Tag Archives: Bad Bosses

Have You Ever Been Fired?

Have you ever been walked out of a job?  It’s a pretty awful feeling.  I knew it was coming—it was a fast moving freight train, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  About 18 months previous to this date, my most favorite boss of all time retired, and my most unfavorite of all senior level managers was his replacement.  We were oil and water.  He had a PhD in Physics.  I think he thought with a PhD, he knew everything about everything.  He even had the nerve to tell me one day that he thought have an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) was a wasted and meaningless college degree.  Yes, that is my degree, and he knew it.

The freight train started off slowly, but I knew it had started.  I was part of the Senior Management Team, and the only woman in management at this company.  We were a fairly cohesive group, although I related best to our CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and my former best boss ever.  From the time Dick became my boss (name changed to cover his identity but one that fit him well, if you get my drift), he started putting a wedge between me and whatever I was to accomplish.

One day he asked me to do a report on demographics of our company.  I made a beautiful PowerPoint presentation for our next management meeting.  I presented gender, age, ethnicity, education, everything that would tell you about the demographics of our organization.  It was presented to him, our team, and our dotted-line management at headquarters in California.  We discussed it as a group, and we moved on to the next topic.  Six months later in my annual appraisal, he dinged me for not reporting our demographics.  I pointed out to him that I had indeed run this report and presented it several months earlier in our staff meeting.  He then said, “I wanted a 30 page written report.  Everyone who works for me knows that.”  Really, because I didn’t know that.  I had never in all my years in Human Resources ever been asked to write a 30 page report.  I was dumbfounded.  

So the freight train was moving.  I could feel the vibration of the ground as this train was gaining speed.  I think I heard the whistle blowing.  I think I needed to get off the tracks, but I had only so much time to find a new track to go onto.  I heard the clickity-clack, and it’s getting louder.  

In the meantime I was brushing up my resume.  I had been at this company almost four years, and now I thought I needed to leave.  By the way, if you never noticed, the higher up in a company one is, the less places one can go from there that will be equivalent or better than in their level and pay.  You know, there is only one CEO in a company—if that person needs to find a new position, there are a lot less opportunities for a CEO than a first line manager.  Therefore, the job search takes longer, and is a bit more difficult.  

A few months went by, and Dick asked me to recruit a summer intern for our company.  Okay, I could do that.  What were we looking for, what was this person going to do, what were we going to pay this person, and what kind of opportunities will this candidate have to be hired after the internship?  I knew that these were important considerations for a person from across the country to have answered in order to come for a short term assignment.  Dick wanted me to find a PhD candidate, one with a specialty in the industry we were, and preferably from the University of Florida because he liked their program.  No, we will not consider someone from any local state universities that might be PhD candidates with this expertise.  I did my research through our corporate office about their internship programs and how they compensated.  This company was very generous with the pay and also with help for temporary housing.  I had my ducks pretty much in a row to start the recruitment, except for the big questions—what will this intern be doing, and what is the future for this candidate?  I went into Dick’s office to discuss these two very important items.  His first answer really surprised me—no, we would not be offering a permanent job to this person no matter how good they were.  Dick’s goal was that this candidate would be so enamored with our company that when this intern went to a permanent first job after attaining the doctorate, they would recommend purchasing our products because we were so great. It was a marketing ploy from the start!

That surprised me, but not as much as the answer to the next question.  When I call these folks and tell them about this opportunity, they will ask me what kind of work will be in this internship.  Could I get someone from the engineering department to help me put together the internship program so I have an answer for them?  Dick looked at me with a straight face, and stated that he wasn’t giving up any of his engineers to do this, and no, he didn’t have time to help me on this.  I was supposed to call this candidate and say we have this really great opportunity for this summer, you will really like it, and it will be great experience.  Of course, they will ask what their duties will be, and I just say it will be great, and you will love working here.  Where is a job description?  Why would a PhD candidate be interested in a job where they have no idea what to expect?  It was crazy.  Dick was serious.  He was not going to give me any assistance to figure to what a PhD candidate in Photonics would be doing in designing products within the laser industry.  Dick set me up to fail at this task.  No help, no job description, no idea what this person would be doing.

