Mean Girl to the Rescue!

How'm I gonna save the world when the world ain't ready?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Keeping up the bad work

Work has been kicking my ass, and as much as I would really, really like to talk about that, I don't wish to be fired or sued for slander (libel? I always forget which is which), so instead I'll tell you a story about a past job that was one of the most awful professional experiences of my life.

Several years ago, I was working as an event planner of sorts for a small start-up that found itself in financial hot water, and I was laid off that December (while my dim but bouncy coworker, over whom I had seniority, finagled a job in another department). I had loved this job more than any other I'd had, and I was very distressed; my boss was great, my commute was great, my pay was decent, and I liked the work. I had endless visions of eating macaroni and cheese and ramen for dinner every night as I struggled to survive on minimal unemployment checks. Panic was setting in. I felt all itchy. Clearly, I had to get another job, and fast.

I then remembered an Association Management company my sister had worked for about 10 years before. It had been her last job before she got pregnant and she ended up never returning, but I knew she had freelanced for them a bit, and that she had really enjoyed the job. The work entailed a lot of travel and attention to detail, just the sort of thing I was used to. I sent them my resume and mentioned my sister's name in my cover letter. I got a call soon after, interviewed and accepted the job, along with a sweet little pay raise.

My first clue that something was rotten in Denmark was the conversation I had with the woman I was replacing.
"Why are you leaving?" I asked her, while she was showing me where all the files was stored.
"I have a better opportunity at [Competitor Management Firm], but ... well, I might as well tell you that Jon has something to do with it." Jon was the guy I was to be working directly under.

You know it's bad when this is happening on your first day of work.

She went on to tell me some stories about Jon's poor sense of humor, his insistence on discussing religion (he was an Orthodox Jew), his tendency to micromanage. He can't be that bad, can he? I thought. She mentioned her coworker, who had deliberately transferred to another department to escape Jon. Maybe they're just really sensitive, I told myself.

OH, HOW WRONG I WAS. Jon discussed his dietary requirements with me. We had the option of eating a catered lunch*, for which we paid a monthly stipend, and he informed me whenever the food wasn't Kosher, also giving me a detailed explanation of Kosher law. He also operated under the assumption than anyone who was Jewish also kept Kosher.
He mentioned that one of the associations we worked with sent us a fresh evergreen wreath every Christmas, and then invited me to take possession of it when it next arrived (it was then January, mind you, I had worked there for about a week), since he was Jewish. He repeated this offer about every two weeks.

He regularly took medication for allergies in an ostentatious, slurping display which left drool on his chin. He discussed his ingrown toenail to anyone who had the misfortune to pass by, and even removed his shoe and sock to examine and tend to it. Sadly for me, my desk was about 5 feet away from his.

He reamed me out for being five minutes late on ONE occasion, and then two days later showed up twenty minutes late because he was dropping his daughter off at nursery school.

He eavesdropped on my personal phone conversations (which were few, believe me) and then fake-jokingly discussed them with me. This was especially nasty because the call in question had been about a current relationship. I remember standing next to my desk, saying, "You listened to my phone call?"
His reply? "I couldn't help but overhear you!" I had spoken in relatively hushed tones because we worked in an open-plan office which was basically a converted house.

It was not unusual for him to pop up over my shoulder as I worked so he could second-guess everything I was doing, from menu-planning ("You can't have bacon in the hors d'ouvres!") to faxing ("Are you sure you're using the correct codes?"), sometimes even going so far as to take the work away from me and redo it himself. He was the very definition of micro-management.

Finally, in a bid to keep him from looking over my shoulder every five minutes, I asked that my desk be turned around so that I faced out from my cube instead of in. This was a major undertaking, because it had to be approved by the powers that be, and then planned out and a date scheduled (for turning a desk! It had seemed simple enough to me). I suffered some more at Jon's hands, until at last my desk was turned.

Wouldn't you know that the next week I got another (really good) job offer? I can't tell you the soaring feeling of freedom I experienced when I wordlessly placed my resignation letter in Jon's in-tray, two months after starting the job.

*We were encouraged to spend our paltry 45-minute lunch hour (business hours began at 8:45 a.m., too, so they squeeeezed an extra half hour out of us - sneaky, huh?) in the wood-paneled lunch room, so we could "network" with our coworkers. Most of my coworkers were middle-aged and boring, and talked about their boring kids all the time (keep in mind, I was under 30 when I had this job, which may account for my poor attitude, but these people really were pretty lifeless). If I brought my lunch, it was a Big Event, and everyone would ask me what it was and how did I cook it. If I brought a book and tried to read, they would ask me about the book. Was it a good one? Who wrote it? What's it about? Eventually, I gave up and started eating at my desk, becuase I am a misanthrope, apparently. Shocking, no?


At 2:10 PM, Blogger MrsFortune said...

Hey! I totally worked for this guy. Weird coincidence, his name was ALSO Jon. Man the stories I could tell.

At 3:28 PM, Blogger IzzyMom said...

And people wonder why I wasn't in an all-fired hurry to go back to

Seriously, though, I have had very similar experiences. I LOATHE being micromanaged more than anything else. Props for being able to tolerate all that ;)

At 12:48 AM, Blogger Brooke said...

Oh holy I ever feel for you! You are a patient, patient woman.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Tits McGee said...

AUGH!!! The ingrown toenail...


At 11:13 AM, Blogger Arabella said...

Ugh. Good for you for taking control of the situation and ultimately getting out.

At 12:07 PM, Blogger Tink said...

Omg. What an ass! I once had a boss that told all the other employees he thought I was gay because he never heard of me dating anyone. Nice huh? How do these people get upper management jobs?!

At 3:48 PM, Blogger Mignon said...

Take heart in imagining him being miserable for the rest of his life. I bet he has chronic heartburn and prostate issues too.

(Good for you on insisting on the desk switch, though!)

At 8:08 PM, Anonymous Nixie Knox said...

I have a volunteer who works for me in the library and she sounds like the female version of Jon - I get the low down on bunions and "feminine" problems all the time. Yikes!

At 11:55 AM, Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

Hmmm, I keep thinking maybe I need to go back to work but that post may have cured that!

The toenail! I once had a boss who would whip out clippers during a meeting and start clipping his fingernails. It totally grossed me out. I was waiting for him to prop his foot up and start on those next.

At 2:27 PM, Blogger wordgirl said...

That's one self-absorbed guy! He'd make a great character in a short story.

At 5:02 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Ick! Too bad a great job had to come with such a sucky boss. I hope you gave the person who replaced you a stronger warning.

At 9:25 PM, Anonymous Nancy said...

I've had the micromanager bosses, too. It's not fun.

And the hygeine things I really can't take, even with a strong stomach. I had to share common desk space with several other people when I worked at a federal library, and one of them had a serious skin disorder... the desk had to be vacuumed after he sat there each time(and he'd refuse to do it). 'Nuff said.

At 7:59 PM, Blogger Katherine said...

OMG! Hard to believe this guy was a real person. I'm glad you only had to work there 2 mos.! You had to know his boss knew HE was the problem but apparently was OK with everyone under him being so miserable they either quit or transferred. assholes!


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