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Hearing other people complain about their bosses, my immediate reaction was always, “How bad can it really be?”
Oh, how foolish I was. It was not until I was employed by my very own nightmare boss that I realized just how hellish some workplaces could be. Yes, that woman served me up a big, steaming pile of crow and I ate every bite.
My story started this past winter, after accepting a position as an editorial intern at a magazine. It wasn’t long after I settled in at my desk that the drama began to unfold. In fact, on my first day there was a meeting (read: bitch-fest) about a former assistant and whether or not he should be fired (again) or kept on. Welcome to the workplace.
Ignoring the warning signs, I eagerly churned out four articles a day, thrilled to see by byline published. A few months into my internship, I was asked to come on as managing editor. I would fulfill the position as an unpaid intern until I graduated from college and then become salaried. A job before graduation? Yes, please, show me where to sign. No money? No problem!
And so began my career as a Managing Editor. It didn’t take long before my dream job turned into a complete nightmare as my boss transformed from a friendly business woman to a complete monster.
I suppose it began with small things: texts coming in a 3 a.m., passive aggressive comments and insatiable gossip; all things I felt equipped to handle. I did go to high school after all, and this was all par for the course back then.
As we put the magazine together, things escalated. My team and I would sit through hour-long phone calls during which our boss berated us and belabored about inconsequential details. She would change her mind and then change it again, claim she said one thing when she said another, and had somehow convicted herself that we were a pack of inexperienced liars hell bent on her demise.
In one fit of rage, she threatened to come down to the office and shoot every single person there if the changes she demanded were not made immediately. Her favorite phrase: “Does anyone ever do what I ask?!”
In another instance, she called the office and demanded an intern meet her at the bus stop three blocks away in 30 seconds. When the intern had not arrived within the allotted amount of time, she busted through the door and shot a passive aggressive, “Thanks a lot, Caitlyn,” my way.
I’ve always been good at dealing with people who have intense personalities. As a professional woman, I understand that sometimes you have to be a hard-ass just to be taken seriously. I saw glimmers of humanity and humility in my boss. They were rare and fleeting, but there nonetheless.
My main reasons for staying, though, were the incredibly talented women who worked alongside me. It got to the point that I was no longer working to support my boss, or the company; I was working to support these ladies. How could I abandon them? A captain always goes down with the ship.
And so I stayed on, convincing myself that it would get better in time.
Once the mistreatment crossed the line to abuse, I knew things weren’t going to change. Her mental manipulation, breaches of professional boundaries – she even criticized people’s weight; it was too much.
I have taken a lot of abuse in my life, but I did not get paid enough to put up with this. In fact, I was hardly getting paid at all; she withheld a week's pay without notice.
The nail in the coffin came this past weekend when she demanded I leave my own graduation party to come in on a Saturday to edit proofs of the magazine.
When I explained to her that I could not leave my party and the 65 friends and family members who came out to celebrate, she came back with this: “I don’t care if it’s your graduation, I don’t care if its Christmas, if I tell you to come in, you come in. You need to be at my beck and call.”
A day later I received an email which I was cc’d on, asking our printer to remove my name from the masthead and change my title from managing editor to editorial team. This is how I received my demotion.
As I read and re-read the email, a sort of calm came over me. For the first time, I knew what I had to do. I made up my mind that Monday would be my last day in my nightmare.
Everyone I knew told me not to quit, to stick it out. Yes, the job is a paycheck, but is that check really worth my unhappiness? It’s easy to get caught up in a monotonous routine, even one that is negative and damaging, because it’s comfortable. But I always promised myself I would never sacrifice my happiness and my integrity for money.
I did not leave my job with any other job offers. I don’t have a back-up plan. Maybe I am being young and naïve, but at the end of the day if I don’t stand up for myself and what I believe in, who will?
I am not advocating a mass exodus by those employed by the nightmare bosses of the world. Working for someone else is never going to be easy, and you shouldn’t expect it to be. But when you find yourself trying to reason with unreasonable people, and you feel that beautiful light inside of you start to fade, it’s time to start considering your options.
We make so many sacrifices every day, but your happiness should never be one of them.