I hate my boss!

I can't believe the things she does! Should I just quit? But I can't find another job!

By Cary Tennis

Published November 25, 2008 11:28AM (EST)

Dear Cary,

I have battled with this issue for a while now and must get it off my chest. Cary, I hate my boss! I know ... "hate" is such a strong word. Maybe loathe and despise would be better. I have had my current job for a little over six months now and I honestly do not know how much more I can take. I have caught the woman in bald-faced lies, gossiping about other employees and families that serve on our board, and just overall being a passive-aggressive fake $#!&*!

As we are all well aware, the economy has spiraled out of control. One is lucky right now just to have employment. Which is another discouraging aspect of my life. I have looked and looked and looked some more. Applied for countless jobs but to no avail. I moved to the town I currently live in just over two years ago to be with my fiancé. Well, that's another story in itself, but I feel like the entire time I've been here it's been a constant struggle. I have a college degree, and I have to say my résumé seems to be quite impressive (at least to those who see it) but still ... no job leads!

But back to my hateful, controlling boss. I also recently found out that a part-time co-worker (that I got a job for) is being paid more than me! I was furious and when I approached my boss she basically told me her hands were tied. Cary, I am drowning in a sea of political, small-town bullshit! So do I just quit and hope my darling fiancé can afford to pay our mortgage? He knows what a heartless wench she is and would be completely supportive -- if I could find another job, and fast! But what does one do when the jobs just aren't there? Any advice or encouraging words would be much appreciated.

Discouraged and Angry

Dear Discouraged and Angry,

In the late 1990s I found myself working for a great American corporation in a capacity for which I had not been trained and did not feel suitable but in which I had to do my best to succeed, as my other plans for supporting myself had turned out to be not sufficiently lucrative. So for five years I boarded a streetcar and rode downtown to the corporation. I put on a tie and a jacket and shiny shoes. I adopted a hairstyle that still makes me laugh.

It was a bewildering world of people so unlike myself in their intuitive and automatic responses to phenomena that I felt I had to construct an entirely new persona so they would feel that the world they saw when they looked out the window was at least related in some fundamental way to the world I saw when I looked out the window.

I very quickly had the feeling that I did not know at all how these people thought and felt. So I subscribed to Fortune magazine. And in Fortune magazine I found the columns of Stanley Bing.

Now that I have met and sort of gotten to know the legendary Stanley Bing and have seen that he is a living, breathing person with human sensibilities, I can see that he might be slightly embarrassed by such fulsome confessions as the following. Nonetheless, I will say that Stanley Bing's humane and funny columns in Fortune magazine saved my life during my period of indentured employment at a large oil company.

The thing about Stanley Bing was that he was and remains to this day an actual day-to-day working executive in a real American corporation. Yet his consciousness seemed very similar to my own. So I deduced, through reading his column, that under the suits and ties floating serenely on BART from Lafayette and Orinda into the Montgomery Street station and up into the hushed, beige-carpeted halls of the very tall building in which I was employed there might possibly reside forms of consciousness very similar to ours. This gave me heart and allowed me to survive the long periods of unrelieved tedium and unthinkable idiocy that were called "Tuesday," or "Thursday," and the like. I took solace in the words of Stanley Bing and imagined a vast corporate underground of humane, thoughtful, aesthetically sophisticated men and women who like me were walking around in the halls of the great American corporation in suits, trapped, mute, unable to communicate but knowing somehow that we were not alone. I paid new attention to the pauses in managers' conversations, looking now for some coded hint that others might feel as I did that devastatingly bleak, barren, hopeless, futile air of desperation.

During this time, as in your case, the corporation and I differed greatly in our esteem of me. I held me in the highest esteem. The corporation held me in rather lower esteem. This difference fueled much of my feeling that a difficult conflict was afoot, that we did not see things the same way. And indeed we did not. But what I learned was invaluable. And this is a truth implicit in Bing's approach: Any job you take is going to involve a great deal of pain, suffering and bullshit.

So, I give you Stanley Bing, who wrote the book on crazy bosses -- literally.

You may not have been told this in school. They often don't tell you this. Maybe they don't want to scare you. I don't know. But they don't mention the pain, suffering and bullshit when they talk about "careers." You may have heard people say that work was mostly pain, suffering and bullshit and you figured they were just sour, or not raised well. But it's true. Work is mostly pain, suffering and bullshit, with a little meaning thrown in.

Mostly we do it for the money. So when you get screwed, or railroaded, or stabbed in the back, you must remember: They're just doing it for the money. Like in the mafia, it's nothing personal. Or maybe it is sometimes. But mostly it's just the situation. You don't matter. That's the scarier thing -- that it's not not personal.

Plus here is something else. There is Adam Smith's concept of comparative advantage -- that you will do best to concentrate on what you're best at. This requires a certain self-knowledge. You will find, however, because many people lack self-knowledge, many people in the working world think they are good at things they are not good at. They are working hard at these things and making everyone around them unhappy. That is the concept of comparative advantage turned inside-out. They are working to their comparative disadvantage.

A boss who lacks self-knowledge might indeed be such a person. Lacking self-knowledge, he or she might have contrived somehow to become a boss while lacking that very thing most crucial to bosshood and comparative advantage, which is indeed self-knowledge.

Thus you wade through the bullshit and you notice things, and grow wiser in the ways of the world. Good luck finding a job. You are not alone.

Got a bad boss? Read p. 291.

Signed first editions on sale now.

What? You want more advice?


Cary Tennis

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