In the book / movie The Devil Wears Prada, we watch a girl traumatised by her boss’s requests, and see her world unfold as a result. Lauren Weisberger, author of the book denies it was autobiographical. She wants us to believe it’s a coincidence that she once worked as an assistant for Anna Wintour at US VOGUE before turning her hand to fiction? So there’s her ‘loosely based on a true story’ there….
I’ll go out on a limb here and assume that most people could tell a story about The Boss From Hell That Did My Head In And Made Work Almost Unbearable.
Thankfully I’ve only ever really had one bad boss. He was a MONGREL. Anna Wintour, (ehem I mean Miranda Priestly) would be a saint to work for compared to this guy. I won’t say his name. I could get into some scorching hot trouble if I did. (Again). So I’ll just call him *J.
*J was the Director of his own business, a clever and inventive man who established a series of expo style events, and then branched into magazines. I was hired as the Group Marketing Manager. I had a sassy little business card, my own office and was getting nicely paid.
*J was a HUGE, ENORMOUSLY FAT man. Seriously morbidly obese, but because he’s nasty, it was just all over ugly. He has diabetes, is a smoker, and drinks. Not my business. UNTIL he calls me into his office, puffs smoke in my face, ask me to empty his office bin (full of Jim Beam & Coke bottles) and sends me to the shop to get him some lollies. (Imagine his poor PA’s who usually only lasted about 2 months) And I cannot tell you the number of people I would contact that would say to me, “Sorry Cindy, we don’t want to work with *J ever again.”
You know if this was the worst of it might even be funny. “What a character!” I would say… But it was so much worse! He screamed, he belittled, he lied, he expected me to lie, and he discriminated openly. He is to this day – the most unpleasant unhappiest human being I’ve ever met, which probably explains why I sometimes think of him.
Here’s an example of a typical banter.
*J: (Screaming down hallway) Cindeeeeee.
Cindy: (power walks to *J’s office) Hey *J.
*J: Have a seat. Mind if I smoke?
CINDY: Um, no.
*J: Good, because if you did then you can leave. And when I say leave, I mean forever.
CINDY: Um, no. That’s fine. (So not fine. So not fine).
*J: (pauses and looks me up and down) What’s the matter with you today?
Cindy: Nothing… Why.
*J: Are you tired. Am I keeping you awake?
CINDY: No, I’m just feeling a bit floppy.
(I realise how silly it was to say that – but he made me so nervous and I said stupid things like that all the time)
*J: (now looking directly at my chest) You don’t look floppy. In fact – if you don’t mind me saying, you’re looking nice and perky today!
CINDY: Oh…. (Eeuw, reminder to self to wear turtle necks every day).
*J: That was a compliment. You’re allowed to say thank you.
CINDY: Oh, well – you know, it’s just…. Um,
*J: It’s ok now listen (blows smoke) How you going with the sponsorship deal with ‘x’
CINDY: It’s still tentative at this stage. They’re taking it to head office before they’re 100% on board. They’ll probably come back with more questions, but I’m confident it will go ahead.
*J: Well if you were any good at your job you would have signed them up already.
CINDY: I know you think that, but I’m not a salesperson, I do marketing.
*J: (shouting) YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I KNOW! NOW GET OUT! AND DON’T COME BACK TIL THEY’VE SIGNED THE DEAL!
You know what? I just did a really long sigh from thinking about it. He perplexed me greatly.
I think deep down I stayed there for so long because there was a challenge to be had. No, not being awesome at my job – because I was. But getting him on side and making him be nice.
In the end, it proved too hard. He sent me an email one day (actually it was sent at 3.45am and I suspect it was Bourbon-fuelled) telling me he could do my job in a day, and that I had better watch out. That was it for me. I walked in the next morning with a resignation letter in my hand, marched (nervously but with much bravado) in to the General Manager’s office (who by the way, we all called Smithers), placed the envelopes on his desk, and said “There’s one for you and one for *J. Have a nice day. I know I will be.”
I walked out again shaking, and the receptionist and a couple of co-workers followed me down to say bye, and get details. I learnt that a staff meeting was called that afternoon and all staff were told I was mentally ill, and having psychological problems and needed to resign. He also gave this story to all my media contacts and the agents of celebrities I dealt with.
After a two week holiday in Thailand, I wrote this poem and sent it to everyone I ever worked with or spoke to as his employee. (Jamie Durie – are you reading this?) I even sent it to BMW where he had his car serviced and custom made seatbelts fitted. It was glorious, wonderful, cathartic and alleviating. I didn’t do it for revenge. I did it to heal. I didn’t want to bear the scars he gave me at my next job.
An Ode to *J
*J you miserable f****r. You don’t have a bloody clue.
Can’t believe I was such a sucker to work so long and hard for you.
You call yourself “Lord *J” I call that a delusion.
And we all call you dickhead with your creepy sly intrusion.
‘Company X’ called the cops when they had had enough.
Everyone calls you psycho, but I’d like to call your bluff.
For once I’d like to catch you amid all of your deceit,
Telling lies to stay in business cause the truth process you’re a cheat.
You’re a small pathetic male, but I know you have a heart.
I’ve sometimes seen it working when a new employee starts.
Which for you is fairly frequent, nearly every week or so.
Because someone’s been incompetent and that someone has to go!
Translation: Someone’s pissed you off because they haven’t been selling.
Either that, or they’ve stood up to you, and your temper, and your yelling.
You’re completely unprofessional, unhappy, un-respected.
It’s very clear in years gone by that *J, you’ve been rejected.
And that has made you angry, so you take it out on all.
You surround yourself with weak people who live in fear and crawl.
You sit there in your mighty throne, you bellow and you roar.
But your staff all roll their eyes, ‘cause they’ve heard it all before.
But it’s not the horrid atmosphere, or leadership you lack…
It’s the unhealthy conditions that would have Industrial Relations on your back.
You smoke inside the office, an act AGAINST THE LAW!
And the air-con is so freezing – we all go outside to thaw!
You just don’t really give a crap how your staff might feel.
You only care about your staff and the next signed deal.
If I didn’t know you better I’d think you were mentally sick.
But *J half Australia knows better… you’re just a nasty prick!
Yep, there’s something definitely wrong with the workings of your brain.
You have no concept of reality, no memory, no refrain.
You get in people’s heads. You cause them loss of sleep.
I wish I could just laugh it off with the knowledge you’re a creep.
But I’m a stupid fool for taking so much time.
You’ve affected me so much that I wrote this bloody rhyme.
And you’ll take this to your lawyers; try to sue for this or that.
And you might win. And you might lose. Either way you’ll still be fat.
But I will feel much better. It’s now all off my chest.
Maybe now I’ll get an appetite and have some decent rest.
And you know? One thing assures me with everything that’s passed….
Your fat arms are so short you can’t reach ‘round to wipe your arse.
What about you, got a good ‘shocker-of-a-boss’ story?