Sunday, October 21, 2012

Clash of the Titans

I remember back when I started working for a company that had particularly egregious office politics, wondering how I was going to make it beyond the first day without either impaling myself on  the first old school letter opener I came across or, taking same letter opener and shanking the first asshole that ran afoul of me.  Decisions, decisions.

It didn't take more than a day or two for me to realize just how deep the bullshit in this company was.  I had been given the "gift" of being seated directly outside of the office of my bosses boss and as if were not gifty enough, directly across the aisle from the chief jefkface's henchwoman and strong right hand.  It was like being parked at the corner of douche and snoop. When my boss came up to me in my first week of work and counseled me to "float some compliments" about the big
boss to the henchwoman because he liked that  kind of thing,  I knew we were gonna need a bigger boat.  More likely, I was going to need to pile on the floatation devices and make a panicked swim for safer shores.

Strangely enough,  I managed to last.  Over the next six and a half years, I outlasted that first boss and the four that followed him.  Lucky for me there were a couple of years in there with a good boss, a true diamond of a guy, who like most good, strong and knowledgeable leaders in that company, was eventually shown the door.

The guy who initially hired me, turned out to be an unregulated psychiatric disaster.  He'd be paranoid and screaming at the team about imagined treasonous acts one minute and out drinking with them the next.  I tried my best to keep my head down and not get myself involved, but the bad blood that he built with his boss (and by bad blood I mean daily screaming matches on the verge of fisticuffs), was transferred on to all of us, whether we deserved it or not.  We were not ever treated fairly by the big guy, even years after the hiring boss's departure.

This job experience was one that taught me that I could survive almost anything and that more often than not, you will outlive a bad boss.   It also taught when you have a male boss that rules by ego ( and forgets to take his meds) you have a problem.  When you are caught between two male bosses that rule by ego, you have Armageddon.

Though it saddens me that over my long career I can count the number of admirable, kind and ethical bosses that I have had on two fingers, it's even sadder to know that my list of admired coworkers isn't much longer. The ugliness of humanity is stripped bare in the workplace and the patrons that come along to see its psychic pole dance are usually insecurity, greed and betrayal.   The good news is that we all have a choice as to wheter we stay off the pole and out of the club.  I sleep well at night because I have bared neither my pasties nor by fat stack of singles, and I intend to keep it that way.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Better Red Than Psycho Killer

Today we have an item from a woman that works with what can only be described as a complete freak.  He sounds to me like the kind of guy who has a shed in the back yard just for drying the skins of his prey.  I'm pretty sure he's uttered the words "It puts the lotion on it's skin.  It does this every time it's told." at least once.  Read on...

Dear Boss Lady,
I work for a financial services company as a software developer.  I have worked in this career for a very long time and have worked with all types of people and I have to say, I pretty much get along with everyone, or I did until a weird little man moved into the cubicle next to mine.  In a way, I feel like the word "weird" isn't quite strong enough as I am starting to wonder if he's the type of guy that eventually goes postal.

I don't know a lot about him, but what I do know is that he HATED me from the moment he saw me.  As strange as this may sound, I think that he hates me because I have red hair.  As soon as he moved in, he began to greet me in the morning with nothing more than the stink-eye.  He seems to be angry and seething for the entire day as he is always slamming his drawers, grumbling under his breath and if I speak to someone above a whisper, he screams at me as if I just kicked his dog.

In interesting contrast to his behavior toward me is how he behaves when his wife calls him at the office. All of a sudden, his aggression changes to what I can only describe as subservience.  He gets all mealy mouthed and says a lot of "yes dear" type of phrases. It's like I watch him morph from a ball of fury into Mr. Peepers.

Now, here's the reason that I think that he has an issue with redheads -  When I walk down the hall toward him, he pushes his body up against the wall to give me a wide berth to pass, as if I had a highly communicable disease.  I have taken pains to observe if he does this with anyone else and the only other time I've seen him do this is when a redheaded woman from Finance was in the aisle near his cubicle and he got visibly agitated because he couldn't get to his desk without getting within three feet of her.  Also and more significantly,  we had to take a training class last spring and the class instructor was a very friendly woman with flame red hair who greeted everyone who entered the room by shaking our hands and introducing herself.  When she grabbed his hand to shake it, he completely freaked out and screamed "Get your cold clammy hands off of me!".   Everyone in the room just froze.  I don't know if she went to HR about it, but she definitely should have.

While it certainly seems strange to call this discrimination based on hair color (what?), it does seem to pretty clearly factor into it.  I have seen him have very civil conversations with other people (mostly nerdy, older male developers), but he has never been even remotely civil to me.  I have never said or done anything to this man in any way.  He seemed angry with me from the moment he moved in.   I'm at a loss.  Any ideas?

