more work for some, can be developed. My mother certainly tried to teach me that I shouldn’t just let people come to me if I wanted to articulate something, but that I should go to them. If someone takes the time to ask the questions, great; however, I should speak up for myself and make my needs known.

In approaching the various community colleges in San Diego County for courses in the fall, I had to approach the English department chairs or the professor in charge of hiring. No one is going to search through the list of people who possess English MA’s or PhD’s and ask them if they want to work for their schools. One is crazy to think that a school may hand a full time job to them as an entitlement for earning a post-baccalaureate degree. I’ve had to communicate with these people and keep in touch with them so I get assignments when they are available. My silence would certainly lower my prospects and would definitely not serve me well in the long run, especially when I want to apply to a full-time position.

If I had better communication skills when I ran the labor union’s mailroom, I would still have the job. I didn’t know what was expected of me because I didn’t ask, and I got the axe in the end. At times I felt bullied by some people (the accountant, my boss, and a couple of organizers), and this would not have happened if I stood up for myself. Speaking up for myself when I feel like I’ve been unfairly treated is a form of communication I’ll use in the future. Getting walked on is a failure to communicate (and the memory of it is enough for me not to let it happen in the future).

I’ve also been learning to listen in the past few months. I’ve never really been a good listener, and it’s amazing that I have even achieved mastery in the English language along with learning French and Spanish. Perhaps this is the reason why I don’t speak Japanese very well. It is a language where one needs to listen to the context and respond in kind. This is very important when something isn’t stated directly. However, when things are stated directly in any language, it is important to listen.

The ability to listen to criticism and grow from it is an important one. As a writer, I’ve learned how to handle criticism, especially when it seems like the critic ripped my work to shreds. A manuscript’s draft, especially in the early stages, is far from perfect and an outside evaluation is helpful. I may or may not agree with what someone said about my text, but if that person took the time to read the work and give their observations, then it would serve me well to listen to what they have to say. The same goes for hearing what someone says to me about me.

I could take someone’s observations about me as an attack on me or grow from it. In the past, I would have taken it as a tear down and feel like there wasn’t much I could do to change it (or that the person was mean when the comment wasn’t cruel at all). Yesterday, my class at the language center was off to a less than perfect start, and the director had a talk with me about the student’s comments about me. I listened to what he had to say, took it as an opportunity to address my weaknesses that day, and made my lessons this morning a better experience for my students. I took it as an opportunity to grow, not as an indictment of failure.

In a situation where someone does or says something that is unfair, I should still take the time to listen to what this person says or does. My response (speaking or standing up for myself) will demonstrate that I have heard what they have to say and that it is not the right way to go about what they really need to say.

This will sound redundant, but I have been learning to learn. As someone who has spent too much time in college and graduate school, it has been easy to portray myself as a man of learning, but real learning doesn’t always get you an A or a degree. Instead, it comes from communicating, listening, and taking action. In communicating with others, I send forth my statements and questions, and in turn I receive responses and further questions. One can communicate all they want, but listening is a key component. In order to synthesize information or experience, taking time to observe is necessary. Ultimately, the risk of doing is necessary to learn. By communicating and listening, I am learning how to do these things. In the past, I may taught my students that learning isn’t passive, but it’s certainly taken me a while to learn that myself. It is an active and ongoing process.

Now, Alpha Centauri doesn’t seem so far away. And then it’s a parsec or so en route to Earth.

Set A Course For Earth: An Update

“Set A Course For Earth” was perhaps one of the most honest posts I’ve written for ShindoTV. In fact, I still find it scary to read. I’ve never like talking about my insecurities, but they have plagued me and my professional and academic lives for years. Understanding this shortcoming and dealing with it is how I plan to move ahead in the next few months.

I kept sending resumes for publishing and writing jobs, but that seems to be a closed door for me. I’ve more or less had to fall back upon a “trade,” as I worked to get myself employed in the fall semester and hopefully even sooner (like this summer). I’ve been fairly diligent in trying to get back into teaching. While I did not have the luxury of getting courses this semester, I’ve had to be persistent. I contacted department chairs by e-mail and phone, got meeting and presentations of my curriculum vitae going, and have had to stay in touch with them for offers of classes.

Recently, I started teaching at a local language school for foreign students, and a friend of mine helped me get the job. I officially start tomorrow and it seems very exciting. I get a class of anywhere from five to eight students. I think this school will be a very good reference in the future.

I also got some news from a community college I worked for prior to my stint working for a labor union’s mailroom. I’ve been in touch with their hiring professor, and there is the offer of a developmental composition course in the fall. Also, she offered me a course during the summer. I’ve never taught summer school before, so it will be a new experience for me. I’ve been crazy enough to take summer courses in college a few times, so I have to brace myself.

If I’m extremely busy with a full time class-load in the months to come, I’ll be happy. Please slap me if I ever take another job where I must operate something named Pitney-Bowes, Hasler, or Neopost.

Good Crazy

Some days are just crazy. Yesterday, it was good crazy.

I make it a policy not to write about my personal life on this blog, though I don’t follow this policy 100 percent. I do write personal essays and creative non-fiction; however, this is not my diary. An essay such as Set A Course For Earth may reveal a lot about me, but this was more a piece of writing versus treating the blog as a newsletter or confessional. I have to admit, writing that piece unnerved me.

Given that, I have been busy non-stop today. I did some job searching, I e-mailed department heads at the community colleges in San Diego county just to keep in touch regarding teaching assignments, and got an e-mail response to an ad I have in Craig’s List for freelance writing. Around noon, I drove out to Rancho Bernardo from Downtown San Diego to meet this prospective client, a website. I sped down the I-15 and managed to make it on time. I clocked in a speed of 85 mph. Nissans are not speed cars at all, but I stayed in the left-hand lane and kept steady, occasionally annoyed by some people who only wished to cruise in that lane. I made it on time, and the interview was really cool. On the way home, there was a truck 75 feet in front of me, and a ladder fell out of its bed. I was fortunate enough to get into another lane. Later in the evening, I met with a doctoral student to proof read part of his thesis.

Now, back to the regular programming on shindotv.