Wednesday, March 20, 2013

World's Worst Boss

I once had the World's Worst Boss. I'm not even kidding. It's not hyperbole. I mean, maybe Imelda Marcos was worse, but at least she had a shoe collection I could respect. This guy? No way in hell. He still has a business in town, so if you ask me personally, I will tell you not to go there, but I think he's a big enough asshole to want to sue me because of something I say in my piddly little blog so I won't say his name here.

I started working for He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named when my daughter was very young. I had been trying to make use of my college degree, but it wasn't panning out and the job I was trying to get away from required that I work overnight. I spent a lot of time crying because I couldn't put my daughter to bed. I finally decided that I needed a job with daylight hours, Monday-through-Friday. Whatever that job turned out to be.

The interview process with HWSNBN should have tipped me off, but, as a single mom, I was pretty desperate. It started with a math test, which isn't completely out of the ordinary. However, the interview with the private investigator is. And this was before I even talked to HWSNBN. The PI asked me a ton of bizarre questions. Did I ever own a business in California? Did I ever go by this name? That name? He concluded by saying they were both pretty sure I would omit something and they were right. Um, excuse me? You come up with all of this "information" about me that has zero to do with me and think I'm leaving something out? Huh. Well, then.

When I started, there was a man and woman also working there. They often closed the door to his office to have long talks which made me feel completely left out. The explanation at the time was that some things had happened lately that they were embarrassed by. Several months later they told me the truth - they hated HWSNBN and didn't want to scare me off. Thanks for the warning, guys.

During those months and in the almost-four years afterward, I came to  understand their hatred. I developed my own. I very quickly learned to be afraid of him. I soon started stress-eating, gaining 15 pounds during the time I worked there. I started drinking copious amounts of alcohol after work. I cried in the shower every day before work and had chronic stomachaches just thinking about what I would have to deal with that day.

When I told/tell people how awful he was (is?), they wouldn't believe me. And you might not either. So here is just a short list of what I lived with during The Dark Years:

1. He once told a male co-worker to tell our female co-worker to tell me that I needed to wear a padded bra because I was a distraction during meetings. Since he didn't tell me directly, he didn't consider it harassment.

2. If we weren't in meetings by 8:00, we got locked outside. That never happened to me.

3. He kept a record of our phone calls and named them things like "mystery caller" and kept notes about how long those phone calls were. For me, this was usually my best friend who I would call in tears saying how much I wanted to quit.

4. He yelled. A lot. He screamed until his face was blood-red and the veins in his head popped out. He once asked me what planet I was from and I really believe, had I not been on the other side of the desk from him, he would have hit me. He flung his arm at me several times.

5. He made us wear pantyhose. Not the worst thing in the world, but close. It really is just a symptom of how much of a control freak he was.

6. He kept a separate computer system from what the franchise offered/required and we were basically threatened with our lives if we let anyone know.

7. He did a lot of sneaky things that were wrong, but slippery enough to get by with them. And yet he talked a lot about integrity and honesty.

8. He fired a girl because she was fat.

9. He sent a memo to all of us calling a corporate person a bitch. It might have been the auditor. Wonder why. Huh.

10. He regularly harassed me about my clothing. I do not dress promiscuously, especially in an office setting. However, if there was a certain (abstract) amount of cleavage he wasn't comfortable with, he lectured and threatened to send me home, all the while making me feel cheap and worthless. A younger, cuter girl in the office could wear the same exact thing as me, or show more, and yet not a word was said to her.

11. He made it nearly impossible for us to quit. We were required to sign a non-compete statement in the tri-county area. He paid for us to get licensed but if we left before a certain period of time, we were required to pay him back. I finally decided the non-compete was a load of crap and started interviewing elsewhere. His reputation preceded him. People were afraid of him. I couldn't get a job in that field.

12. Did I mention the yelling? On a daily basis? None of us did anything that ever called for that. Did we make mistakes? Sure. But we were professionals and should have been treated as such. He was a tyrant. I literally didn't know from one day to the next if he was going to come into my office, slam the door, and commence screaming, or if by some miracle I would avoid it. And yes, customers could hear him.

I worked with someone who had worked for another franchise owner for something like eight years. She practically ran his business, knew what she was doing, and had proven herself as responsible and capable. HWSNBN treated her like she was a moron. Needless to say, his employee turnover rate was high. Customers commented on it.

Customers also commented on how much they disliked him. Several refused to deal with him or talk to him and would only talk to one of us. Several left because they didn't want to do business with him. And then he blamed us.

He is not an attractive man. A couple of times he had a billboard near the highway with his picture on it. His face, jumbo-sized. People called to complain. Some were nice, saying that it was merely "jarring" and could we please take it down? Others had a more violent reaction to it, saying that he looked like a child molester and they shouldn't be subjected to such ugliness on their daily drives. I wanted to tell them that I had to look at that face all day every day and it wasn't any better up-close.

Nobody that I worked with left under happy circumstances. They left because they couldn't take it anymore. Including me. I came home one evening, the night before Christmas Eve, knowing that I would be on vacation for the next week. And yet I couldn't stop crying. I couldn't shake the anxiety. I couldn't enjoy the holiday with my daughter. I no longer recognized myself. I sat down at my computer and emailed him, asking him to consider my vacation my week's notice that I was leaving. He accepted immediately.

I had no job to go to. I had never left a job without first securing another one. I had bills. I had a daughter to take care of. Rent. And yet I felt the greatest sense of relief. Just knowing I would never be yelled at by him again made it all worth it.

Oh, you know, I just realized that pimps are probably worse bosses than he is. But since it's illegal, you can expect that. You shouldn't expect that from another adult in a professional setting.

And P.S. Mr. HWSNBN: You're not the best deal in town. You may think you are, and you may lower your employee's self-esteem enough to think they don't deserve better, but you're wrong. I got a job making double what you paid me. They're nice to me. I've never been yelled at. I'm not pitted against fellow employees or asked to spy on them. I can wear whatever I want (within reason, but I'm a reasonable person), come and go as I please, and I take Christmas break off every year. Did I mention I get paid double?


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