Monday, September 3, 2012

She's Got a Secret

We have our first post from a young lady who was put in a very uncomfortable position by her boss.  What do you think she should do?

I am a Jr Marketing Account Manager with a large Chicago bank. For the past 18 months I have worked for a very dynamic Marketing VP.  She has been very willing to let me do pretty much everything for her, which I don't mind because as I am only 2 years out of college, I will take any experience that I can get. 

Things went very well for the first year of my carreer and I began to feel a closeness with my boss.  Out of respect for her, I even invited her to my wedding with her husband and they came and had a very nice time. They sat at a table of mostly work friends and everyone really enjoyed both of their company, with people commenting to me after the wedding, how nice her husband was and what a nice time they had with both of them.    Everything was rolling along beautifully until about six months ago.

In February of this year we entered into a co-branding partnership with an external company.  We were rushing a product into the market place and working against a May deadline. The account manager from the outside company pretty much moved into a hotel in Chicago and spent almost every day in our office working with our launch team.   About two months in, I started to notice a flirtation between the two of them.   By the time we got to launch, they were bickering like a married couple as the stress of the project deadline began to wear on them.

In June we took the product out to other companies in order to attempt to sell the product to other partners under a privately branded offering.  This meant road trips, lots of them, to major cities where potential partners were located.  My boss (Sally Smith) and the account manager (Jeff Landes) myself and an assistant from his team hit the road on a four city tour.  Being on the road with them, exposed an even deeper familiarity between them and both myself and the other assistant began to feel an ever-growing discomfort being in their presence.   Between the long stares, silly squabbles and inside jokes, we started to feel like third and fourth wheels at the first city stop.

When I checked into the hotel in the third city, the desk clerk read out the wrong reservation and said "You have the adjoining room with Landes, correct?" I told her that she was mistaken and looked back to see if my boss was in earshot.  Judging ny the look on her face, she was well aware of what had been said.  Her admin had booked all the rooms under my boss' credit card, so I am surprised it hadn't happened sooner.

From that time forward, my boss pretty much stopped talking to me.  Things became extremely impersonal, even cold between us.  I am not sure what to do as I have done nothing wrong.  I love the work that I do, but my boss is making it unpleasant for me.  My greatest fear is that I will be exposed to her husband at the office Christmas party and I will be a stuttering idiot.  I feel terrible knowing this secret and am not sure what to do next.

OK guys, what advice can we offer our friend? She's got a ho-tastic boss who won't speak to her and a job she loves.  Talk about being between a rock and a hard place.  Let's hear your suggestions.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Welcome to the Underworld

Greetings beleaguered earthlings.  I am the Queen of the Only Water Cooler in Hell, but you can call me Boss Lady.  I know, I know, my choice of titles are somewhat intimidating, but but allow me to assure you that I am here on a mission of good.

For over 25 years I have held various positions in both small private businesses and ginormous, monolithic corporate institutions.  It is my experience that operationally, there are many differences between the corporate and the private, the large and the small.  However, there are also things that they share.  For example, both of these business types provide employment to a  percentage of absolutely awful people. What do I mean by awful people?  Douche bag co-workers, asshole bosses, suck-ups, toadies, slackers, perverts and the criminally insane.  All of these people contribute to what may be the greatest commonalities across large and small businesses - ineptitude and glaring gaps in ethics.

As a heavily medaled veteran/survivor of assorted corporate crapholes, I have often felt the need for an impartial ear when I had an issue or disagreement with a coworker or manager.  But I have never felt like there was a safe place to turn to, regardless of the size of the company.  Coworkers will rat you out to get ahead, Human Resources is impotent and lame and if your boss is the problem, you are unlikely to find solace with his or her boss, as that's their decision you're complaining about and their egos generally don't take kindly to having their decisions questioned.

So where do you turn when you are swimming in a river of ineptitude so deep, you'll never touch bottom?  Hell, it's so deep that Shaq couldn't touch bottom on his tippy toes.  What are your bitching options when your coworker takes credit for your project?  And what about life outside the office?  Who can you tell when your supposed best friend sleeps with your boyfriend?  What if your husband is a cheap and controlling piece of shit who steps on the toilet paper roll to stop it from spinning freely so you don't use too much?  Who can you talk to about that?  Tell me, of course.  Tell your troubles to the  Boss Lady and her community of sympathetic listeners.

Want a glass of crisp, clear relief?  Send me your issue at .  The Water cooler will happily take your beefs and grief and present them to the community.  The purpose of this forum is to be anonymous, so it's up to you to change the names of people and places in your e-mail as we will publish whatever you write.  Naturally, we reserve the right to decline publication of your e-mail based on content and appropriateness.  (Wow, that sounded really corporate legal, didn't it? I may need a deprogramming.). 

Welcome to the your Water Cooler.  May your thirst be quenched.