When I was salaried, I had several bosses. Some were incredible managers who have continued to enjoy great accomplishments. Others were simply horrible. At times, I wondered how they attained certain statuses when they lacked basic skills, which often led them to misuse terms or misspell words.
I’ve been lucky to work for excellent people that taught me valuable lessons about work, but also about life. I’m happy to be in touch with many of them to this day. Thank you, LinkedIn! These people continue to be a source of inspiration. I’d definitely work with them again if I had the chance.
In the past, I’ve written articles about managers taking credit for others' work or why some companies are promoting mediocrity. I was in a different place. I admit I was feeling bitter about things not going the way I expected, and failing to understand why. As time went by, I was eventually able to realize that everything was working in my best interest.
Today, I want to talk about those bosses that prompted me to move on. Because workers don’t quit bad jobs, they just leave bad bosses behind. That’s why I want to thank each and one of them for the lessons I’ve learned. I’m actually grateful that they were part of the path that led to the present moment. Whether it’s an example to follow or to avoid, everybody we encounter has something to teach us.
In order to protect the identity of the individuals, the following names are fictitious:
Emilio – Thank you for teaching me that feeling comfortable with someone doesn’t mean that it’s okay to share details about your personal life. Even when someone is actually asking you to tell him/her about it. That can be used as a weapon against you in the future. It’s ideal to have good relations with your coworkers and bosses, but it’s best not to discuss specific topics, such as politics and religion. Only talk about your personal matters with your significant other, friends, family, cat, or therapist.
Catherine – Thank you for teaching me that I have a voice and that I can use to accomplish my goals. If you’re ever told at work, "We pay you to do as you’re told, and not to listen to your opinions," you need to consider if that place is the right one. Any constructive opinion matters, but some people are so driven by fear that they won’t listen. If you feel stuck and your boss doesn’t seem to care, it’s time to leave that job behind. Only work with people that listen to you respect you and help you learn.
Bernard – Thank you for teaching me that rules are not immutable and can be broken, especially if they’re unfair. Bosses insisting that all work goes through them and remind you not to contact superiors without permission are fearful. They’re likely afraid that you’re going to make them look bad. Unless your company has a rule that states explicitly that there’s a communication hierarchy to be respected at all times, you don’t have to follow it. If you want to be recognized for your work, run away from bosses that are presenting your work as theirs and not mentioning you at all.
Daniela – Thank you for teaching me that we’re all unique, yet nobody is indispensable. You might have been told: "If you don’t like it here, you can always quit. We’ll replace you in the blink of an eye. Be careful; it’s not easy to land a job like this. If we fire you, it’ll be a black spot in your career." It means your job security is being threatened, and you’re being infused with fear. That boss is just afraid that the high turnover of staff will make him/her look bad. If your career matters to you, you need to look for a place in which you’ll feel respected.
Ludwig – Thank you for teaching me that I can be and accomplish whatever I want. Bosses that tell you that you’re not good enough, that you think too highly of yourself, or that you’re not qualified to do something are not to be believed. After all, how much do they know you? What’s their moral authority? People often project their own feelings onto others. Although feedback can help you grow, you can’t forget that you’ll always have the last say. Just like you don’t have to entertain or believe every thought that pops into your mind.
Violet – Thank you for teaching me that I have nothing to prove. I’ve been asked to write down each role that I performed at work. I’ve also been requested to assign an estimate of how long it took me to complete each task. In short, I had to prove that I wasn’t wasting my time and that I could always make more and more... without a salary increase. If you ever find yourself in this situation, your boss is telling you that he/she doesn’t trust you. If you haven’t done anything wrong, it’s time to begin considering a change.
Baruch – Thank you for teaching me that attitude and emotional intelligence are more important than knowledge of skills and degrees. People that get promoted are not always the most qualified. Some companies become so dependent on keeping their best assets in certain positions that they’re actually stifling them. Workers will bring their best if you listen to them and find ways to fulfill their needs and goals. Otherwise, we’re all set to burn out sooner or later. You can avoid that by speaking up. If they don’t listen or like it, you can always move on. It’s the best thing you can do!
Liz Ryan wrote the following words, and I couldn’t agree more:
"Real leaders don’t yell, threaten, or browbeat employees. They don’t write people up or put them on probation. They don’t pull rank on their employees. They hire people they trust. They treat their teammates like the valued collaborators they are."
I’ve been my own boss for several years now, and I couldn’t be happier. I keep learning what to do and what not to. I like to bring my best to myself to others, whether they’re clients or workmates.
Fear is a potent tool. Willingly or not, it’s often used by some people to control others. When someone has surrendered to that fear, we’re witnessing a dysfunctional relationship. Nothing good can come from it. Even the person in power will often be suspicious, unsatisfied, and scared.
Thankfully, there are healthier ways to claim your power. You can use it to get anything you want/need in life. You don’t need to hold on to a position that you hate or put up with an awful boss to count on a reliable source of money. A job has to give you more than just a paycheck. As much as we all need it to eat, have a place to sleep, pay bills, etc. companies require workers to be who they are. It’s time we all started to deal with one another as equal parties, and not as subordinates.
If you ever become tired of the rules of the corporate grid, you can always do it like me and start working for yourself. When you’re your own boss, you have the chance to set your own rules. I don’t think I’d change it for anything!
To all of you, the good bosses and the not so good ones: thank you for the learning experience! The growth has been immense. I’d not have made it to today without you!