These were the kinds of issues that kept cropping up in my face the 18 months I worked with Dick.  There were times in between that things seem to run in a normal comfortable pattern.  Also during this time, our company was audited by Homeland Security, checking to see if we had properly documented the employees’ eligibility to be employed in the United States.  We passed with flying colors.  All documents were in order and correctly completed for each and every employee.  Then I was also audited by the Department of Labor (EEOC).  It was an unusual audit because they weren’t looking for gender identity or racial mix, but looking to see if we were hiring disabled people and accommodating them legally.  Once again, we passed with flying colors.  These were not simple audits—I had to give these government agents access to what they needed without giving access to the privacy of the employees.  Dick just ignored the fact that these two very important audits passed with flying colors.  At my annual appraisal it was never mentioned that we had a human resources manager successfully complying with all the state and federal laws.

It was so obvious that this boss was not going to give me credit and/or respect for anything I did.  We had our weekly senior staff meetings, and the one following Independence Day, Dick decided to ask the team members what they did over the holiday.  One guy became a grandfather for the first time, one went skydiving, and as Dick moved around the table, he asked each one of these men individually.  After they all shared their holiday adventures, before I had a chance to speak, Dick stated it was now time to start the meeting.  Weeks later I asked him if he remembered that he bypassed me on that friendly conversation.  He acknowledged the he indeed had skipped me because he didn’t want to know what I did.  

I have a feeling you are now hearing the train speeding up, chugging along, and it’s whistle blowing.  It’s getting louder . . . it’s getting close, but I cannot tell how close.

I met Dennis on a dating website. We started out communicating by email, then moved to telephone calls.  I was busy with my job, and some company traveling.  He was busy with his mother, who at that time was 93 years old.  We didn’t have a date to meet until the day after Thanksgiving.  It was a nice day spent together, but I am not sure either of us were swept off our feet, but we both agreed we needed to meet again, so Dennis came back the following Sunday.  I told him that day the I was going to have a meeting with Dick first thing Monday morning, and I think Dick was going to fire me.  This sweet man (Dennis) said he couldn’t see that happening.

The next morning Dick decided to meet in my office (bad sign).  He walked in, shut the door, and handed me a letter and said as of that moment I was no longer an employee of this company.  BAM! I was hit by the freight train—I didn’t get off the tracks soon enough.  I can still feel and hear the sound of the crash, but it doesn’t hurt like it did that day.

Dick had listed in the letter some of the reasons he was terminating my employment.  The first one was that when I went to a business meeting in California, and it abruptly ended a day early, I had not returned to work on Friday.  Well, we were told if we could get a last minute flight at a reasonable price, go ahead and go back home on Thursday, rather than Friday.  If not, stay with our previous travel plans on Friday.  Well, I had requested (in writing) to have Friday as a vacation day, and my plan was to fly out from Los Angeles to Phoenix that Friday morning, and then return to Missouri on Sunday.  I couldn’t quite change all these flight schedules (I was paying for my private part of the trip).  My three day vacation in Arizona was to attend a memorial service for the spouse of my cousin.  As soon as I read this in the letter, I reminded Dick that I had written approval for a vacation day on Friday.  He admitted that he forgot he gave me the vacation day.

The next thing on this list was the fact that I never hired a summer intern.  Really?  How was I supposed to hire someone with no job description?  He knew that I requested help to pull the program together, and he refused to give me a person or even the name. There was no internship program to hire someone.

There was more to the letter, and it was pretty much a rambling.  I was glad to leave my employment there—or should I say, I was glad to no longer work for Dick, continually trying to figure out what he wanted from me.  The target was always moving. I had a boss who didn’t respect the work of Human Resources.  In the past, I had always been part of a team that worked together to build our business with our employees.  But not with Dick. 

I sent Dennis a text message and told him that Dick had indeed fired me.  I also told Dennis that if he didn’t want to see me again, I would understand.  He called me and asked why I said that.  Dennis was a retired CEO  of a railroad (haha—a railroad—hear the train coming?), and I figured that he would think I must have done something really terrible to be fired.  He said he would like to continue seeing me, and he knew a lot of dumb CEOs!  As you know, the rest is history!

It was tough being let go a year before retirement age.  It was tough being let go and not being able to leave on my own, telling coworkers goodbye and having closure.  I was also president of our local HR association in St. Louis, and I was afraid they would lose respect for me.  I was wrong about that also.  They were most supportive.

It took a long time to get through the feelings of being let go.  There was no closure.  I was in a career that I loved dearly.  Even today I can fall into HR-speak quite easily.  I have done a few consulting jobs since then, but decided I no longer wanted to do that.  I loved what I did.  I was good at what I did, and Dick cannot take that away from me.

What I really didn’t see coming was a train on the other track.  When, BAM, I was hit by the freight train of firing by Dick, a train was coming down the other track with with Dennis as the engineer, and he swooped me off the track and into his train!

