Employed Nine: Post-mortem, part I: The Pointy-Haired Boss

Now that a little more than three years have passed since my layoff, and now that I am finally working full-time again, I wanted to get a few things off my chest about what went wrong at my old job.

The Pointy-Haired Boss

I’m not going to name names, but anyone who knows me and my history can figure things out if they really want to. So be it. I’m not concerned about burning bridges, because most of the people I’m going to mention are people I would absolutely never work with again, under any circumstances. In one particular case, the night shift at the Dunkin Donuts around the corner, at half-pay, would be more appealing.

My old company barely exists, and the two publications I worked with were sold to another company in late 2009. And as long as another person on my “no way in hell” list still occupies a high-ranking position at the new company, I will not set foot in the office.

Now that the preliminaries are out of the way, let me begin with the first indication that things were starting to go south at a company that I spent 13 ½ years with. Those of you who read Dilbert (and if you don’t, shame on you) are no doubt familiar with the Pointy-Haired Boss. I had the misfortune of working under someone who could easily have qualified as the inspiration for the PHB character, hairstyle and all.

PHB and I got along at first, but the initial sign of trouble was the condescending tone he began to adopt in conversations and emails. The single most irritating thing any co-worker has ever done was a PHB specialty: If there was a typo or other mistake of some sort on our website, rather than pointing it out and asking me to fix it, he would saunter over to my cubicle and, in a voice nearly identical to another fantastic fictional boss, Bill Lumbergh from Office Space, say something like, “Yeah … go on and take a look at the homepage. Yeah … do you notice something that’s a little bit … off?”

Bill Lumbergh, Office Space

It took every ounce of self-control in my body to not grab him by his pointy hair, slam his head through the monitor, and scream, “Listen, asshole, I am fucking working, and I am swamped. If you need me to fix something, tell me, or get the hell away from my desk. I don’t have time for a God-damned scavenger hunt.”

Then, the hypocrisy began. The most glaring example was the issue of working from home. I am a huge proponent of working from home. As long as you get your work done, in a timely fashion, with no drop-off in quality, what’s the difference where the work gets done? Obviously, working from home is not an option for every line of work, but when you’re writing and editing for a website, all you need is an Internet connection, and you’re good to go.

PHB would liberally work from home, often two or three days per week, and even on days when he did come into the office, he would often arrive in the afternoon, claiming to have worked from home in the morning. Yet every time I chose to do it, for legitimate reasons (repair appointments in the apartment, doctor or vet appointments, etc.), I found myself on the receiving end of a condescending speech or email babbling about how I was needed in the office.

The topper: The New York area got hit with a huge blizzard. While I could have easily done my job at home, I didn’t want to hear any bullshit, so I made my way into Manhattan from the upper west side of Hoboken (not an easy task in any weather, much less snow), only to find that PHB was working from home. Why did this annoy me so much? PHB lived across the street from me. I am not exaggerating: PHB literally lived across the street from me.

The absolute final straw between PHB and I was a prolonged argument over my vacation. When I was still a full share in a beach house on Long Beach Island, I would always take my vacation the week before Labor Day, so I could enjoy the last few days of the summer. I put in for that week at the beginning of the year. Sometime during March, I believe, I got an email from PHB asking about vacation time, and I put in for that week again.

During a routine meeting in early August, PHB mentioned that he would be off the week before Labor Day. I looked at him and said, “That’s impossible, I’m off that week.” PHB claimed that I never requested those days off, and that I would have to reschedule my vacation. Unfortunately (lesson learned, trust me), I didn’t have the email exchange from March saved, but this was a situation where having a friend and softball teammate in IT helped tremendously.

The next day, I walked into his office, dropped a print-out of the emails from January and March on his desk, and walked out without a word. His response later in the day: “Well … you shouldn’t have assumed those days were approved.” This was where I absolutely snapped, and this was when our already frayed relationship was destroyed beyond any repair. My response, word-for word (dates may not be exact, but you’ll get the point): “Well, it’s Aug. 6 now. My vacation starts Aug. 27. Exactly WHEN THE FUCK were you going to inform me that it wasn’t approved? Aug. 24 at 5 p.m.? I am going on this vacation, period. Fire me.”

We ended up reaching a compromise where I did some work from LBI, mostly early in the morning and late in the afternoon, but from that point on, any conversation we had that wasn’t work related was ended abruptly by one-word answers from yours truly. I had absolutely no desire to speak to the man, and I still don’t.

You certainly don’t have to be buddies with your boss, and you don’t even really have to be friends, although it doesn’t hurt. But when you have zero trust in a person and zero desire to see their face or hear their voice, it doesn’t make for a great working environment, to say the least.

4 comments on “Employed Nine: Post-mortem, part I: The Pointy-Haired Boss

  1. Liz says:

    I totally agree with your last paragraph. My attitude is that I’m at the office to do a job and was hired because I met the qualifications of said position. Unlike you, I’ve had more positions than I care to admit but have encountered a number of dysfunctional situations.

    One job that I took was with a person who might’ve been intimidated by me; I was hired because I met the requirements and my reference check confirmed my qualifications but she built a case to make me look like my skills weren’t up to par.

    Another place that I worked, I was sold a bill of goods during the interview but once I was on board, I learned that the supervisor couldn’t give a shit about what I knew, who I knew, what I was capable of doing, etc; it was his way or no way and if I had a “better way” of doing things, didn’t matter because it’s not his way.

    The last place that I worked for, I had the fortunate situation of dealing with somebody who spoke from both sides of her mouth. She lied to me, told lies about me, and found ways to stab me in the back and throw me under the bus. Apparently, my qualifications were moot and the way she would question me about things made it seem like she wanted to have a hand in everything that I did but God forbid, I got annoyed by her questioning and commentary.

  2. […] already detailed in my last post why PHB and I were barely on speaking terms, so when a day-and-a-half passed without any […]

  3. zendenizen says:

    I work for your PHB’s female counterpart. She said I didn’t provide enough “face time” even though I told her I’ve managed to productive working from home for about 10 years. We had this little exchange recently:

    Female PHB: If you don’t come to the office, we can’t invite you to more meetings
    Me: That’s a reward, not a punishment.


  4. […] pick up the story of our hero about a year-and-a-half after his Pointy-Haired Boss was abruptly fired, without anyone bothering to share the news with our […]

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