I’m a terrible boss.
The entire world should rejoice every morning that the only things I am the boss of are my dog and myself, and even that’s hit or miss at best. The dog still won’t do calculus, and would the boss of herself have eaten their weight in cake last night? Possibly, but if they did, they wouldn’t feel guilty about it.
And, FYI—when you eat your weight in something, you double your weight.
When I was in the second grade, I was in the Brownies. This was back when the gas currently in your car was roaming Pangaea, looking for a fellow T-Rex to share its life. When the troop voted for a leader, I was elected. It seemed easy, and natural.
Until junior high, I was a leader in my classes and among my friends. In the seventh grade, I ran for class representative to the student government. I assumed I’d be elected, no prob.
It was one of the biggest shocks of my life when I lost. My whole world view shifted, and things were never the same.
Then growing up did what it does to everyone, especially women. It knocked the heck out of my ego, and made me question and at times abandon, the confidence that was an intrinsic part of me like my buck teeth (now fixed) and widow’s peak (still there).
I retained parts of that gutsiness inside me, but it was fractured, with large chunks of it damaged or missing. Sadly, like a pitcher in a slump, I got all caught up in my own head, second guessing every instinct.
For five years in the 80s, I managed a clothing store. That’s what utterly convinced me that although I’m great at being bossy, I’m horrible at being the boss. Some of my badness had to do with immaturity and the cure has come with advanced age.
But some things are just part of me, things that, until the day I die, make me singularly unsuited to be in charge of paid employees.
A boss should be willing and able to make the tough, unpopular decisions. If you’ve ever had a boss, you have, at some point during your association, been unhappy with them. They have to tell you no, or you can’t have that week off, or your work isn’t good enough.
I hate, hate, hate it when people are mad at me. It makes me feel like a kicked puppy. And I spent too much time worrying about whether or not my employees liked me—sometimes to the point of something close to paralysis. Somehow, with The Kid and our dogs, I’m able to be the bad guy when really needed; I guess deep down, I know the stakes are so much higher.
A boss needs to know when to just back off and let an employee do their job. Petey, when he was a charge nurse at Duke was awesome at this. His co-workers adored him and always gave their very best. I asked him what his secret was.
He didn’t quite understand the question. “If they work here, I assume they know how to do their job, and I let ‘em do it.”
With a sad combo plate of little trust in my staff and no trust in my ability to teach and inspire, I was a micro-managing Matilda. I exhausted myself, so I probably brought my poor, bedeviled employees to the edge of violence.
So, give thanks.
Give thanks that you can look at that questionable photo of me in the paper, and say with feeling, “You’re not the boss of me!”
Thanks for your time.
Contact debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org.