I constantly get emails from people with "bad boss" stories. I always love hearing them and enjoy sharing them with my readers.
One of my favorite stories is that of a female assistant who shared a bra size with her boss. Her boss used to make her go out and try on bras and bring a collection back to the office to save the boss shopping time.
Here's the thing: the "diva" bosses (male or female) aren't just the celebrities we read about in Vanity Fair, see on some reality show, or read about in The Devil Wears Prada. They come in all shapes and sizes, businesses large and small. I recently got a letter from a woman who was a bookkeeper in a small printer factory. Her supervisor was this obese lazy guy who kept a megaphone at his desk. When he was hungry, he would "megaphone her" to bring him his four sandwiches and three Pepsis (not diet, FYI) that he had stored in the company fridge for lunch.
When I was younger, I had a boss who couldn't even talk without a lit cigar hanging out of his mouth, smoking away in a closed office, chomping it like a Sonicare toothbrush (and yes, he was short, just like you were thinking). I was just out of college and actually thought it was cool - sort of my taste of corporate America at the time, with my asthma hidden in my pocket. That dude was my mentor, God rest his soul.
As I write in my new book, Bulletproof Your Job (HarperCollins), a boss is a boss - "the Man," the "Woman," it's all the same. Work is not a democracy, so sometimes we just have to tolerate them. Unfortunately, you can't vote them out of the corner office. And in a recession, it's not just your boss who must be tolerated - it's also your boss's boss. I like to call it "kissing ass upwards."
Say your boss is the owner of the company. Remember this advice: you want to know the boss's husband/wife/partner. In a privately owned smaller company, guess what? That significant other of the boss is your boss's boss! Get it, Einstein?
Although bad boss stories are always a favorite, there's plenty of material on bad co-workers as well. Some become great friends, and sometimes even best friends. Other times they are just acquaintances or voices on the phone. Some are "frenemies." And some... don't you just hate them?!
Yes, I know that "hate" is a pretty strong word, especially at a time when President Obama is practically French kissing President Chavez of Venezuela, despite the fact (or maybe because of the fact?) that Chavez called his predecessor "the devil." The truth is, there are always people we'll just never like. For instance, I just don't see myself ever liking someone whose title or name begins with the word "Ayatollah."
We spend more time at work with our co-workers then we do at home with our husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, or partners (whew - lots of political correctness there). Even if 30 percent of Americans are out of work, that means (for all you math geniuses) that 70 percent are working. And virtually all of them probably have a co-worker they can't stand.
To be honest, I haven't liked most people that I've worked with. The support people always seem resentful and bitter about their jobs and have never been helpful to me. I also hate when people eat lunch at their desks, not just because they're showing off pretending to work, but because of the odors! I once sat near a guy who would make a hard boiled egg in the microwave, then open it in the cubicle next to mine. Can you imagine what that smelled like? Hated him! Then there was the woman who always doused her salads in the same sesame ginger dressing every day. I wasn't able to order sesame chicken in a Chinese restaurant for a year after she left the company. Hated her!
The real offenders are the ones who ask you if you are wearing something new or expensive when they know you've really worn it 100 times. Or they ask in a fake-sweet way if you lost weight. Oh, my favorite is when they say "Wow, your skin is really clearing up!" Hate them!
Actually, these are all trivial, personal catty gripes, but they are legitimate. However, in today's recession, I'm writing a bit tongue in cheek. The co-workers I really can't stand are the lazy ones who do nothing, steal credit, and screw up - and the boss just doesn't get it. The boss likes them for personal reasons and never judges them based on merit. It sucks.
"I work hard and do my job, but I don't have as many kids as the boss or we don't attend the same church or synagogue. Or maybe I just don't look like a 'mini me' of the boss. But my reviews are great, I went to a good school, love the company and actually love the job - but these people I work with... UGH!!!"
Do you ever feel this way? I'd love to hear from you.
Here's the contest. Tell me your bully boss stories or your tales of woe about bad co-workers. E-mail your submission (just a few short, juicy paragraphs, please) to Stephen@viscusi.com by May 30, 2009 with the subject line "BAD BOSS" or "BAD CO-WORKER." My Bulletproof team of judges, including myself, will narrow the entries down to 10 finalists in each category (bad boss and bad co-worker). Then my Huffington Post readers will vote for their favorite of the finalists in each category.
Here's the prize: six readers (three in each category) will receive a Bulletproof resume personally created by me and my BulletproofYourResume.com team, plus two personal 10-minute phone consultations with me, Stephen Viscusi, "America's Workplace Guru"!
The fine print: you must include your name, e-mail address, and daytime telephone number when submitting your story (don't worry, should you make it to the finals, none of your identifying information will be used during the public voting). If you make it to the final round, we will send you a waiver that you must sign to release us from liability before printing. Please note, we own the rights to all stories submitted and can reprint them in any media. Void where prohibited. You must be 21 or older to enter. Final winners will be announced on June 15. And DO NOT submit your story from your boss's computer!
Stephen Viscusi is the author of Bulletproof Your Job (HarperCollins) and the founder of BulletproofYourResume.com. He can be reached at Stephen@viscusi.com. Follow him on Twitter (@workplaceguru) and friend him on Facebook!