Whether it’s a soulless jerk or a major league creep, if you’ve held more than one job you’ve likely encountered a horrible boss. But, how do you handle one? Well, you could go the way of Nick, Dale, and Kurt by arranging to have them killed or kidnapped, sure. You could also do the Bougie Judy, where you just take it. It’s unfortunate, but there’s not a lot you can do (if you still want them signing your paychecks). To celebrate the theatrical release of Horrible Bosses 2, I’ve decided to share an anecdote of my own—because life is no movie, but horrible bosses are all too real.
From data I’ve gathered, there are two types of bosses: those who earned it and those who were undeservingly handed everything on a golden platter. This clown is the latter. Essentially going from intern to boss by French kissing the owner’s ass during a possible Union takeover. Thankfully, for him, the business is successful (because it’s in the Northern Michigan tundra and the competition is a one man show—no joke, it is one dude who sets up his own camera, writes, and reports by himself, the Tyler Perry of local news) so he makes his money his job security is safe, despite never coming into work and having a turnover rate of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Seriously, in the nine months that I worked there I maybe saw him, like, six times? He preferred working (sending e-mails with the absolute worst grammar, for somebody pretending to be in journalism) from the bar. I guess he gets good service there, both from the wait-staff and Wi-Fi.
Now, I don’t want to make it seem like I’m complaining about his lack of attendance, because when he was around it was much worse. One time, a photojournalist got in a bit of a fender bender on the icy roads, so he called and apologized and the boss berated him—not for the damage or driving without caution—but for not appearing “sorry enough.” Then there was the time when discussing ideas for the sports segment, he humbly told our Sports Director, “there is only one perspective—my perspective.” This would be the time to mention, for the sake of imagery, that his short-man syndrome was so bad that Napoleon would have done some serious self-introspection, had ever interacted. I could go on and on with amusing stories that happened to co-workers while I was there; but, truthfully, the funniest anecdote of them all was spent on me.
We were at odds from the start. I came from a comedy background; I performed stand-up, made goofy videos for YouTube, and my previous work experience was with Comedy Central—the most awesome place ever. He was a by the book news guy, who worked his whole career in that frigid town—the least awesome place ever. He was bald, I had flow—which bothered him endlessly. Whenever I happened to see him he’d chirp, “get a haircut”, to which I’d laugh and reply with a “yup, going this weekend” to get him off my back. There was one time where he came in and needed somebody to go with him to run an errand, and I was the only one available at the time. The assistant news director suggested I go with him, to which he replied, “No. His hair wouldn’t fit in the car,” (note: my hair was barely over my ears at this time). The guy ended up not going to get the stuff he needed. He would rather have gone without than have me accompany him, I was flattered. It didn’t take long for all of this to become an issue.
For both parties, I should add, I’m not saying I was a model employee. I just didn’t expect news to be so bland and sad. I took the job thinking it would give me a chance to be creative, write every day, and help me become a TV writer one day. A piece of advice: if you want to go into scripted television or film, don’t go into news thinking it will translate. They are two completely different fields, for completely differently wired people. There was no way I could add my voice and humor to a story about a murder-rape-suicide at a meth lab. It wasn’t me, wasn’t what I was skilled at, and it wasn’t what I wanted to do. It didn’t help that any friends I made got themselves out of there as fast as they could. I didn’t want to be there and it showed, like when the booty call asks you to spend the night. I couldn’t hide it. I was uninspired, bored, and the only thing keeping me around was a contract that would have me paying close to $5,000 if I left before my two year sentence. No choice but to feel helpless, like Seligman’s dogs (shout out to the psychology majors). Eventually, he requested a meeting with me, leading to the move worthy of appearing in Horrible Bosses 3.
When I walked in to meet him, I wasn’t nervous; surprisingly, I was actually excited. Perhaps he was going to put his ego aside and really motivate me. Maybe he was going to yell at me for not cutting my hair. Or, he could fire me for my lackluster performance, the option I was secretly hoping for. The scene where Genie is finally freed from his chains in Aladdin repeated in my head. I knocked, he commanded me to come in and sit down, all without turning around in his chair. He was already playing his little games. I sat down as he got out of his chair and slowly walked my direction, until he was standing over me (note: I say standing over because I was sitting and he was in front of me, but due to his height we were pretty much at eye level). He took out a piece of paper and handed it to me.
“This is a list of things your co-workers have said about you. I want you to read it out loud to me,” he stated handing me the paper. Is this guy serious?? He went around and asked people to anonymously trash talk me and is now having me read it to him as he stands “over” me? The list wasn’t pretty, either: Immature. Needs to grow up. Lazy. The nicest thing on the list, which was a full-page long, was “good writer, when he tries.” Naturally, I couldn’t just sit there and let this happen to me, so I verbally added some “handsome” and “funny” descriptions every few words. After I finished reading, he said I could go back to work. I wasn’t fired; I was expected to go back to work. How is telling me that the people I work with every day doesn’t like me going to make me work harder? How would he feel if his daughter’s teacher (oh, he’s married to an anchor who works there, too, so add nepotism to the list) asked her to stay after class so she can read the nasty things her classmates think about her out loud? I really wanted to make him a list of things his employees say about him—stories of him and his wife sleeping in different beds, bald jokes, maybe even throw in a few that aren’t true. Of course, I didn’t do that. I was happy with coming to an agreement to let me walk a few weeks later.
So, here’s to you, guy. Congratulations on making Dave Harken and Bobby Pellitt look like saints.
If you’ve got a horrible boss anecdote, we want to hear it! Leave a story in the comments box or tweet @BroBible or @CortFreeman.