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To all the bosses I’ve endured – Part 2

By Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo
15 August 2020   |   4:14 am
Last week, I told you about the first set of bosses I endured in the first part of my career. These were the years spanning from my early twenties...

PHOTO: Shutterstock

Last week, I told you about the first set of bosses I endured in the first part of my career. These were the years spanning from my early twenties into my early thirties when I spent seven years in teaching before moving on to journalism and PR.

I told you about Cherry the Bully, who chose to belittle me instead of nurturing me as a newbie, the know-it-all Karen who in fact knew next to nothing except self-promotion, and belligerent Ade – all in pursuit of reminiscing on the ones I’ve endured and what I learned from it all.

Let me take you on the rest of the journey down memory lane from where I left off last week to present so by looking at what makes an awful manager we can get to find out more about what makes a good one – taking ownership, accepting accountability, leading by example, showing empathy, having emotional intelligence, to name but a few.

Jeff the Freeloader
I was lucky I worked for Jeff while I still held down a full-time job with a decent enough pay. Jeff was a freeloader who completely took advantage of the fact that I was trying to build up a portfolio of work in a new industry. If I was a 20-year-old intern, fresh out of university, it would have been barely acceptable, but I was a thirty-year-old woman with experience and the skills set he needed. Every time I broached the issue of pay, it was one promise after another, none of which ever materialised. I didn’t begrudge him freeloading – you see he gave me an opportunity I needed, and I had the skills he required. It was a good arrangement for the time – until I moved on and handed my resignation, that is. Suddenly, I was persona non grata. He had invested in me and I had deserted him – that was the narrative I would hear over and over again from mutual friends. Investment? Not only had I never been paid a salary, I had also spent out of pocket for all my expenses.

Reinette the Narcissist
You see, Reinette was not even my boss – she had helped me interview with her boss – only she had never expected that I would be brought in on a peg and an salary several bands higher than where she was. First came rifling through my drawers, when she found my payslip and threw a tantrum that I was earning three times her salary. Then came years of plotting and propaganda to try and get me demoted alongside increasingly overt attacks first on my work, then my personality. You see, it was never upfront bullying. Reinette was smarter than that, or simply a narcissist, with her superficial charm and constant lying; one minute she’d put you on a pedestal, the next she would be tearing you down. She would insult you one evening, and claim no recollection the next day. When you called her out on her behaviour, she would always default to playing the victim. Reinette thrived on drama and following months of being upset by her, I realised her problem wasn’t me; her problem was her inner demons. With that lesson, I got out of a toxic situation and left her stewing in her toxic victimhood, which she posted on social media for months to come.

Jude the Micro-manager
Last but not least, Jude the Micro-manager. Jude was a glorified receptionist turned recruiter turned director. In our first meeting, she claimed she was a laid-back, hands-off manager. It soon transpired that she was hands-off as she had no clue how to manage anyone, but she was definitely not laid-back. Like most people who can’t manage people, she’d honed an unprecedented skill in micro-managing processes and mundane minutiae of office life. Walk into the office five minutes late, and she would pointedly stare at her watch and sigh. Ask to work from home, and it was always a case of “Oh that’s not quite a good enough reason, I am afraid” was the answer, no matter the reason. In her small mind, productivity equally presenteeism, it transpired in our first one to one just how blinkered her management style was when I was called upon my time-keeping when she was fully aware that I put in extra hours outside of work. I had only been there for two months, and I just knew it was time to get out.

Fortunately, I am now in a place – physically and mentally – when I can look back and laugh at these mediocre people in management positions. As much as they made life challenging at the time, I can only thank them for putting me through the ordeals that made me who I am today. More importantly, not only did they teach me how not to manage, they also taught me how to handle difficult people in and outside of work, and for that, in hindsight, I can only be grateful.

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