My first encounter with a boss from hell was in 2006, when I started my work at SEM as an office manager. At that time SEM was just a small unit of a really huge international corporation operating in Lithuania on B2B basis and oriented to serve other SE group companies exclusively. The recruiting process to get that coveted (at the time) position was rather long and trying on nerves- firstly, initial screening by some outsourced HR recruiting company, then second meeting with same outsourced HR company for some tests, both psychological and language tests, and only then, finally, two meetings with actual representatives of the company I was applying for – I’ve got to meet regional manager and HR manager. I wanted the job so much, that I believe in trying to impress my future employer I could hardly shut up at all during our first meeting, and I scolded myself for that afterwards, but what a heck, I did get my job in the end. Getting the job was such a huge boost to my ego and self-esteem, that I’ve felt like I’ve just won some huge jackpot, though I had some nagging reservations and uncertainties, mostly concerning the fact that I was really really put off by SEM HR manager, and for some deeply intuitive reason at the time had this idea that we’d hardly get along well. Well, as during interviews I was told, she wasn’t going to be my direct superior in any way, I took the job and joined the team.
Alas as my probation period was closing to the end, some structural changes were introduced and I’ve found myself reporting directly to the HR manager and became her one and only subordinate. All of a sudden I’ve found myself in a living hell of uncomfortable workplace with a hormonal bitch at my neck for almost all the time. What defines a boss from hell? Well, firstly his or hers nag for micro-management and nit-picks of all of your work. Secondly, many and many unreasonable demands and really fuzzy expectations of what should be done, not even talking about the ‘how’ part here. Immediately after becoming her subordinate I was told that she was ‘working on’ my job description, meaning that I was to jump at her will every time she needed something done, even if that was just for the ‘jumping’ sake.
I would get disciplined on like daily basis for such trivial to actual work things as office flowers. At the time the company was doing really well and we had a girl from a flower company to come in once or twice per week to water office plants and to bring in some fresh flowers for reception, etc., but somehow that was all wrong for my boss – the flowers were always not fresh enough for her taste, and the potted ones were always facing the sun/window, etc. with the wrong side of the pot and so on, and on, and on. I’d be asked to come over to her room and would then receive a full on lecture on how those damned flowers should be positioned, and all. In real life it takes like seconds to turn the flower pot or to readjust some flowers in a vase, but it seems she took a particular joy in having something to be all grumpy about all the time. I would listen to her rave, then would go out to ‘take care’ of flowers properly and to her taste, but I would just never do right by her in this matter no matter how precisely I’d follow her instructions, so in the end this whole flower issue was just one perpetual circle of ‘mat discipline’ over and over again. Flowers topic was one of many, only difference being that some other stupid issues could be resolved and successfully put behind and forgotten, but this one was not. By the end of the first month under her supervision I’ve started to look for a new job, meanwhile gritting my teeth and ‘laying low’ until something would turn up. My escape from this hell came in quite an unexpected way, six months in this job she happily announced that she soon she’d be leaving on maternity leave, and this news was what empowered me to suck it in and start seeing some light in my miserable life at the office. At the time some legislation was passed by Lithuanian Parliament that aloud for a parent to take a two year long maternity (or paternity) leave and receive a compensation equal to one’s salary, if it did not exceed some maximum set in the said law. Those months left until she left to give birth and raise her newborn were hell, but knowing it would be over at least for two years kept me afloat. Also, knowing that she was pregnant, in a way helped me dismiss some of her crazy demands as that of being inflicted by her pregnancy hormones. At this crazy time I’ve learned that for my strained nerves food in excess amounts has become the best new friend, and that eventually led me to my darkest hours of self destruction and obesity.
After she was gone, I had to take over her HR responsibilities and face the double amount of daily work. Never ending tight dead lines, high levels of stress at work kept me munching all this comfort food, but having her off of my head felt so good emotionally that I did not care for the rest. Then yet another girl from the office was leaving for maternity leave, and I somehow landed her responsibilities too on top of what I already had. My only consolation was that this other girl kind of was not planning on returning to work for the company afterwards, and I hoped I could land her job eventually. How foolish of me! Why should the company do that, if they already had me doing 3 people’s work for 1 person’s salary. I’ve learned a lesson of having to negotiate terms and only then say ‘yes’ to something the hard way.
The worst thing about this whole situation was that this flower pot craze started all over again as soon as she was back to work. Only this time I no more could give my HR manager a pass on her numerous ramblings due to some pregnancy or whatever hormones, and just had to accept that that’s the way she was. Luckily or not so much the economic crisis turning the world upside down at the time of her coming back, and the corporation has started some major renationalisation of it’s units and launched a full-on downsizing, and me, being single and with no kids, was among those who were first to be downsized.
Looking back on this whole situation, I’d say that I’ve came out of it with some useful skills, a somewhat scratched ego and a much much broader waistline, but also I’ve gained myself a sixth sense for spotting a bad boss from miles away.