Over the years Dennis has said he wanted to call Dick and thank him.  Thank him?  For what?  My sweet husband would smile at me and tell me that had I been working like I had been, we probably wouldn’t be together today, because he was looking for someone to spend time with, to travel with, and to just enjoy retirement.  Because of what happened to me, I became eligible to apply for the job of wife!  Sometimes I don’t understand hardships I am going through until later when I look back.  I can now see how God allowed this to be so that I could have a wonderful retirement with a wonderful man.  

I wrote in a earlier blog about the struggle I had when I thought I searching for that new position to get off the track with the freight train charging toward me. Go to the post dated March 1, 2018 to read.  But, God said, “No.”  Thank you, Lord, for knowing what was going to give me the next new and wonderful life.  

I have not shared this with the general public since this happened in late November 2012.  This weekend I was with a former colleague from my HR professional group, and her friend, who is still in her HR career.   My friend brought up my termination from Dick.  She actually thought his name was Dick, and we laughed when I corrected her, because she thought he was deserving of such a name.  I realized I was able to talk about what happened almost eight years ago without being sad or angry.  It just was what it was, and I have a beautiful life to live today. 

It is time to celebrate that I am just where I am supposed to be today! 

Bad Bosses — I Had My Share, And You?

The other night I got thinking about all the bosses I had over my lifetime of employment.  I am grateful to be retired and not have some boss deciding my fate, what I get paid, how I do my work, what I need to change about me, or even covering for their ineptitude.  Every boss I worked for was far different from the other, but I can count on one hand the really good ones.  That is kind of sad, because I know that on the whole, people leave their jobs because of their manager.  It is sad to see so many bad managers out there who have no clue.

One of my early jobs was when I first became a single mom.  I was at a school soccer game watching my little one play, and one of the moms came up to me.  She said she heard I was looking for a job, and her husband had just started a business with two partners and they needed an office manager.  

I took the job working for Sid, Ted, and Frank.*  They were an odd combination of partners.  Sid was the professional one who had come from a sales position.  Ted and Frank were from the repair part of the business.  They repaired computers.  Ted started his career out in a typewriter factory, and now had moved to be a “board swapper” in the early days of computers.  Sid would sell the company a maintenance plan for their computers.  All these customers were Savings & Loans.  Ted would swap out a bad board for a good board in the computer, so there was as little down time as possible.  Then there was Frank.  He was a country boy teddy bear, but he was a brilliant electronics technician.  The bad board would be delivered to the office, and Frank would make the needed repairs so it could be used in a future swap.

I set up all their office procedures, and did their bookkeeping.  As they opened new branches on the east coast, I would work with the branch manager to set up his procedures and documents to be consistent with our home office.  I was there about three years, and loved the independence I had in the job and the ability to create procedures and documents.  Work was getting busier and busier by the day.  I could use some help but didn’t think we needed more than a part time person.  Sid, Ted, and Frank went on a search for help for the front office.  Well, they really didn’t search.  They called an old friend, an older lady (to me back then) who had worked with them at their previous company.  They called me into the office one day to inform me that they had found me help.  Okay, it wasn’t really help.  This lady, Hilda* (she even had an old lady name), said she would take the job if she was made the office manager.  Oh, yeah, and if they put a stove in the  break room, she would cook fresh lunches for everyone.  Really?  They just hired a mom, and demoted me as child. Hilda would tell me daily what good work I did at setting up these procedures and documents  She didn’t change a thing I did, but she took over and I was now her underling.  Time to go . . . .  

My next job I found through a friend of this trio bad bosses.  He told me about a company that was hiring all the “secretaries” from his company that was shutting down.  It was a large coal company moving some of their business to the midwest.  I got hired as the secretary of the Vice President of Finance.  Kurt* was only 33 years old, and had moved himself with his wife and baby from Portland, Oregon, from where the majority of the executives where transferring to St. Louis.  Kurt had two rules for me.  As I came into the office at 8:00 a.m., I was to have on his desk for his arrival at 8:30 a.m., a fresh pot of coffee and the Wall Street Journal.  Kurt was a tyrant.  The job was pretty boring.  The only work I really had to do was answer his phone, and monthly put together the financial spreadsheet—oh yeah, and do the coffee and newspaper thing daily.  This was before Excel.  I was working on a Wang computer.  This computer was actually a word processor.  As I was not busy most of the day, I became quite proficient, and started programming my own forms.  I actually made a document for our monthly spreadsheet.  It was a lot of macros, that filled in the  column headings, and then would stop where I had to input data.  It would then automatically move to the next spot to continue data input.  This program worked like clockwork, and the headquarters in Portland heard about it.  They called me and asked if they could publish in the “Secretaries” newsletter how to set up this program.  I still have a copy of that newsletter that shares this program with the other secretaries.  

