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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Today In My Hippocampus ...

The hippocampus is a portion of the brain that is integral to memory. And today ... December 8 ... is a day that sticks out in my recollections like a sore thumb. Actually, it's more like a sore thumb being forced into my eye while someone kicks me in the balls!

Years ago, on this date, I started a new job and I was probably as professionally excited as I have ever been. The interviewing process had been grueling ... four separate meetings and one two-hour aptitude testing session. But I had met the lady who would be my immediate supervisor early in the process and she was wonderful. Funny ... experienced ... creative ... warm ... logical ... innovative ... and a firm believer in mentoring. When I got the call offering me the position, she sounded so pleased. I almost leaped through the phone to kiss her.

So shiny like a new penny, I arrived 20 minutes early for my first day. I wanted to dig in and make a great impression. I was told by a dowdy assistant that "the boss" decided to stay home until after lunch, but she left me instructions. I was handed a crisp, very light file folder. Inside was a single purple lined Post-It ... "count paperclips or something ... just stay out of trouble." I still have it!!

So after more than four hours of doing basically nothing, the "supervisor of my dreams" rolls through the door like a thunderhead ... pure sound, lightning, and fury. She fired off demands and threw her coat onto a rack. She missed and the assistant scrambled to place it appropriately. This woman I admired didn't even look the same ... she was all harsh planes and somber colors. Any hope of co-existing, let along enjoying my work, was dashed by 4 p.m.

So for five months I toiled under this dictator with a vagina. And every day just gor incrementally worse. She barked when she spoke and never offered a single constructive criticism. She devalued my opinions and previous experience, making me always "check" myself and crippling my desire to offer input on team projects. She was fickle and mean-spirited and constantly late for appointments. And somehow ... in her way of thinking ... her tardiness was always "explained" through the incompetence of myself or another departmental staff member.

One day, the she-devil, two other employees, and I were heading across the parking lot to our cars to attend an off-site meeting. About halfway to our vehicles, the boss stopped and announced that her husband had been transferred to Kansas City and she would be leaving in three weeks.

I was stunned. Shocked. Relieved. "Happy" does not say enough.

Apparently, I had fell into a pleasant stupor ... because suddenly a co-worker was shaking me. "Hey ... what's wrong?" she said, looking very concerned. "You just stopped moving and glazed over. What can I do to help?"

I just smiled. "Back up," I prompted, "I need room for a cartwheel!!"

POINT OF RANT: In a positive way, bad bosses have made me a better supervisor.

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