Up until awhile ago, I had only heard tales of awful bosses, but had been lucky enough to never actually have one.
Sure, there’d been a few perverted shift managers here and there who I never really trusted, but they never actively made my life worse. I distanced myself from them, and we got along just fine.
However, a job offer came up that seemed really attractive, especially for work in my quaint, small town. I was excited when I was invited to an interview, and even more enthusiastic when I seemed to really hit it off with the interviewer, Marlene (name changed).
Marlene was an older woman who spoke of her travels and decorated herself with artsy, bohemian jewelry. She seemed scatter-brained but sophisticated and nice. We talked about cooking and movies throughout the interview. When she said that I would be primarily working for her, I was really excited.
My first day at work, I told some of my co-workers about how excited I was to be working for Marlene, and how nice she had seemed. I was wholly confused when I received a lackluster “Good for you!” type of response.
I know not everyone is universally liked, however, and so I pushed onward. I typically try and see the best in people until they give me a reason to dislike them.
Soon, though, little cracks began to show in Marlene’s flawlessly cultivated persona. I also realized that she was hated throughout the office.
First, I began to notice that Marlene only talked about herself in conversations, and if you tried to relate, she would ignore you as though you had said nothing. I soon learned that conversations should be about Marlene and her world or nothing at all.
She particularly liked to speak in almost Oedipal tones about her son, who soon became the butt of office jokes. Her precious, adult son could do no wrong. If he got arrested, well, that was the police being misguided, not because he was drunk, OK!
Then, there was the sexist way that she assigned tasks. Marlene was educated, with multiple degrees and various life experiences. I perceived her as a strong, modern, woman. However, she often gave my male co-workers important tasks, while relegating me to things like watching kids at company functions, cooking for events, and doing the weekly cleaning.
As I had more job experience and education than my co-workers, I took offense to these trivial assignments. I would never expect another woman to display such sexism in the workplace.
She also always assumed that we were on the same team since we were both women, and made huge assumptions about the types of things that she could tell me based on my gender.
For instance, she would often tell me about the Harlequin romance novels she read at work, and how they got her all hot and bothered. Gross, and really inappropriate in a work setting.
Marlene had multiple health problems and (while it is hugely unfair to hold health problems against someone) her loose bowels really added to my dislike for her.
We worked in a small, house-like building that had been converted to an office. There was a downstairs bathroom that sat far away from everyone and offered relative privacy, and another bathroom which was DIRECTLY OUTSIDE OF MY DOOR. Every day at 10 am and 3 pm, Marlene would rush into the bathroom right outside my door and proceed to have explosive bowel movements, complete with little grunts and sighs.
Five minutes later, my office would fill with the smell of air freshener and human shit. Delightful. No one should have to know their boss’ pooping habits, that’s for sure.
Even despite these little personality quirks, I still didn’t HATE Marlene. People have their issues, and health problems and being self-centered aren’t reason enough to hate someone.
However, I soon saw a side of her that made work absolutely intolerable. We worked in the social sector, and were supposed to be helping people. In fact, that was one of the reasons I signed on for the job -- the promise of really doing good in my community. Marlene’s explosive temper and control issues, however, soon made me ashamed to be affiliated with her.
She blew up at co-workers, colleagues, community partners, and clients. I once heard her snap, “It’s only a freaking dollar! Who can’t afford that?” at an underprivileged volunteer who couldn’t afford to purchase soda for a holiday party. She nearly started a brawl over a Powerpoint at a community ceremony (which was held in a church!)
Marlene was verbally abusive and emotionally unstable with everyone around her. One day she might buy you lunch, then scream at you not 20 minutes later for not decorating a table correctly for an event.
While I began my position as a confident, qualified professional, I started to really feel worthless. On top of this, I had extreme anxiety and insomnia as a result of working with her all of the time. I dreaded every phone call, or every time she stomped into my office.
Every day brought another chance for her to make me work extra weird hours, or berate me for not cutting flyers straight enough. I hated my job, but she still held power over me. I was afraid of turning in my two weeks, and the tantrum that would inevitably follow.
The final straw came in the form of a car accident. Marlene (as I mentioned before) had an array of health problems. One of these problems was a sort of permanent vertigo, which affected her ability to measure distance and manifested in dizzy spells.
One day she had an episode while driving. She struck an 18-wheeler truck, totaling her car. Her boss actually called to notify me, as I was waiting for her to show up for a minor event. I assumed that the event would just run as planned but that she would go on ahead to the hospital (the event was in partnership with another organization).
Twenty minutes later, Marlene showed up, still bruised, visibly shaking and wrapped in the blanket given to her by paramedics.
"Oh my god, Marlene, are you alright?” I asked, aghast.
“Everyone needs to stop asking me that!” she snapped, and began quickly re-arranging tables to her liking.
All of a sudden, I felt just… pity. Pity for this woman who was so much of a control freak that she had refused medical treatment, not trusting anyone else to run her event. I realized that her abuse was a result of her own issues and had nothing to do with me.
The next day, I put in my notice and stood firm when she tried to berate me into submission. I was done, and needed out of there for my own emotional well-being.
That was the worst work experience of my life, but it taught me to really check out potential employers before signing on. There are a lot of duds out there, and you have to be careful that you don’t end up working for someone who abuses you.
That being said, having a boss who poops outside your office twice a day really makes for a good, gross story!