0 noteKurt was not well liked by anyone in the finance and accounting department.  He was a little boy in a big boy’s job.  He would yell at people and put them down.  People worked well when he was not around.  Even the Director of Accounting would make the rounds of his area to announce that Kurt was coming into the area, so that the accountants would act like little robots rather than people.  One time Kurt came to my desk and asked for his phone messages that he received while he was out to lunch.  Remember those little pink slips of paper, “While You Were Out” that were used to record phone messages?  I told him he didn’t have any messages.  He got mad and yelled at me.  He said I was not writing down his messages or I was throwing them away.  I so wanted to tell him that no one liked him and did whatever they could not to call him!  I was wise—I kept my mouth shut!

0 boss babyOne day I made my way to Human Resources and asked if there was any other department where I could work.  I had my fill of this little boy spoiled executive.  They had an open position in our Administration department. This is where all facilities functions and purchasing occurred.  It was a fun and friendly department.  We worked hard, and we partied hard.  This midwest branch of the coal company was very profitable.  Every time we had a great month, the CEO would tell us to plan a party.  We catered in food and alcohol. We hired a temp to come in and answer the phones, and at about 3:30 in the afternoon, the whole company stopped work and celebrated.  

Prices for coal was high and our group landed several lucrative contracts with large corporations and government operations.  One day the whole administration department was called into Human Resources.  The director informed us that the state of Wisconsin had just sued us over their coal contract.  Prices of coal had fallen, and Wisconsin wanted out of their long term contract.  They took the 1.5 million dollars they owed the company, put it in special account held by the bank while they sued.  All of a sudden we had a money problem.  Cash is king, and our cash was sitting in an account that could not be touched until the lawsuit was settled.  The coal company laid off our whole department.  Our work would transfer back to the headquarters in Oregon.  I was in shock.  None of us had jobs the next day.  What was I to do?  I had just started going back to school to get my MBA, and this company paid the tuition in advance.  According to their promissory note, I owed the money back if I did not complete or pass the class, or if I left their employment.  I was majorly panicked.  The director asked that I stay after the meeting.  My head was spinning, and I was totally frightened.  He told me that he was aware of my tuition issue, and then handed a copy of the promissory note in which he had written “Paid in Full” across the front.  Not only did this company, give us a severance package, they sent us all (no matter what level employment we had) to outplacement to help us find our next jobs, and paid in full our health insurance for the next three months.  This is where I learned about companies that take care of their employees.  

The company continued on for a while.  There were three waves of layoffs, that eventually closed the midwest office completely about two years later.  During that time, Kurt, the big baby boss was transferred back to Oregon.  Less than a year from my layoff I got a call from one of the accountants to tell me that Kurt got fired in Oregon—he actually had the nerve to tell off his boss at headquarters!  What comes around goes around!  Five years after our first layoff, Wisconsin lost the lawsuit.  Had they won, it would have put all contracts in danger, and made the paper meaningless.  The money due the coal company was paid, too little too late for those of us who had lost our jobs.  Time to move on . . . .

Next I had a boss named Micky.*  He was the Executive Vice President for Domestic Sales at a medical equipment company.  This was in the early to mid 80’s, I think.  It’s really hard to remember.  One of the things that one may have a difficulty doing when interviewing for a new position is to run a background check on the future boss, unless you know someone who works within that company, so I was out of luck there.  After acquiring my position as an Executive Secretary, I discovered that Micky had interviewed over 20 candidates and kept rejecting them.  That sounds like I must be special that he hired me.  I don’t think that was the case.   First of all I think that Human Resources was tired of sending him candidates that he kept rejecting.  I think he liked that I was going back to school to get my MBA.  The funny thing is, if I am getting an advance degree in business, wouldn’t that tell him that I don’t want to be an secretary all my life?  

Micky was new to the company.  He was part of an acquisition of a medical company, and moved to the midwest from Connecticut.  Many employees were not familiar with him.  Sometimes at lunch, one of them would ask me which one was my boss.  I told them he was the one who looked like a Ken doll.  No kidding!  He was tall and nicely built, and his hair was in a perfect coif.  As soon as I gave that description, my coworkers would smile and nod their heads.  They realized the description fit him, and they knew exactly who he was.  Of course, if you watched him walk from behind, you realized he wasn’t Ken, because he was ever so slightly bow legged!  

Micky had OCD to the nth degree.  His clothes were perfect.  He even confessed to me once that when he was a sales rep, he owned five pair of the same dress shoes, and that over the weekends he gave them a spit polish.  While he was on the road selling, he brought them all, and each day could put on a newly shined pair of shoes.  Who does that?  He also told me that all the clothes in his closet where hung according to color.  What a lovely idea, but for a girl who is trying to hold her life together as a single mom of four little boys, I was glad if my clothes made it from the laundry basket to the closet.  Micky was divorced and was now engaged a lady who he said just throws her clothes around.  I wonder how that marriage turned out.

Micky’s life was about Micky.  One day we had a major snow storm coming through downtown St. Louis.  As we looked out the window, the roads were quickly filling with snow.  Micky walked out of his office and announced to me that he (and his buddies) had an off site meeting, and they scooted out about 3:00 pm, and left us underlings there to stay the rest of the day, and slowly crawl our cars home through the snow storm.  When he planned his wedding, I became his social director.  I was required to make a document listing all the interesting places in St. Louis to take families, since his siblings were coming with their children for the wedding.  I also rented luxury cars for them on Micky’s nickel, so they had transportation as they arrived at the airport.  My peers were impressed with all the prep work I had done for his wedding, and no, I was not invited with his “friends” to attend.  When his family came to his home for Thanksgiving, he told me that he walked around the house with a bottle of Windex and a rag, to clean up after sticky-fingered nieces and nephews touched his stuff!  I wonder how many times his family came to visit after that.  One time I got a call from my children’s elementary school.  One of them or many of them were sick and running a fever.  They needed to be picked up.  I walked into Micky’s office and told him that the school called, and his reply was, “Do you you gotta do.”  I wasn’t wise enough to ask him what that meant, but I pondered on what he said—do I gotta get my kids or do I gotta stay at work?  I went to get my kids because they needed me.

It was a relief to not be working for him any longer.  He was extremely high maintenance.  I am the first to admit I am not a good secretary or administrative assistant, because I think grown ups should act like grown ups, and I shouldn’t be their caretaker.  In those days, the secretary/administrative assistants were their caretakers.

Over time I completed my MBA.  I moved my career into Human Resources, and I found my niche.  These are only three examples of my bad bosses.  I had a couple really good bosses, who respected me, what I did, and allowed me to do my job using my creative talents.  One of the things I am grateful for is that when I became a boss, I knew how not to treat my staff.  They have different personalities, and bring different qualities to the job.  As long as they accomplished what we needed, I allowed them to use their personalities and creativity to do their jobs.  When one came in to tell me the school called and their child was sick, I would look and them, and say, “Go home, take care of your child.”  You could see the look of relief on their face.  If the weather was getting dangerous, I would send them home, if I thought I needed to go home.  

The best boss I had was at my last job.  He wasn’t my last boss because he retired, and then I got the boss from hell.  Richard was a quiet, kind man.  He respected my knowledge of my field of Human Resources.  We had a lot of discussions on employee relations and other aspects of Human Resources.  He took to heart what we discussed.  He never acted like he knew my job better than I did.  I will never forget his kind heart when my dad was dying.  He told me that when his mother was dying, he couldn’t cross the pond to see her one last time (He was British).  He told me to go make airlines reservations to Phoenix and take a few days to see my dad.  I told him that I couldn’t afford to take more vacation, and he said, “This is not vacation.  You go see you dad.  You will be paid.”  I flew out Friday morning and returned to work on Tuesday.  Tuesday night my dad passed away.  I am so grateful that Richard sent me to see my dad one last time.  The following Friday, Richard retired, but I will never forget his kindness to me.

What did I learn about bosses over the years.  They are all as different as fingerprints and DNA.  Some are selfish, and only think of their career and their bonuses at the expense of their employees.  Some are great at their expertise, but were promoted to management with no clue how to manage.  Some felt they know more than their employees’ expertise, and some respected and used their employees’ expertise.  Some just knew how to do it!

What about you?  Are you someone’s boss?  Do you respect your staff’s knowledge and skill?  Do you realize they are a human with a much bigger priority called family?  None of us will die wishing we spent more time at work, but many will wish they spent more time with family.  Every person you work with is God’s creation.  Some are easy to be with on a daily basis, and some more difficult.  How do you deal with the difficult ones?  How do you deal with a difficult boss?  I wish I could say that with time things are better in the employment world, but I still hear horror stories about bad bosses.  What can you do to make your workplace better?

*Names changed to protect the guilty.  I did not change Richard’s name, because he was one of the good guys!  Yay, Richard!0 quote